Leadership. It’s been said that leaders are born that way. That you either have it or you don’t. I don’t think that is entirely true.

You’ve heard my story before. How high school football transformed an underachieving kid into someone that knew that with enough effort anything is possible.

My leadership path followed a different path. I’ve shared a bit of that here before but it bears repeating. I can remember being assigned as the leader of a Boy Scout Patrol, sort of a sub-group in the Boy Scout Troop (215) that I was a member of. It came as a bit of a surprise to me.

Whether on purpose or by accident, I was also given a Patrol of misfits — kids that maybe didn’t fit in elsewhere or who might have been, let’s say, difficult. Through what must have been extraordinary adult leadership, I was able to assist in leading this ragtag bunch in becoming a cohesive unit of overperforming Boy Scouts.

Another component of Boy Scouts is the annual Jamboree. They still do that. Part of the Jamboree is for individual Patrols to compete at things like fire starting, relay racing, tent building, and the like. I’ll jump to the end and tell you that my Patrol, the Owl Patrol, won every category.

That was quite obviously the beginning of my leadership development. I was given an opportunity. I stepped up. Did somebody see something in me? They must have. What was it? I have no idea. I was the underachieving kid from the wrong side of the tracks.

But I always did seem to thrive in Boy Scouts. I became an Eagle Scout. I was in the Order of the Arrow. I received the God & Country Award. Even today, I cannot tell you what resonated so strongly with me about Scouting but I loved everything about it.

Later, I got involved in Student Government in college. Since then I have held a number of leadership positions in our state and national physical therapy association, being elected President of my state and later elected to national office in the American Physical Therapy Association.

Was I born a leader? I suppose. In a way. But I surely had good teachers and role models all along the path. But what is a leader? And how does one become a leader?

I was always taught to make a difference in the world. Just like I’ve never known how my uneducated parents instilled in me the absolute, beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt knowledge that I was going to college, I’ve never known how they also taught me that I was in this world to make a difference in this world.

Sometimes leadership is when opportunity meets ambition. Sometimes I saw doors and stepped through them. Other times, it was others who encouraged me.

But let me put it this way: Anybody can become a leader. Everybody has something of that leader thing in their gene pool. And everybody can develop leadership skills. I know. I teach leadership skills at many levels. You can become a more effective leader if you put in the effort, if you are open to learning, if you see yourself as a servant.

What? Servant? Yes. I’m convinced that all effective leadership is Servant Leadership. So I’ll end with a quote from Maryville native Dave Ramsey: “Bosses push. Leaders pull. Real leadership is servant leadership.”

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Email joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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