When we think of leaders, we think of people in the front of the line who are in charge, know what they’re doing, and inspire others to follow, but Matt Jenkins knows theirs more to that as he explains in his new book, Becoming a Great Leader. Being a leader is not all about being in the limelight. It’s really about serving others. If you are not a leader who has the best interests of your followers in mind, then no one will follow you for long. Leadership is also one of the greatest aspirations a person can have, not out of a desire for fame or fortune or power, but simply because a true leader is someone esteemed by others, someone who has the attributes required not only to make a great leader but also a great person.
Therefore, we should all aspire to becoming great leaders, and Matt Jenkins, author, entrepreneur, army officer, and leadership coach shows us how. In the introduction, he promises us, “In this book, you will see how to practice attributes that will provide a path for you to go from being a follower who is running with the crowd, to being the great leader you have always wanted to be.” He goes on to explain that, “You will see why trusting others, becoming self-educated, controlling your temper, and being charitable will help you to make the journey of becoming a great leader.”
As the book progresses, Matt walks us through the various attributes that make a great leader, and best of all, he encourages readers who may not yet be leaders to start where they are. We can all cultivate the attributes of leadership even before we start to lead anyone. Ways to cultivate such attributes include such simple and decent things as tipping those who serve us, caring for our family, driving responsibly, and voting. As Jesus himself stated, to those who can be trusted with small things, large things will be given. So as Matt clarifies here, if you cultivate these simplistic attributes, you’ll grow into being a leader and acquire the responsibilities that go along with being one.
Of course, being a leader becomes more complicated as the book goes on. One of the next big lessons is how to get people to like you. You accomplish this by taking a genuine interest in people’s lives, interests, goals, and families. Matt states, “When working with people, I look to bring out their best qualities and that brings out their best efforts, which is best for everyone. It is very easy to overlook the delicate and frail nature of the circumstances most people work under in their daily lives. The people you lead are stressed, living with job insecurity, poor fitness, and health problems; they may be coping with divorce, medical issues, trying to save money, raising their families, or struggling under the weight of debt. As a great leader, you need to be part of the solution for them. You should be an advocate for their success, not an obstacle.”
Here is where you move into being a true leader, by providing answers to problems, which will lead to people following you. Successive chapters build on this idea, showing how to be a leader especially in an organization, but also in daily life. Just a few of the twenty-five chapters’ titles include: Becoming Self-Confident, Becoming Self-Disciplined, Becoming Self-Educated, Choosing Your Words Carefully, Finding Your Role, Calibrating Your Team, and Knowing How to Create Change.
Throughout each chapter, Matt draws on personal stories and metaphors to illustrate his point. For example, in Chapter 13: Finding Your Role, he talks about the three leadership roles and compares being a leader to running a three-ring circus. He uses this circus metaphor because being a leader is equivalent to being simultaneously a Ringmaster, Lion Tamer, and Tightrope Walker. He then explains the similarities between each role and being a leader and concludes that you can lead a three-ring circus if you “know what role you must play and why it is important.
Remember, not all situations allow you to play the role you are most comfortable with, but you can be successful in any of the three-ring circus roles when you recognize which role the situation requires-and you have the courage and ability to perform as a leader in that role. Practice the attributes of each of these roles, and you will be ready when the circus comes to town.”
In addition to the primary content, each chapter of Becoming a Great Leader begins with and often builds upon an inspirational quote. For example, Chapter 8: Controlling Your Temper begins with a quote by General Norman Schwarzkopf: “I get angry at a principle not a person.” Each chapter also has helpful activities that allow the reader to reflect upon what has been learned in the chapter and how it can be applied to his or her personal life to cultivate leadership qualities.
As I said in the beginning, I think everyone, no matter one’s position in life, should aspire to becoming a great leader. Matt Jenkins does a great job of showing us how. I would recommend this book especially to anyone entering the workplace for the first time or anyone graduating from college and starting a new career, as well as anyone currently dissatisfied with life who wants more success along with more happiness and is not afraid of the responsibility of being a model to others by leading people. Everyone has the potential to become a great leader in their own area of expertise; now this book provides the tools to make that potential become a reality.