Leadership is a subject I find most individuals (especially those in leadership positions) often love to discuss from the perspective that they have the "answer for all leaders". Leadership roles are the sword in the stone, which everyone wants to acquire yet most have no clue how to wield. Here I'd like to take a closer look at what it means to lead by trade, and to lead by nature.
"Leadership roles are the sword in the stone, which everyone wants to acquire yet most have no clue how to wield."
To be a leader by trade is to have been placed in a leadership role, such as at a job or as a volunteer leader in an organization. This could be the person chosen by their leadership to lead a group project which would include coworkers. These people are chosen to operate as the head of a group of people, not necessarily entailing that the selected individual be most suitable or explicitly knowledgeable for the task. These people can have a lot of trouble accepting that they're not best fit for the work and sometimes show strong signs of pride, and can easily be thrown into ego trips. These people may breakdown in private as they call on natural leaders for help and coaching on best practices.
To be a leader by nature is much different. Those who are leaders by nature often times don't find themselves in leadership roles at jobs, but more often times can be found leading friends through hard times and/or coaching most people they come into extended periods of contact with. A leader by nature will be sought after, often times by people who are leaders by trade, for insights on the best ways to impact and influence people. They'll be sought after for strategic brainstorming, and also a lot of times they'll lead volunteer groups such as church activities or things that aren't tied to the way they actually make their living. These people don't need the spotlight and are typically phenomenal communicators, whether it be written or oral. These qualities make them great teachers and trainers. Due to their lack of desire to be in the spotlight or be "seen" by many, they find themselves in the background making the gears turn rather in the conductor's seat being admired.
"A leader by nature will be sought after, often times by people who are leaders by trade, for insights on the best ways to impact and influence people."
Why is it important to distinguish the two from each other? I'm so glad you asked! Those who aren't meant to be in leadership roles because they don't natural prowess it takes to be an excellent leader need to be able to identify that they're in the wrong position, and will only end up unhappy being asked to do things that don't fit their natural preferences/inclinations. In the same fashion, those who are leaders by nature need not run from the call. Answer the opportunity to lead and take on extra responsibility with open arms, even if you're not confident you'll do a good job. If you're not the leading type or if you often times find you can't effectively communicate visions and ideas to those around you with intent to orchestrate, then you may be the perfect person to get behind a mission and be the hands that make it practical. Leadership need not be fetishized, there needs to be a body to create the vision that every head (or leader) imagines. Without the body, their aspirations are nothing but hollow fantasies.
"Leadership need not be fetishized ... "
On the other side of that coin, every body needs a true visionary with a genuine and detailed vision for the future. It's a scary job taking responsibility for the work of others, and it takes a special type of person to love that pressure. It takes a compassionate, strong, understanding, listening, and insightful type of person to lead the lives of others. Even if you're in a managerial role on your job, and no one seems to take that job seriously, you're taking on the responsibility of these people's day to day experience in the work place. As none of us probably need to be reminded, we spend a huge amount of our time at work and/or in school. Thus as a manager, supervisor, or leader you have great impact on a person's quality of life in general. Most won't see it that way although it's the truth, and regardless it's the leader's job to take on the task of enhancing those they lead's experience while in their presence. Leaders have the ability to greatly enhance a persons quality of life and alter their trajectory in a hugely positive way.
"Leaders have the ability to greatly enhance a persons quality of life and alter their trajectory in a hugely positive way."
I say all of this to say that if you feel the call of leadership tugging on your soul, answer the call boldly. There are too many people leading groups in unhealthy ways because those meant to lead simply weren't visible or bold enough to make themselves known. If you're meant to serve as the body, step away from the reigns and find your fit as the one making it all possible. But if you've been in the background too long and you know it (you'll feel it, trust me), it's time for you to step up and make your genuine care for the outcome of the group known. The time is always now for us to get in where we truly fit in.
While it's important for us to challenge our nature in healthy progressive ways, the caveat is that we do so in order to boldly claim and proclaim our true identities in the world (and the workplace).
Be honest, be bold, be yourself.