SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – “Simon Says” is a game where someone gets to be the leader and gives instructions about what gestures or actions others must do, but only on Simon’s command. For young children, “Simon Says” is always a group favorite.

“At least for that game, I enjoyed being a leader and most of my classmates did too. Some people may still feel like that game is their only chance to be a leader,” said David Burton, county engagement specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

If a person defines “leader” as someone in charge of a group of people – or someone who can organize a group of people to accomplish a task -- then not everyone can say they are a “leader.”

“But, if we define leadership as a person pursuing something where they will influence others, then it is a term that applies to everyone,” said Burton.

With the second definition, a “leader” becomes someone who finds and uses an area of strength to influence others positively. 

“I know the term leadership strikes fear in the heart of some people. This could happen because they dread the thought of taking on leadership responsibility or because they have had bad experiences with failed leadership,” said Burton.

Either way, it is a good reminder that everyone has, at one time or another, demonstrated leadership. A person can be a leader at work, in a club or organization, in your family, at church or in your neighborhood or community. 

A person can also show leadership as a servant, a provider, a decision-maker or as an opinion leader among friends.

“There are willing leaders who volunteer to take on responsibility and there are reluctant leaders,” said Burton. “You probably know a few reluctant leaders. You vote these into the office of committee chairman during a meeting they did not attend.”

Burton recently went to social media to ask friends, “what makes a leader?” He got a variety of answers that can be summarized into these statements.  

•    A leader is a dealer in hope.
•    A leader is someone with gumption enough to yank on the reins when the horse is galloping at full speed in the wrong direction. 
•    A leader will lead by example and is willing to jump in and do what is needed.
•    A leader is someone who also knows how to follow.
•    A leader is somebody who can causes people to follow them, if only out of curiosity. 
•    A good leader is always thoughtful, courteous and polite and treats people equal to him/her. 
•    A good leader has to be a good servant first.
•    If you consider yourself a leader and no one is following, then you are just taking a walk. But, if people are joining you on the journey, then you are a leader.

“We all possess some strength or gift that enables us to master something in a healthy way. Leadership is intended to be about serving others in the area of our giftedness. When we do, we naturally ripple with influence. We do not even have to try to lead others,” said Burton

For more information, contact any of these MU Extension community development specialists working in southwest Missouri:  Pam Duitsman in Christian County, (417) 581-3558; David Burton in Greene County, (417) 881-8909 or Maria E. Rodriguez-Alcalá in Jasper County at (417) 358-2158

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