LEADERSHIP INTIATIVES FOR EXCELLENCE (LIFE) SERIES
“An army of sheep led by a lion will always defeat an army of lions led by a sheep. To exercise leadership, you must believe that you are inherently a leader”
– Dr Myles Munroe
Today’s world is filled with followers, supervisors, and managers but very few leaders. Leadership really comes down to two things: who you are and how you think. It is about discovering your identity as a born leader and then understanding the way true leaders think so that you can fulfil your inherent calling. If you don’t first establish your leadership nature, it will be very difficult to have the mindset of leadership.
Nations and, indeed, organisations don’t just fail because of wars, illiteracy, corruption or the likes, but because of lack of disciplined leadership.
True leadership is first concerned with who you are, as opposed to what you do. Leadership action flows naturally from a personal leadership revelation. To exercise leadership, you must believe that you are inherently a leader. Again, to purpose as leaders do, you must think like a leader.
To think like a leader, you must receive the thoughts of leadership. To receive the thoughts of leadership, you must have a personal encounter with your true self; a discovery of your nature, ability, and essence as a human being. Just as a product cannot know its true purpose or worth except in its relationship with its manufacturer, so it is with you and me.
Leadership spirit vs spirit of leadership
Let’s make a distinction between the leadership spirit and the spirit of leadership. The leadership spirit is the inherent leadership capacity and potential that is the essential nature of human beings. The spirit of leadership is the mindset or attitude that accompanies a true leadership spirit and allows the dormant leadership potential to be fully manifested and maximised. We will address the spirit of leadership in the near future. Clearly understanding this difference is critical to discovering and living out our leadership capacity.
Who is a true leader?
Leadership is the capacity to influence others through inspiration, motivated by a passion, generated by a vision, produced by a conviction, and ignited by a purpose.
Peter F. Drucker, one of our generation’s foremost thinkers and authorities on the subject of leadership and management, stated, “There may be ‘born leaders’, but there are surely far too few to depend on them. Leadership must be learned and can be learned… ‘leadership personality,’ ‘leadership style,’ and ‘leadership traits’ do not exist.”
Leadership is more than influence
A popular definition of leadership is that “leadership is influence.” In spite of the fact the leadership does involve the component of influence, I believe that this is an incomplete description because it does not distinguish what kind of influence or the source or cause of that influence.
True leadership is marked by others’ wilful submission of their authority to yours. There are many people, past and present, who have influenced others, using threats and violence, but we don’t call that true leadership. We call it manipulation, oppression, or dictatorship. Nero, Hitler, and Idi Amin were all influential. They exerted their wills over people, but they were not leaders in the true sense.
Working definition of leadership
True leadership fundamentally requires the responsibility of taking followers into the exciting unknown and creating a new reality for them. Over 30 years of dedicated study of the subject of leadership revealed that leadership has not been given a comprehensive definition that incorporates the principal ingredients and components that I believe births and sustains true leadership and can be applied by anyone who desires to discover and release the hidden leader within.
Attitude creates your world and designs your destiny
What is attitude? We will discuss this topic in detail in the near future, but for now let us simply define attitude as “the mindset or mental conditioning that determines our interpretation of and response to our environment.” It’s our way of thinking.
It is also important to understand that attitude is a natural product of the integration of our self-worth, self-concepts, self-esteem, and sense of value or significance. In essence, your attitude is the manifestation of who you think you are. Leaders think differently about themselves, and this distinguishes them from followers.
We live our attitudes and our attitudes create our lives. The difference between the attitudes of a lion and a sheep determines their place in the scheme of the animal kingdom. We live our lives based on who we think we are. Thus, according to the illustration on the animal kingdom, if you believe in your heart that you are a sheep, then you will stay in the confines that others have placed you in or that you have made for yourself. If you think that you are a lion, then you will venture beyond manmade limitations and embark on the life of leadership that you were born to live. You will develop into someone who inspires and influences others within your inherent domain.
No amount of training in leadership skills, courses in management methods, power titles, promotions, or associations can substitute for the right attitude. I am convinced that all the money in the world may make you rich, but it can never make you a leader. Your leadership development is determined by your perceptions of who you are and why you exist; in other words, your sense of significance to life.
