Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to ask you a very important question. What is a leader? What are the traits that define a leader? Is leadership something someone is born with? Or can someone be taught how to be a leader? It may seem like an easy question, but the question is actually very complex. I guess when we think of a leader, we think of someone who stands up for what is right, even if no one agrees. A leader is someone who thinks of new ways of doing things, to set a new and better example for others. A leader is inspired by his or her desire to see everyone prosperous and happy, and to keep evolving to new levels of understanding.

This would seem like the ideal leader for humankind, would it not? Joan of Arc was a leader. Mother Teresa was a leader. George Washington, and William Wallace, and Alexander the Great, were leaders. But, Hitler was also leader. Napoleon was a leader. George Bush is a leader. Even Charles Manson, notorious serial killer, was a leader of a group of people. Forget historical figures though. The captain of the debate team is a leader. The captain of the football team is a leader. The class president is a leader, so is the foreman at a factory, or the leader of a brigade of the Canadian army, is a leader. When we come to think of it, there are countless numbers of leaders, encompassing all facets of life. But, what sets leaders apart from those that follow? How is it possible for someone like Charles Manson to brainwash an entire group of people into committing such atrocious acts? What was it about Hitler that made people follow him? What qualities did Joan of Arc have that appealed so much that people would give their lives for her. And, again, we go back to that same question, are the qualities of leadership something someone is born with? Or something someone learns with time?

Edwin H Friedman is famous for saying "Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future". John Quincy Adams has said "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." I would agree with this, but there are things I would like to add. To me, there are really two types of leaders, leaders who lead people to a better standard, or to a lower standard. Martin Luther King led his people to a belief that they were equal and deserved freedom, in a peaceful way. Hitler led his people into wreck and ruin with his master race ideologies, and in one way or another caused the deaths of countless millions.

But, one thing all leaders have in common is their desire and determination to create their vision, against all odds. Leaders take responsibility for their own creations, and have a sense of self and a belief in oneself that is not easily broken. A leader is determined to ensure that all facets of a group do what they need to do to ensure the success of the whole, whatever plan that whole may have. A leader has courage, a leader has insight, a leader has charisma and confidence and dedication and discipline. A leader will do whatever is necessary, pay any price, go against any odd to see to the success of their cause. A leader takes the initiative, to learn what is needed to learn, to be able to do what is needed. A leader thinks of new ways of doing things, to make it easier for the whole to achieve the objective. Whether that be global domination, building a new energy efficient car, building a house, or attacking an enemy front. A leader is someone who thinks for himself, who thinks without limits, who sees opportunity when other people see obstacles. A leader is someone who takes responsibility for his or her own self.

These are all natural spiritual qualities that we all have within us. For many people, these qualities lie dormant, due to a sense of fear and limitation, and a lack of self control. They are attracted to people with these qualities, and, if the leader can make the person believe that what they are doing is the best thing to do, the leader can make anybody do literally anything. Feed a hungry family, or blow a hungry family into pieces with cluster bombs. Leaders all have these same innate qualities of duty, dedication, intelligence, knowledgeability, strength, perseverance, and a belief in oneself. I believe all people have leadership potential within them. I believe all people have the potential to be leaders of themselves.

A world full of leaders, would need no leaders. Followers are people who adhere to certain norms, certain ways of being, that are accepted, and anybody that strays from this norm, is usually labeled as dangerous and wrong, but, who usually end up being remembered as great leaders and visionaries. Albert Einstein had a great quote. "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence." This is my definition of a leader, someone who rises above accepted ways of being, to see a different, better way..and has the courage to try and create it.

Is leadership something that somebody is born with, or something someone acquires over time. I believe the answer is both. I believe everyone is born with leadership qualities, and that these qualities gradually awaken over time, more for some people than others. If we were to think of the best way to turn children into creative, self-thinking, strong individuals, with a desire for knowledge and advancement of the whole..something that is a basic human necessity and a basic life necessity of evolution...what would be the best way to do that?

Well someone a long time ago decided it would be to create an educational system that would teach children what they need to know, to become fully mature, aware, and able adults, responsible for their own creations. But, when we examine this educational system, and we see what kind of children that are being turned out, we have to ask ourselves, are we turning out a generation of leaders and thinkers..or followers and "settlers"?

Most schools around the world, by and large, turn out young adults who are..less than leaders. They are taught the very basics they need to function in society, but that is all. I hardly ever see children who are encouraged to dig deep within themselves, examine who they are, discover what their unique talents and qualities are, and how they can best use this to help advance themselves and others, AND maximize joy and happiness in ones life. This would be ideal right, but I want you to take a good look, at your classroom, in schools all over the country, all over the world, take a look and tell me honestly..is this what we see happening with our children? I think not.

