The Community Insight Column will be a recurring feature highlighting ideas and insights from local community members.
Leadership in the Community
Chris Smiley, President of the Elkins Lions Club and City Council Member
Leadership. It would be difficult to imagine a topic more discussed and written about than Leadership. It has been defined and debated for ages by some of the brightest minds in history.
One of the first things that comes to mind whenever someone brings up leadership is the examples we have witnessed firsthand or learned about in school. Kings and Presidents, Governors and Generals, Championship Sports Coaches.
These leaders made pivotal decisions with uncertain outcomes that shaped nations and people throughout history. These leaders lead by example, by inspiring and empowering others, by taking full responsibility, and by holding others accountable. They exhibit determination and perseverance, yet also lead by service and humility to the ones they lead.
But there is another, less observable type of leadership. It isn’t glamorous or glorious. But, in my opinion, is how these other notable leaders shape themselves. There is an old quote attributed to an unnamed monk in the 12th century that goes:
“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation, and I could indeed have changed the world.”
This leadership perspective teaches and mentors from personal accountability, serving without much fanfare or chance of recognition. It is no less impactful, though. Indeed it may be the most influential type of leadership of all. To aspire to the virtues and attributes of great leaders, we have to not only admit our shortcomings and failures but resolve to make ourselves better. Better for our families, better for our neighbors, better for our community.
To me, this type of leadership is about service. It is about listening. Only then, recognizing some way to contribute and setting your mind to accomplish it regardless of what you have to change about yourself. Imagine the influence we would have in our community if we all committed to serve with this type of leadership. Each day becomes a new opportunity.
I will end with another quote attributed to Rumi, a 13th century Persian Poet:
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”