This is Digest: A focused update on an undefined topic of my choosing. Published almost every
After our lunch at the top of the Sierra Madre del Sur just outside Petatlán, Mexico, our ATVs pulled over on the side of the road about one-third of the way down the mountain. We got off and walked through the front yard of a family’s home. We were about to take a hike through the jungle to a waterfall somewhere in the middle of the mountain.
Johnny—our hotel bartender turned tour guide—sped to the front of the group, motioned a quick ¡hola! to the family who was sitting casually in the front yard, led us around the side of the house past an extremely proud rooster, and straight through to the back yard into an expansive field full of cattle.
While I toyed with Amanda’s camera trying to get formal portraits of the cows, I stepped in a cow pie or two (spoiler, if you’re not familiar with country lingo: cow pies aren’t like “apple pie,” you may not want to Google that), and tried to keep my eye on the bull laying near the edge of the creek that ran through the field. Thankfully, I wasn’t wearing red. Wouldn’t want to tempt Ferdinand.
“Left foot first, then right when you go around these rocks,” Johnny yelled out.
“You can take off your sandals and walk directly through the creek, or jump from that rock to that rock to that rock,” he said, perched on the side of the hill pointing at the rocks he was referencing.
“Walk on the thin dirt path through the field—it’s harder to see sometimes, but the big path leads nowhere.”
That last line sounds philosophical and I guess you can take it that way if you want to. But he meant it literally: the literal big path literally lead nowhere.
What caught my attention about how Johnny led is that he didn’t always stay in front of our fifteen-person crew: if anybody mentioned having trouble or he noticed they were hiking incorrectly, he immediately went to them to offer help or a suggestion.
He would always direct the group with his voice, but sometimes that voice came from the front, sometimes from the middle, other times from the very back.
Sometimes he was talking to benefit one person, other times he was talking to all of us.
But he was the leader, no matter where he was in line.
Not because he proved anything before we started hiking.
Not because of some title he held.
He was the leader
Leadership is hard to define because everybody leads differently, and everyone is led differently.
Leadership is also hard to accept because most of us are, rightly, skeptical of authority; we’ve all seen what happens when you trust somebody without questioning their motives or the integrity of their information, and it’s not always good.
But leadership is necessary and unavoidable, whether you’re part of a nation, a business, a hike, a family, or simply trying to better yourself.
It’s necessary and unavoidable because, as people, collectively and individually, we’re not stagnant. We’re always growing, for better or worse.
We grow when we rally behind a vision of the future, and that vision compels us to act. Yes, that vision is an aggregate and contains thoughts that come from all of us, but is typically channeled through somebody: that person is the leader.
I believe we’re all leading something, we’re all leading someone, and we’re all going somewhere, whether we know it or not.
I believe leadership doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
Here are a few articles and quotes about how “leadership” doesn’t always have much to do with your position or power, and about what good and effective leadership looks like.