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Leading Is Doing

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

This is a truly interesting definition of “leader.” From Adams’ point of view, deciding whether someone is a leader is based on analyzing his actions. The definition doesn’t preclude using other criteria or approaches; but those included in the definition are sufficient to identify a leader, according to Adams.

To find a leader using Adams’ definition, qualities such as charisma, personality, intelligence, compassion, decisiveness, or similar traits are not relevant since only “actions” are pertinent. Further, only actions that inspire others are of immediate interest. This means that one can only designate someone as a leader by first identifying at least one other person who was inspired by the actions of the person being designated. What’s more, the person needs to have been inspired “to dream more, learn more, do more and become more.”

Setting aside the problem with being sure what “dream more” and “become more” actually mean and how one can identify these events in other people, both have to be present, along with “learn more” and “do more.” The point is that all four outcomes need to be present and attributable, through inspiration, to the actions of the person being designated as a leader.

The task now is to identify leaders. It doesn’t seem appropriate to include parents or other close relatives since they already have a special designation and classifying them as “leaders” tends to trivialize their roles and status. The same point may also hold for teachers and other personal mentors. Given those exclusions, identify actions of others that have inspired you to dream more, learn more, do more and become more. Make a list, with the action on the left and the inspirational person’s name on the right. Keep in mind that the action needs to have inspired you to dream, learn, do, and become. When you finish your personal list, make another list including actions that have inspired people you know to dream, learn, do, and become. Combining the two lists gives you your “leaders I know about” list.

When using the suggested list making procedure, it seems likely that most people would be personally aware of very few leaders, using Adams’ definition. Now repeat the list making procedure, only including actions that are currently inspiring you or others to dream today, learn today, do today, and become today. Do you have a leader in your life today? Most people probably don’t, at least not one who is alive and working in their town.

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