Everyone is a leader

Everyone is a leader. What differs is the number of people you are leading. By virtue of your existence you are leading someone every day. That person is you. Others choose to increase in leadership when they start leading a family, leading in a company department or at the very top (CEO) or a government ministry, to presidents. At each level of leadership there is a need for situational sensitivity. By this I mean that you need to adjust and be flexible to realize that the way you lead yourself or your family differs to the way you may want to lead a project team. The situations are different, the setting, the expectations and timelines are totally different. It is important to note that it is how much of the leader in you that you would like to expose and maximize that determines the extent to which your leadership grows. The greater the team in terms of size and responsibility, the bigger the decisions and risks you would have to make for the organization. Personally, I have experienced leadership at various levels in my life. In my school days I was class monitor for a season and then became a prefect. In College I was Chairman of Technology Club, in Church I have been head of ushers, sound, music etc. At each of the positions or roles, different leadership styles came in handy. I am making an appeal to the leader in you to awaken and rise to the occasion. The world is not in need of more money but more leaders with wisdom and integrity. You could be the one hiding when your chair awaits you in the decision making meeting already underway.

My appeals to you

– Stop Complaining – Start Leading – Have you ever stopped to ponder on why you are always quick to point what is going wrong and yet you drag your feet when asked to set things right? The leader in you is quick to find faults and even knows what should be done but chooses not to do it. You were created with enough ability to identify, point out and comprehend any diversion from the ideal. I am challenging you to move from being an problem identifier to being part of the solution (problem eliminator). The next time you are tempted to complain about the leader, ask yourself what you are doing about helping the leader to lead better or offering yourself as the alternative. Start leading from where you are. Provide solutions from where you operate from and people follow where issues are solved not where choruses of murmuring are sung in harmony. Shouting from the terraces usually has no impact on the game’s outcome. You can have all the solutions as to how the game can tilt in your favor but if you do not make your hands dirty by getting involved in the birthing of a solution then keep your frustrations to yourself. You actually deserve them.

– Master your own fears and insecurities associated with leadership responsibility – Fear and insecurity sometimes freezes every potential that generations could have benefited from. One would rather create numerous excuses to ensure they are not the one in the fore-front. “I am not fluent, I am too young, I don’t have a degree, and I am not rich enough to lead”. All these are flimsy excuses. All the excuses above can actually be true but they do not qualify as reasons for not taking responsibility. I am so determined to make a difference in my generation hence I don’t deny that I have shortfalls or limitations but I choose to step on them for the sake of leading others. Put me in any situation, “intimidating” as it can be, I am drawn towards either taking a leading role or actively support the one at the top. If it goes well at the top; the rest of the body prospers. I will always do all I can to support the head to the best of my ability for that reason. Once the head masters his/her insecurities, fears and feeling of inadequacy only then will the leadership potential in them be maximized.

– Leadership is about risks – and so is life in general – Get used to making risky decisions. Don’t focus on “what if it doesn’t turn out well?”, but in the same vein consider “What if it turns out well?” The pessimist is always subject to the optimist. Rather be optimistic and hopeful and miss than shy away totally. The beauty lies in the fact that you tried your best. Risks form the daily diet of those who desire and aspire to lead at higher levels. There is a risk of being rejected and risk of failure and so on. As a leader in my family (first born), I made a number of risks that someone in their “right state of mind” would not have done. At a time when private sector was considered the worst place to hedge your future on, I took a dive into it. That risk has taken me to places where I have never been, meeting people I have never thought I would meet. As a result, those that are after me have also looked outside the box of “Government is the best employer” to studying such areas as Electronics, Computer Engineering, and Social Studies etc.

– Identify your dominant leadership styles and appropriate each style accordingly– I will do a separate article on various styles of leadership as it is a wide and important subject. Know that as a leader you need to know yourself, Are you autocratic (it’s what you say that goes, no suggestions or objections), are you transactional (focus on getting things done), are you transformational (focus on change in self, others, groups and organization) or are you a servant leader (serving others). It is important to note that there is no style considered the best over others. Different styles apply to different scenarios or situations. They have different results depending on where they are applied. I have noticed that within me I am more of a people person. I tend to focus more on the comfort of those I lead sometimes at the expense of getting the job done. I am a servant leader to a large degree and I exercise situational sensitivity.  You must know your predominant style. Are you drawn towards people or towards the task? I appeal to the leader in you to awaken and self-identify.

