I was having a PM conversation with a community member the other day, and it occurred to me that most people in our hobby do not equate their time and experience in the hobby to that of being a leader or having the opportunity to provide leadership.
Fred Xman has over 1,200 posts and his profile shows that he has been a member of the AVSIM forums for 7 years and that does not include his participation and contributions elsewhere. Question: Is Fred a leader in our hobby?
In order to answer that question we have to define the word "leadership". My simple definition of leadership in the context of our hobby is being able and willing to provide guidance and support to other members of our simming community, no matter the forum or location, AVSIM or otherwise. This, of course, is not the entire definition of leadership, nor is it the only one.
Let me give you an example of my definition in the context of our hobby. Sam Fman is a brand new user of flight sims and discovers resources and a forum at the Brand X web site. In looking through the forum, he notes members with high message counts and years of membership. I would be willing to bet that his initial assumption is that these people are those whom he can turn for help and reasonably expect to receive it.
Does providing expertise and knowledge in response to his question imbue leadership to the experienced community member? I argue that it does not happen automatically, that it certainly provides the opportunity to be so. I would argue that the experienced long time member most often does not recognize that opportunity and some even squander it by disparaging the question or the member entirely.
And what a shame that is... In my nearly 31 years of running public Bulletin Board Systems and now forums; communities if you will, I have seen countless thousands of wasted opportunities to provide leadership for some of the most immature and childish reasons. Self aggrandizement, misplaced self-importance, arrogance, condescension... and you get the idea. How often have we read the statement; "I am afraid to post a message there, cause I know I will be bashed"? Or, "Every time I post a message there I get slammed with responses that tell me to (RTFM, YOUR DUMB, THAT'S A STUPID QUESTION, GET MORE EXPERIENCE AND THEN COME BACK AND ASK, etc. You insert your favorite negative response). Or, the worst indictment; "I will not participate there, because the users are so hostile"...
There are any number of what I call the "entitled" that were significant personages in our hobby in days gone by. They are not around much any more because, among other reasons, they wore their welcome out across the hobby. These individual are the extreme example of squandered opportunities to show their leadership potential. Where they could have provided measureless experience and knowledge, they did more to drive members away than otherwise.
If you have time in the hobby and have shown your willingness to participate and share your experience via messages and contributions in our hobby, you have the leadership potential waiting for you to exercise it. But remember, being a leader comes with some responsibilities. Responsibilities like providing respect, maturity, thoughtful guidance, and so on. Ignore those responsibilities and you too will have squandered your opportunity to lead.
My point is simple; you may not see yourself as a leader, but the potential is there for you to nurture and provide if you so choose.