So I am in the United States army and I just got promoted last month. Since then I have been placed of a few soldiers and I never thought of myself as a leader. In high school I was very shy and quiet and I never lead anything or took charge.
Up until this point I had never given direction on anything or anyone as far as doing task or coordinating something. I have never thought of myself as a leader or someone that others look up to. I have always been the follower when it comes to think and I find it strange as to how well I have taken to being over someone.
I don't feel the need to prove to people I have power and I don't even think about being in charge I just make things happen when they need to be done. I just don't understand how fluid the transition has been for me from going from a follower to a leader now.
What makes someone a great leader and someone to look up to? What makes leaders sometimes get power trips? How could someone who was as quiet as I was in high school and prior to my promotion now not be afraid to voice my opinions and direct people on the right paths? Has anyone else felt like this?
It's possible the skill was always within you, it just needed the right nurturing environment to bring it out - the job of your superiors is to spot who has natural leadership qualities, and bring it out.
There are several types of leaders out there, if we classify them by the motivating force behind them being leaders:
1) The goal-oriented leader
The goal-oriented leader is not so bad. He is mainly focused on the objective, and has taken on the role of leader to reach that goal. Following these people can be very fun and rewarding, but also stressfull and hard work. These leaders sometimes forget the people in favour of the goal and run the risk of burning out their co-workers.
2) The role-oriented leader
The role-oriented leader I mainly attracted to the power, glory, status or money of the leadership role. These people generally make the worst possible leaders. And they are the most common out there simply because they seek out leadership positions. They can learn though and grow into more of 1) with time. But many do not, and end up being idiot bosses.
3) The process-oriented leader
These are people who take on leadership to make their own life easier, by making everyones life easier, more efficient and better. They are by far the best leaders of the lot for their coworkers. They may not be so fun and engaging as the first category, but they make up for that by understanding the basic fact that a really good leader is someone who facilitates their coworkers to excell. The process oriented leader will always try to smooth the road so that everybody else can do what they are best at and do best, while insulating them from stuff that grind them down. This leadership is what everybody is trying to learn at leadership classes. But only a select few are born like this.
confidence is key to being a respected leader. humility is key to being an effective leader.
Of course, this assumes competence, which is also necessary for both.
Anyway, to answer your questions directly: what makes someone a great leader changes with the times. These days it appears to be more the role of a "chief." i.e. a great leader does not tell people what to do, but is always there to explain how to do it - not in a condescending "I-can't-believe-you-don't-know-this" tone, but with the assumption that no one is born with any knowledge. Also, a great leader needs to be someone who is always busy - because if he is ever caught doing nothing when his subordinates are doing a task assigned to them, their respect for him falls through the floor.
Power trips are a quirky thing in that the definition of such depends a bit on perspective. As for genuine power trips it's usually a "mood" thing - you can't just smack people around when you're pissed, but you realize you have this whole other thing at your disposal called "authority." And so, you use it to watch people smack themselves. Then there is also the saying "power corrupts." This is false, of course, but close - power does not corrupt; corruptible people are simply the ones that pursue power with the least inhibitions. They don't mind trampling people to get where they want, so they have an advantage over the ones who do mind trampling people.
No matter how much or how little confidence you may have had prior to being in the military, one of the goals of military training is to replace your entire set of assumptions pertaining to "what to be confident about" with a military-specified set. The thing is the military's set is very straightforward and attainable. The 'recipe' to become confident in the civilian world, especially high school, is a chaotic mess of social trends and luck. It's expected that everyone in the military is confident in what they do.
im sure you probly know general schoffields definition of discipline, but if not "The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instructions and to give commands in such a manner and in such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling but and intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself; while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward other, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself."
possibly part of the reason you make a good leader is because you weren't a leader in HS and instead you learned "followship" or you learned that the leaders decisions WILL impact his subordinates for the better, or the worse.