Our house burned down when my siblings and I were still very little. It was late at night when my mom woke up from a loud commotion coming from our second-floor window. Barely awake, she stumbled towards the window. As soon as she opened her eyes, most of our neighbors were running up and down the street carrying their items. Parents had their children in tow. The little ones could hardly keep their eyes open, embracing their pillows trying to keep up with their parent’s rapid strides.
My mom shouts to the frantic crowd asking ‘what’s the matter?’ An elderly man in his boxing shorts and plain white shirt points up towards the direction of our roof shouting ‘fire’. My mom shakes my dad so hard that he falls off the bed. With a loud ‘thud’, he angrily wakes up. In less than five minutes, we were all out of the house.
As we watched from the street, we witnessed the fire from the neighbor’s rooftop slowly crawl to our rooftop. Out of the blue, our Iranian neighbor appears in front of us. Masood, a dental student, living with his wife two blocks away from us. As soon as he heard about the fire, he rushes over to see if we were okay.
Watching the fear and concern on our faces, Masood talks to three bystanders. The second time I turned to look at them, Masood and the group was running towards our home. The group braved the fire. By now, our roof was on fire. One by one they hauled our appliances and furniture out of our home. One of the by-standers stood to watch over our things. In less than thirty minutes, they brought out as many things as they can. By now, the fire traveled down to the first floor. There was no way anyone can enter our house.
Looking back years later, I share this testimony as proof that anyone can lead. Masood was not your typical textbook ‘leader’ with a great job title. He was a foreign student who influenced three Filipinos to join him save as much of our belongings as possible.
If you influence others, then you are a leader. I am not talking about dictatorship or leading using fear. These people are not influencing. People follow them simply because they have no other choice. People are following them until they find a new job. People are following them because they need their pay. People are following them thinking they have no choice.
Real leaders can influence others to follow them onward toward their vision. This ability can be inborn or developed. Leadership is primarily about effectively influencing others. You don’t need a fancy job title to be a true leader. All you need is the skill to influence others.