Have you ever thought about the essential components of leadership?
There has been incessant talk about various qualities a leadership aspirant MUST display. Some profoundly introspective individuals like to see the designation of leadership given to those that command a huge following. No doubt they are right in a certain way. Otherwise, what good is a leader with no followers? At least that’s the way I think, and I have my reasons to make that claim.
I refuse to accept any branding for a leader, no matter what. Why would I do that? Please allow me to present different perspectives on modern-day leadership. We are not talking about the ones that occupy a place in eternity due to their exceptionally gifted band of characteristics, although we could gain a lot of insights to help set our renewed leadership parameters.
Senator Bill Bradly, U.S. Senator, former Basketball Hall of Famer, and Author believes: “Leaders should be collaborative, modest, and generous.” No question the tenets are well-defined in these words, and yet they leave something to be desired. How can a leader practice all these virtues if he is only interested in leading from the front?
To collaborate, the leader must come to the level of the people he wants to lead which means moving to the middle of the pack, or even in the back, to create momentum. At the same time, both ‘modesty’ and ‘generosity’ can only be visible when practiced with the followers without any distinction, bar all favoritism. May I ask how many leaders do you know that do that as a matter of routine?
John W. Gardner, late Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) under President Lyndon Johnson explained different types of leaders in clear terms when he said: “Leaders come in many forms, with many styles and diverse qualities. There are quiet leaders and leaders one can hear in the next county. Some find strength in eloquence, some in judgment, some in courage.”
If we believe him, and I have no reason not to, there are different categories, and I assume he refers to their individual beliefs and practices. Yes, real eloquence is a great crowd-pleaser and an equally powerful tool in your arsenal when dealing with challenging adversaries. The question that perturbs me the most relates to follow-up action. Why? Don’t we all know the age-old dictum, ‘talk is cheap?’
Great eloquence must bring in even more significant follow-up action, or it is just a bubble that bursts without leaving a trace. Would you trust a leader like that? I know I won’t. Yes, those with judgment and courage do offer hope as they use analytical capabilities and dare take decisive action. I would much rather have this person as my leader. But, that’s not all; I would be looking for something else before passing my verdict, and I am sure you would too.
Napoleon Bonaparte (August 15, 1769, to May 5, 1821,) a military general and the first emperor of France is considered one of the world’s greatest military leaders. Napoleon revolutionized military organization and training.
He was of the opinion that “a leader is a dealer in hope.” If we believe in such a statement from a world-recognized leader, shall we expect nothing but hope from our leaders? I hope not!
A very befitting quote comes to my mind from an author whose name I do not recollect; I am sure my apologies will be in order. It went on something like this: “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.”
Not to undermine my earlier arguments, infusing or generating self-confidence in the followers is no mean task for a great leader. However, we must make a clear distinction as this leader will be a great leader and not just a leader.
Unfortunately, most leaders fall short of the mark of great leadership, no matter where you look. The crux of the matter is that we continue to follow them blindly. Not only that we also shower our hard-earned money on them by repeatedly attending their expensive seminars, training programs, and retreats.
I have had the pleasure of attending some of the easily recognizable and most famous North American Leadership Training Millionaires’ Weekend Sessions, Lectures, and Retreats as a guest where thousands of others paid fabulous sums of money, to get their picture taken with this ‘personality.’ At the end of the session, the majority of those I could get hold of were not able to quantify the benefits they were taking home. Yes, most of the attendees had one thing common drilled deep into their heads: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
No wonder, the majority of such ‘Leaders’ follow the late Zig Zigler in stressing the significance of continued motivation because it is their most potent source of non-stop eight, nine or even 10-digit income.
Before I move on, let us consider, for a moment, the following German Proverb: “An example from the monkey: the higher it climbs, the more you see of its behind.” The unfortunate fact manifests itself sooner or later. Almost always, it is too late by the time we do see the stinky attributes of such unethical, deeply money-minded, millionaires that claim their jet-setting lifestyle as sufficient justification for their expensive programs. They have already lightened our pockets and helped us part with a sizeable chunk of money.
The following statement by Peter F. Ducker makes a lot of sense: “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; “Leadership is defined by results, not attributes.”
“Peter Ferdinand Drucker was an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation.” Wikipedia
The famous, Leo Tolstoy, gave us these beautiful words about leaders: “A leader is the wave pushed ahead by the ship.” The wave that gets out of the way permits the ship to move closer to its destination. The leader, in a similar fashion, realizes and emboldens the invincibility of his followers so they could go places rather than staying stuck with him as his disciples and continued source of income.
Per Wikipedia, Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer and regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time.
We see yet another identifying marker of real leadership in the following words from Antoine De Saint-Exupery: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, Comte de Saint-Exupéry was a French writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist, and pioneering aviator. He became a laureate of several of France’s highest literary awards and also won the U.S. National Book Award. Wikipedia
Yes, real leadership is a must in almost every segment of our lives. Leaders in government may not directly connect to the masses on a daily basis, but their behavior post-elections determines how well they fulfilled their mandates.
Same holds true for leaders in the industrial sector that either impress by making better products available to their ‘followers’ or customers at competitive prices or resort to gouging. They too meet their match when a competitor enters the field and beats them at their own game.
Talking about religious leaders, I would instead opt out of the discussion for fear of touching the hornet’s nest by stepping onto someone’s emotions. In the event you happen to follow a particular religion, please do a self-check. Try to see what group or category of a selfless leader does your ‘preacher from the pulpit’ most relates to, and you will have your answer.
I hope the above serves as food for thought and helps you make a better decision the next time around!