You don't have to get into politics to be considered a leader. You don't even have to hold some high-ranking position of importance within the community.
The main thing is being willing to step forward, work with others and try to find ways to improve a situation. It can be running for office, or it can be something as seemingly minor as organizing an event to raise awareness of an issue or a fundraiser to benefit a local organization.
In other words, by getting involved in your neighborhood, your community, your church, your school or organization, you are showing signs of leadership.
That's exactly the goal behind the Leadership Weirton program held by the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce.
I've seen this program both as a journalist and a participant. Now, I'm also part of the committee which works to oversee it and I'm always trying to find ways to encourage people in our business community to take part.
Applications to participate in the Class of 2014 are available, so we're now looking for individuals interested in the program, which will kick off in January.
Now, despite the name, Leadership Weirton is not about providing "leadership training" as some might view it.
The program is put together as a way to provide opportunities to meet others in the business community, learn more about the organizations, businesses and resources available in our area, and encourage individuals to find ways to get more involved in their towns.
Leadership Weirton provides a set group of topics - government, history and culture, education, healthcare, and business and economic development - as well as requirements to attend a couple of government and community meetings and volunteer their time for a local non-profit organization.
The real leadership in Leadership Weirton comes from the fact that the scheduling and planning of each activity is completely up to the class itself.
It's not just a bunch of people sitting in a room and being lectured to about how they should be doing things to move their town in a positive direction.
They decide when they will meet and what they will do, with past activities including scavenger hunts, visits to hospitals, hands-on activities at our local schools and colleges and even tours of some of our local manufacturing facilities.
The class also is asked to plan and implement a group community service project, with past efforts including cleaning Cove Commons, assisting the Weirton museum, planting flowers, painting buildings and assisting with updates to a local veterans memorial site.
Every community is in need of new leadership. It's not just about having new elected officials. It's about having people willing to step forward and share their ideas.
No community can move forward by simply doing the same thing over and over again, it takes change and it takes people who are willing to give of themselves knowing they might not get something out of it for themselves.
True leaders get involved because of the rewards of seeing a situation get better for others. It's not about recognition or applause or awards or lining our own pockets. It's about helping others.
They volunteer to help those in need, to provide food for the hungry, safe playgrounds for our children, a few hours of enjoyment and company for those who might not have anyone else, or just a nice place to sit in a local park.
Leadership Weirton is a chance for individuals to see what is out there, to see how we can contribute for the benefit of others.
The applications will be available in the chamber's upcoming newsletter, as well as at the chamber office. So, if you are a business and you have someone you think would be interested in becoming a bigger part of their community, I encourage you to find out more.
It's an opportunity for your business to be a bigger part of your town, for your employees to learn and get involved, and a chance to invest in the future of your community.
(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)