‘Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough’ said Archimedes, ‘and I will move the world.’ Leadership is not a passive effort taken merely to align to circumstances; it demands radically challenging of the status quo for the betterment of an institution. It is proactive assessment of the proceedings with subsequent follow through which adds value. Biology, ecology and geography teach that relationships between living entities are circular and interactive. Likewise, organizations are also living systems, composed not only of capital goods and technology, but of people, capable of intelligent, purposeful collective action, actions taken to influence their environments in desired directions.
As true living entities, organizations should learn, adapt and grow, with leaders being the architects of such movement. Organizations too have life cycles of birth, growth, maturity and eventual decline. It becomes the basis of leadership evaluation to judge them on the action that they take. Learning, talking and writing about leadership is only the beginning, the real test lies in action. John le Carre said “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” Real action takes place in the arena, in the factories, the battlefronts and the highways and byways of life. It is from such that the results are gotten. Nothing ever materialise by mere thinking; thinking on its own is not enough, there is more that is required.
Leadership affects all of us; not only are we impacted by it, but also, we are all called upon to exercise it. This is where the greatest challenge of our time beckons on us with many leaders content to have positions that cannot be converted into results assisting the human race. Whether we are called upon to lead government or business, guiding young minds, leading a family, standing for what is right, or organizing a dinner, a household, everyone has a leadership role to play. Active involvement is what matters in a world devoid of solutions to the many challenges at our disposal.
Each one is thrust into many different leadership roles throughout our lives and these roles require men and women who are on their toes doing those things that stand as a legacy of soundness. We called upon to be doers and custodians of what is right and good, lasting and of value, for those under our leadership and moreover for those who care to view our leadership from afar.
Bringing your plans and potential to action is the determinant of success or failure in leadership. Action means realising the urgency of the assignment; it means adaptation, it is moving with the times and bringing together individuals to function together as a team. It means motivation of those who are influenced by our lives, communicating with them continually, inspiring them for the higher ideals and correcting where such correction is demanded.
Caring about titles, power, status, prestige and what looks good on paper is never going to help this generation. Our establishments are never going to be driven by the many papers that leaders possess even though such papers are necessary only as a foundation upon which the leadership is hinged. Real action on the grand arena has the power to transform this world into a better place.
As a leader, choose to be visionary, never resting on your laurels as the rate of change has a capacity of overtaking you and leaving you irrelevant. Be able to adapt and be flexible enough to work with changing goals, changing circumstances, changing customer demands and changing motivations. This means being on the thick of things where it is happening. Choosing anything else other than the arena of action is never by any chance going to bring about solutions desperately needed. The words of Mahatma Ghandi should continue to ring in our minds when he said; “You must be the change which you wish to see in the world.”
In the biblical narrative of creation, Adam was admonished to dress and keep the physical creation that God had made. On the same token, leaders ought to be custodians of the entities they are assigned to look after. This is an active approach to solution provision which is totally different from the passivity that has tended to cloud many of our establishments. Adam was to put into practise the laws and thinking to at least subdue the earth and multiply. Every leader will be judged on multiplication. Doing something was the call upon the first man. In living with the constituency he was assigned to, Adam had to live in it and make the necessary changes in accordance with the higher laws. There are laws and principles of leadership that all and sundry should be able to adhere by and stand forth as a marvel of the massive potential that a leader can wield upon the world.
Every human being, young or old, educated or otherwise always desire to be complimented when they do something that is worthwhile. Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have gotten into barracks and asked amongst the troops the one who performed exceptionally well. He would then take some of his badges and even hat and give it to the outstanding soldier. Such methods of complementing and recognising followers maintained the level of morale very high. No matter where you go as a leader, this principle works and ought to be applied. A pat on the back possesses some magic that the best soothsayer in the world cannot provide. Sincerely compliment them because they like to feel special.
Crisis situations come in the course of duty execution. The worst thing that a leader can do in the event of a crisis is to vanish from the scene. The level of confidence will quickly wane and this won’t be ideal for the followers. According to Napoleon Bonaparte, a leader is a dealer in hope. In the midst of disappointment, leaders must inspire confidence. When everyone is saying, “let’s give up,” the leader will be rallying his troops to try one more time. It is such encouragement that brings about solutions that appears to be far-fetched.
The direction is quickly lost if the leader is not there. It is the expectation of every follower for the leader to navigate the way. Without such, there is bound to be commotion amongst the followers. In addition, other informal leaders start to emerge because of the desire to get to some known destination. Humanity is generally selfish; everyone is preoccupied with their needs first before other’s needs are addressed. A great leader who is worth his salt strives at speaking the needs of the followers first because they go personal. The moment they realise how you value their interest, you immediately become their hero. It is from such a realisation that some leaders, who appeared to be unpromising, rose to the grand arena and contributed maximally to their constituencies. John Maxwell said “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.” The moment you display a heart that has concern for the generality of the led, you command their attention and perhaps the attention of the world.
Followers always respect a man of principle regardless of where they are in the world. Ethical leadership stands to win the day. Without it, nothing much will accrue to a leader. They stand to your education for a day or two and they enjoy it when you take action but above all else, they make reference to your character long after you are gone. The contribution that George Washington made to the world is referred one generation after another mainly because of the character of the man. Going back to farming after years as a leader of the most powerful nation is unappalled and because of that, Washington remains an icon of sound leadership.
Commitment separates doers from dreamers. The world requires leaders, who after their dreams, take to their feet and start to move forward. There is nothing that is as disappointing as having someone who continually talks about their intentions without doing anything afterwards. Taking to one’s feet is a true sign of commitment and intelligence. A leader is one who acts like a boxer who gets off the mat one more time after having been knocked down. It can be likened to a marathoner who runs another kilometer when all strength is gone. Commitment on the part of a leader is going over the hill, not knowing what’s waiting on the other side.
Noah Mangwarara is a Leadership Expert & Motivational Speaker