We have been discussing leadership for the last two weeks and today I want us to address a very crucial aspect of leadership – the making of the leader. The first question I want to put to you is, would you follow yourself voluntarily? Think carefully before you answer this question. No one knows you like you know yourself and the real you is actually the one that you know. The real you is not the office holder. Nelson Mandela did not need the office of president to become a leader. The man was a leader even in prison! That is why today his life is not defined by the fact that he was president. Very rarely is he referred to as the former president. He doesn’t need it. His persona is larger than any office. He has proved that true leaders don’t even need titles to rule.
If you are an office holder today and people are forced to follow you only by reason of the office that you hold, you may be at risk. This is because the day you are no longer in that office, you cannot be assured that they will still follow you. This is why it is crucial to ensure that we become leaders before we get into offices. Remember, the office does not make the leader. The leader makes the office. The uncertainty of a following after office is why a lot of people cling on to offices and jostle for offices.
As you do your leadership reality check, some of the things you need to check on are as follows:
The Stand. What do you stand for? You have heard it said that if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. Great leaders have a strong stand on the issues they believe. Their stand on it is so strong they are ready to be jailed and even ready to lose their lives for it. This is probably what Martin Luther King Jr. had in mind when he said that if you have not yet found a reason to die for, you have not truly found a reason for living.
My early adult years in Nigeria presented me with a very interesting scenario. I had been exposed to both American and British politics and I saw politics of ideology. The political parties were so fundamentally different in their ideologies that crossing from Republican to Democrat or vice versa was not something that people were used to. Nigeria was totally different. I saw the politics of opportunity rather than the politics of ideology and that explained why the nation has not had true inspirational leaders since the era of the founding fathers. Mandela, Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Suu Kyi and others like them had reason to compromise their stand but they did not. They had opportunities to back off the stand for personal reward or gain but they did not. That is one key ingredient of true leadership and such people inspire others.
Articulation and communication: Another attribute of true leaders is their ability to intelligently articulate and communicate their ideas. They don’t just have a stand. They are able to articulate why they have that stand and present it in a way that makes sense. Their sayings are the stuff that speeches are made of as people keep quoting them. Hardly is there a speech around the world that will not have a quote from Mandela, Martin Luther King, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi and other inspirational leaders like them. I think it should be a thing of great concern if even our politicians, pastors and academicians have more people to quote outside the continent than within. This is a sign of a leadership void within.
Why am I passionate about bringing out the leader in you? Because I am an audacious and ardent believer in the African. I believe in the astuteness of the African mind. These are the minds that gave us pyramids. These are the minds that have given us great literary works. These are the minds that produced great warriors and strategists. These are the minds that have given us Mpesa. These are the minds that have given us a hope for the future. Though battered we remain steadfast. Though down in our bodies and economically, we choose to rise in our minds and give our minds the liberty to grow our economies. Though sidelined and often relegated to the back, we determined that by the sheer force of our minds and vision, we will never be relegated to the background of the future. I hear the sound of a new generation. A generation of dignity. A generation who stands for something to the point of death. A generation that inspires hope. A generation that makes the African brand that which others want to be. A new breed without greed.
The fact that you are reading this tells me one thing. You are part of that generation.
I will continue this line of thought next week with more attributes of true leaders .
Have a truly blessed weekend.
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