Perhaps one of the greatest books on leadership I have ever read was Richard Marcinko’s Leadership Secrets of the Rogue Warrior. It was the first book on the topic that made me realize that I was robbed of a very precious lesson in life during school: what it takes to be a leader. As I reminisced on my classroom days from elementary all the way up to high school, not once did I recall being instructed on how to be a leader. We were taught about great leaders, and evil leaders, we were asked to volunteer to be a group leader, but at no time were we properly instructed on how to be a leader.
Don’t believe me? Then simply sit back and reflect on how many lessons your teachers taught you on how to be a good leader? When you learned about a historical leader in our society did your teacher ever take the time to teach you about that leader’s traits that helped form the skills needed to be the leader? I would gander to say no. There are, of course, exceptions, but the fact of the matter is your class never delved into that aspect of the lesson. Sure, you were told of their great accomplishments, but you were never told about the methodologies or philosophies used in order to accomplish their goals.
Before we go any further, let’s run a quick scenario that has happened to me a couple of times as I was coming up in the ranks: It is six o’clock. Your Karate class is supposed to begin but the teacher is not there yet. In fact there are no black belts available at all. Three of you are the next highest rank out of the twelve that attended. So what do you do? A) Step up and take the class over? B) Sit back in hopes that one of the other two will get the class going? C) Or better yet, will you idly stand by while someone else of a lower rank takes the reins?
Right now your pride is telling you that you would choose A without a doubt, but are you really being honest with yourself? I have found more times than not that a vast majority of people fall into the realm of B. So don’t feel bad if you would have chosen B. Instead you should feel angry. You have been programmed since elementary school to choose B. Does this sound familiar? “Do well in school so that you can get a good education, land a great job and work for a good company.” This concept has been spoon fed to us since we started our schooling. Bottom line, you were never really taught to be the one in charge
Martial arts provide us the opportunity of having an equal playing ground to learn leadership skills. Regardless of your age, sex, race, religion or sexual orientation, you have a chance to learn how to be a leader, simply by running the warm up exercises or taking some new students and showing them basics. You may not feel comfortable in this position but that is to be expected. Prior to this moment you were never taught how to be comfortable. However, this practice of being in charge enables you to figure out what works and does not work. So the next time you are given the opening to lead, take it. The real world needs real leaders. Just remember the golden rule that I once heard from General “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf who lead the Coalition Forces in the Gulf War, “When in charge, take charge!”