I see children who are followers. We are taught to be followers, right down to how kids are taught how to walk in lines when they are in elementary, it may seem harmless enough but this has a major subconscious effect. Any child who expresses abnormal levels of energy, enthusiasm, or who is just restless from being stuck behind a desk being taught about a forest, instead of actually being in the forest learning about it....this child told to be quiet, and do their work..sometimes even medicated. We are taught to look to some for some authority figure, to provide us the knowledge we require, to set rules and guidelines and provide structure and order to life, and really serves to limit us into a left brained, intellect type of thinking.

This is especially true in elementary school, where kids are taught, subconsciously, to adhere to the norm, and how things are, and any refraining from the norm is wrong. Leaders are people who have the ability not only to see things as they are, but how they could be. Leaders are visionaries. Leaders do not let themselves be limited to the constraints of accepted norms, they see how the norm can be changed to something better...or worse, depending whether they're a Hitler or a Gandhi. Even Hitler, though, believed that what he was doing was best for life.

I am not saying that the only thing schools do is turn kids into followers. Schools provide valuable life knowledge that must be learned in order to provide the foundation for all other understanding. Schools provide an atmosphere that allows children to interact and acquire skills and learn what it is they are good at. School provides discipline and order, that many kids these days are lacking. School creates life long relationships, between students and students, teachers and students, teachers and teachers, everybody involved. There are schools where the teacher really takes a vested interest in the development of their students mental, emotional, physical and spiritual development. There are, however, far too many schools, were teachers only go in to do their jobs, not really caring about the children, and who sometimes end up being transferred before really getting the chance.

There are far too many homes nowadays, where parents do not teach their kids how to be mature responsible aware people, partly because they have not been taught how to be this way themselves. This is where the education system comes in, if the education, really did teach all children to be independent, strong, inquisitive, leaders..then these people who have children and teach them these qualities and these children would have children, and we would eventually have a world full of strong, independent, leaders. But, we do not have this, so we must ask ourselves, what must we change about our education system in order to create this type of vision?

I have a few suggestions, I would like to share them with you. First of all..less time in the classroom, more time out in the world on field trips. Like I said before, why stay in a building learning about the forest, when you can be in the forest learning about it in reality? Wanna learn about history, visit historical sites. Wanna learn about the stars, go visit a planetarium. But also I understand that a certain amount of classwork is needed, especially with subjects such as math, science, or grammar. A balance of both would be most ideal.

Another suggestion i would make is to not shuffle so many classes into one day. When kids have to shuffle through 4, 5, or 6 classes everyday, they do not learn any of the classes sufficiently, and really overwhelms the poor students mind. I believe this is a major problem and is a major cause of stress and failure in school, there is just so much things we are supposed to learn all at once! Math, science, history, all in the same day! I would suggest taking specific periods of the school year to study a certain subject, for example, for a few months study history, another few months study math, another few months study language. Getting a good education really does not have to have to stretch out decades.

Another thing I would suggest is for teachers to have a much more intimate role in their kids lives, and really take more of an interest in seeing the children be all they can be. Teachers should encourage children to try to think problems out for themselves, instead of having some set method.

There's a George Patton quote that goes "Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results." This particular phrase brings in mind when I was in high school, and I had come up with an easier and better way to solve an algebra problem, and my teacher told me it was the wrong way to do it and to do it how the book said to do it. This is exactly what I mean when I say many schools, and many teachers, really unknowingly, serve to stifle a students independent thought, and turn him or her into..really..a repeater...someone who can memorize and recite many things, but does not have that drive for knowledge or have any kind of real, heart level understanding. This type of way of teaching keeps kids in a box, a follow the leader mentality..which is the opposite mentality a leader has.

We really need a major examination and overhaul of how we teach our children, and I know this may seem really radical, and seem too far-fetched and you might think "Oh well we cant do that, we should just keep things the way we are"..this is exactly the mentality we are taking about, the mentality that does not believe in the potential for something different and better..which is the fundamental mentality that a true leader has.

I believe that a true leader is motivated by his love for himself and others, and a desire to keep on advancing, ever onwards, into higher levels of being. This is a basic fundamental of life and spirituality, which is why people are so subconsciously attracted to people with leadership qualities, because they see a glimpse of themselves inside the leader and who they can be. I believe a true leader encourages others to lead themselves, and this is what our educational systems should teach the children. For children to take and active role and responsibility for their own actions, learning, understanding and being. To make children passionate, happy, creative, intelligent, strong, independent people, with a unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a drive to continue evolving. I believe we can do that, but only with drastic changes in our way of being. Thank you.
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