– Go ahead of those you lead – You cannot take your team to areas you have never encountered with confidence. If you have to grope in the misty cloud of uncertainty at the same time with your team, they lose confidence in what they are trying to achieve. If you are ahead of them you are able to paint a picture of what lies ahead and it keeps them wanting to push more. As a leader you cannot afford to be well read, researched, articulate of modern and current issues. You cannot be rigid when it comes to change and development. The moment you stop progressing as a leader, you are setting limits for those behind you. They will have a false sense of arrival. I am amazed at my mentors who after achieving their first Doctoral degrees went on to study for another one. Now I am stretched to think deeper. One of my mentors, Dr. T.A Makoni (author, chairman of Rapha Trust, convener of the Champions Turf Dinners) does not only have a Doctor of Dentistry Degree but an MBA and Doctoral in Business Administration. The other significant mentor is Dr. John Stanko (author and Chairman of PurposeQuest) who completes his second Doctorate Degree in 2010. The two are both interested in creating and nurturing champions to live lives of purpose.

– Leadership is about influence not how many you beat into submission – Leadership is about making an impact in others, making the best out of those you lead. As leader you need to provide an avenue for those below to give their advice and suggestions. It is not a sign of weakness but it brings a sense of belonging to those you lead. It does not mean every suggestion is what you will run with but you give people room to contribute even though you and other leaders have a final say on what suggestions are in line with the organization’s vision and goals. When you encourage, teach, coach and counsel those in your team, you are increasing your reach. When you provide psycho-social support to those you come into contact with you are building a stronger network and enlarging your sphere.

– Leadership hinges on your credibility and integrity – Those following you rely on your word. Is your “Yes” actually a Yes and your “No”, no? As soon as leadership loses integrity, it loses grip on its own followers. Followers have capacity to exercise some level of grace as they know leaders are also humane enough. However, they can only stretch so far. The more signs of lack of integrity they see in you as leader, the less they want to hear you speak to them. This is where you as a leader have to work hard not only to preserve your reputation and how you are perceived (your name) but also on your actual character. A leader has enough power to lead multitudes astray on the basis of his/her character. I am always watchful on what character traits I am duplicating or imparting in others due to the influence I have. Your character can be seen in those you lead. The people below you usually do what they see their leader doing. Be careful not to set the wrong example. Your credibility is far more important that money and fame.

– You can never realize your full leadership potential until you step up and step out – Leadership is active not passive. It calls for you to look past your limitations. I am not guaranteeing that leadership will be easy, as that would constitute a lie. It will certainly build you to become stronger, more resolute in decision making and more responsible (over those you lead). As the old adage goes “The taste of the pudding is in the eating”. Why should you wait for the next person to lead when you too can do it? Why should you look outside you for leadership when you can step up and step out to do it? Start somewhere, whether taking up leadership in your family, community, church etc. Every president has a track record, they did not wake up to realize they had been elected to office; they stepped out to lead in other areas and gained leadership muscle and experience. You need a leadership resume (CV) too. The small victories and achievements you make in life will certainly count for something when you now contest at higher levels. Do not take for granted the humble beginnings. For as long as you sit on potential, you are wasting it. I noticed one thing about me, even when I lose a loved one; I step up and organize everything and mourn later. My first reaction is to bring order, in the midst of pain. When I lost my dad, while everyone was crippled, I rose to the occasion and led my family. I usually let my leadership stand taller than my emotions. I grieve when I have put order in the camp.

– Everyone is called to leadership and that includes you – We have grown thinking and being told that leadership is mainly to do with titles that mankind gives us. “Meet our Head Teacher, meet our Minister, Here is our Executive Officer etc.” Titles are important (get that right) as they show structure and levels of authority but there are people who lead even better without titles. However, if you get caught up in the web of hunting for titles it becomes your source of focus, anxiety and sometimes pain as you always analyze those given the posts against you, the “deserving candidate”. There are people that refuse to lead if there is no title involved. Leadership is about getting things done regardless of where on the organogram you are placed. I know of many leaders who prefer to be “silent assassins”. They are strategic thinkers, motivators and goal getters. They choose to lead from the background. Sometimes you may not see them in person but their results do the talking. My wife is one such leader. You will not get the best from her through titles. Give her a responsibility to manage from behind and watch. She makes one of the best “advisers” I have ever found if given the chance to do so.

– You are where you are because someone else paid the price of Leadership – Your parents led you, your teachers coached and led you. You certainly have a responsibility to spread the habit of leading others. Leadership definitely comes with a price tag on it; it may cost you your comfort, your finances, your time with family etc. but it remains a fact that the world needs more leaders to awaken from their slumber. In a country, the moment one mentions the term “leadership”, the focus goes to those in parliament, ministers and presidium. Very few people see leadership qualities in ordinary individuals. It will make the country’s leaders more efficient if we lead ourselves and our families excellently. Leadership excellence starts at individual level. If you won’t be excellent as you lead yourself, do not expect more from those in authority. We all have to collectively pay the price, take responsibility and lead diligently. Picture this: In your own home, you could be raising the future president in the child you are taking for granted. You can easily rob the next generation of quality leadership by paying a blind eye on the price of raising the next generation leader.

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