By Norma Kirkpatrick
I remember a game played when I was a child, known as “Follow the Leader.” One of the children would be designated as the leader, and the rest of us had to do everything they did; like make a goofy face, jump on one foot, or spin around in circles until we were dizzy. We were laughing the whole time. It never occurred to us not to go along with the rules. Breaking the unwritten rules meant there would be no game at all. It also meant that those who refused to cooperate would never get a turn at being the leader.
That game came to my mind because I have been thinking about leadership lately. Some folks are born leaders; some grow into the needed abilities; while others are willing, but struggle with being a leader. There are a few times a resignation would be a sensible thing to do. In other instances, followers with an encouraging attitude can strengthen their leaders; but a negative group can be so discouraging their leader totally loses heart for the cause.
There are all sorts of leaders; some are elected, some are paid, some volunteer, while others are driven by a worthy cause. No matter the setting, someone will emerge and valiantly dare to step forth as a leader. From a small club of ten members to an organization of hundreds, someone has to be willing to keep the people, procedures and plans organized and in forward motion toward a common purpose.
Having dared to make a few forays into leadership roles myself, I am much more considerate and lenient toward my leaders, because I know how tough it is to be the person out front. It takes courage and determination; the ability to stand your ground when you know you are right; and the strength of character to get up and dust yourself off without self-pity when you are opposed. Within yourself, you must know you are doing the best you can for the people who chose you.
What more noble dare could there be than that!
I am not thinking so much of leadership on a global or national level; but locally. As I drive around our fair city of Opelika, I see evidence of years of past leadership. Many of those people are deceased; but we now build on some of the good decisions they made many years ago. When I see the beautiful restorations and preservation sites that have protected the character and charm of Opelika, it is obvious there have been leaders of wisdom and good taste who knew, and still know, how important that emphasis is to our present and our future.
My night life consists of driving home from choir rehearsal at 8:00 at night.
I look up and down the train tracks, and see by the number of parked cars that our town is jumping with wonderful restaurants, venues of entertainment, and places to meet with friends. When I have out of town guests, I cannot wait to take them to the heart of Opelika for an excellent choice of places to have lunch. Then I drive slowly through the historic district; by the downtown shops; and stop to look at the Chamber of Commerce house and the Lee County Court House. What exquisite edifices those two places are to behold! I also encourage my friends to visit The Lee County Museum, just a short stroll away; knowing they will not be disappointed. My homespun tour would not be possible without the good work of those unsung leaders I have mentioned.
Ongoing leadership I now think of, are those persons with the ability to look ahead and continue their work at expanding to the outer boundaries of our city limits. Well planned new neighborhoods; retail development that draws the public to shop with us; leaders with expertise in the area of education as they guide our youth into a promising future. We also must have those qualified leaders who stay abreast of cutting edge technology in our behalf. Opelika is certainly at the top of the curve in that category with our fiber optic network.
Thanks to every leader from the past, the present, and poised for the future of Opelika. No matter what the position, there must be determined, intelligent leadership in every venue of Opelika. Thank you for giving of your time and your gifts. It is hard work, and often thankless work, but we need you. We will always need good leadership to keep us strong and vibrant. Good job, leaders!
My visiting friends are always surprised because they were expecting to see a sleepy little falling down southern town; instead of the city and area we call “home.” They say without fail, “This would be a wonderful place to live; you people have it all.” “I know,” I say smugly.
Kirkpatrick is a guest columnist for the Opelika Observer. She is a wordsmith who has contributed to teaching materials, magazines and newspapers. She also collaborates with authors on literary projects and writes an occasional poem. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.