How to be a Rock Solid Leader: The Environment

by Wayne Sharer

International speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Retired navy officer, former commanding officer. Over 35 years of leading, coaching, mentoring, and speaking.

May 30, 2014

Do something extraordinary: open your mind and absorb what I am about to share with you, because if you do, you will realize there is a leader in you, and there are many different ways to be the leader you really are.

2-Steps to Realizing the Leader in You

So first, you must dare to live your dreams. Is this something you will do for yourself? I hope so because no one can do this for you.

Second, you must cross the threshold from seeing everything as a follower, and start seeing everything as the leader whether you have ever been the leader or not. Why? Because your mindset includes how you view the situation around you. Give in and let your imagination soar!

The fact is, I will not be detailing in one short article how to be a rock solid leader. I will be getting you started here, so you can either choose to open your mind and start creating a vision of yourself as a leader, or you keep doing things just like you do now.

Are You a Born Leader?

This may seem trite, cliché, or overused; but no one is actually born a leader. Like me, you were born into an environment which began being imprinted on your personality and instilling beliefs from your very first day of existence.

I was the second child in my family. So yes, I grew up ultimately in a large family, but I was not born into a large family. To some degree, I was conceived as a fix for a mistake. Why would I say that?

My older sister was born extremely premature. In the decade of her birth (and mine), it was extremely rare for such an infant to life. The doctors advised that my parents start again as soon as possible because it was highly unlikely my sister would live.

So I was born just 11 months later. Surprisingly for the time, my sister also lived.

The Environment and Leadership Relationship

Our environment was not one of leadership. My father had served in the U.S. Navy. His stint during the Korean War period was just average at best. Dad’s service was done in Cuba, and in Spain as a SeaBee. He constructed the facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Rota Spain (not single-handedly, of course).

He left service and did some construction jobs in the U.S. and ultimately became a long time employee of PEPCO, which is the electric company serving Washington, DC and the surrounding Maryland suburbs. Dad had a second job as a cashier at the Giant Food Stores in the area.

Why am I telling you this? Because his view of life was always as the subordinate. So that is where my imprinting begins. I was not a naturally born leader. There is no such thing.

In fact, throughout my childhood direction was firm and direct. “Do as you’re told,” was the often repeated mantra of my father and mother.

“Speak when you are spoken to!”

“Go to school, get good grades so you can go to college and get a good job.”

“Work hard, so you can get ahead.”

There was no coaching beyond these often recited phrases from both of my parents.

The Power and Influence of Your Early Environment

My dad, in particular, was brutal about the grades I received in school, starting right from the 1st grade onward. Nothing was acceptable other than an “A.” A grade of “B” would be grumbled at, and a “C” would mean punishment and probably a spanking. A grade of “D” or “E” (F in many places) would be unheard of. There was no mixed message here.

As I entered junior high school (now it’s often called middle school), my father would sometimes mention his belief he should have stayed in the Navy for a career, because he would have been better off, and been a better person. Though he didn’t really describe what this meant.

At the same time, I was fairly strong, but a scrawny kid. I grew tall fast and stayed extremely lean. My dad insisted I play sports, and I always had problems doing so. This was the environment, I believe, where my urge to be the leader developed.

I did not challenge adults. You certainly can understand why. However, I began to hate not competing well and being pushed around by my peers. I wasn’t competing well in sports, so I simply had to leverage my advantages early.

There were sports games I could excel at. I did have strength, and I did have speed. So the popular schoolyard game of the time was kickball. Despite my lanky appearance, I could kick the ball further than just about anyone, and I could run the bases extremely fast.

Finding the Path to Being the Leader

So it was in situations like these that I learned how to find the path where I could be the leader, regardless of appearances. It was not natural. It was counter to what I was being told with regard to how to get ahead. But it was a result of my environment.

What enabled this strong mindset with my peers? My dad again. He always insisted I never start a fight, because if he found out I did, he would finish it on me. But he also insisted I never back away when someone else swung first because if I did and he found out, the fight wasn’t over until he got a piece of me.

So you see, the environment is big. Becoming a rock solid leader has nothing to do with being born into it. It has everything to do with the environment, mindset, and ultimately your own self-determination.

All of this can be changed at any time in your life. It’s much easier if you started applying the mindset early in life. But the fact is, nothing about what you believe is permanent unless you believe it is.

Recommended Resources:

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (10th Anniversary Edition)

Personal Performance Platform

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