The hidden leader in you
An army of sheep led by a lion will always defeat an army of lions led by a sheep. This concept is fully illustrated by the story of “the lions and the sheep” that is popular in the continent of the cradle of humanity, Africa. The story encapsulates what we understand as the missing link in the leadership development process.
According to the story, a little cub was carried home to be raised among sheep by a farmer. After several years of relating with and behaving like a sheep, the growing cub was taken to the bush and it heard the roaring of a lion. After several attempts, the cub started to growl first like a sheep but eventually learnt how to roar like a lion and moved into the jungle to be with other lions. That movement represents the moment of discovery for the cub, raised among sheep but turned to be a lion in the forest.
A decision affecting the future
Just as the young lion’s genuine growl revealed its inherent strength, you can release the inherent leadership strength within you if you come to understand your true self. Just as the young lion knew that it had to make a decision about its future, you have a choice to make about your own future.
Just as the young lion looked back at the farm where the sheep were and then looked toward the forest where the lion was heading, you have to evaluate your past and your potential and step toward one or the other. Just as the young lion knew that, to become its true self, it would have to give up the safe, secure, predictable, and simple life of the farm and enter the frightening, wild, untamed, unpredictable, dangerous life of the jungle, you will have to leave the safe confines of being a follower if you are going to become a leader.
It is remarkable that the young lion turned its back on the farm, crossed the river, and walked into the forest, leaving behind its old life as a sheep and embarking on the life it was born to live. As one who has had to cross that river myself, my desire is to be a catalyst, like the beast, roaring an invitation into your life and heart and hopefully helping you to enter the adventure of discovering and releasing the leadership spirit within you.
Discover the leader you were meant to be
Trapped inside you is an undiscovered leader of great value to your generation! Are leaders born, made, developed, created, cultivated, or are they products of circumstances? Is leadership reserved only for an elite few, a specific gender, people of a particular social stratum, or those of advanced intelligence? Is leadership the prerogative of a rare breed; is it a by-product of the superior DNA of a super-race? Or can anyone from anywhere at any time emerge as a leader?
History has produced a legacy of distinguished and outstanding leaders who have impacted the world and furthered the development of humanity. They were both men and women, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, trained and untrained. They came from every race, colour, language, and culture of the world. Many of them had no ambition to become great or renowned. In fact, most of the individuals who have greatly affected humanity have been simple people who were thrust into circumstances that demanded the hidden qualities of their characters, or they were driven by personal, passionate goals.
Leaders are ordinary people who accept or are placed under extraordinary circumstances that bring forth their latent potential, producing a character that inspires the confidence and trust of others. Our world today is in desperate need of such individuals.
In his renowned play, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare wrote, “There is a tide in the affairs of men.” With these words, he was expressing his observation that the waves of history have an influence on our lives. It’s as if we as individuals and nations are caught up in a tide of providential events. There have been eras in the history of the world in which multiple tide-like influences have impacted our civilization and cultures at nearly the same time. These historical incidents are known as “crossroads of history.” One would suggest that we are now at a confluence of historic tides.
The 20th century saw perhaps more distressing developments than any previous century, including devastating wars, monstrous new weapons, countless natural disasters, and fatal diseases. It was also possibly the most unpredictable, politically interesting and revolutionary of any century in history.
In the last several decades, a relatively short span of time, the world has experienced many remarkable changes in the realms of science, technology, medicine, and space exploration, as well as hundreds of other so-called advancements. We must agree that our generation lives in a swirling tide of events, dreams, promises, threats, and changing ideas about the present and future. The conditions of our world press the present generation to ask anew, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? Why are life and reality the way they are?”
The leaders of our time are bewildered when they are called upon to explain why our world is the way it is or to suggest a direction for the future. Many people in positions of public trust confess that they are just trying to keep the lid on, and others have abandoned even that hope.
Added to this bleak environment is the painful reality that over the past few decades, there has been no dramatic change in leadership for a better future. In the political, civic, economic, social, and spiritual realms, recent events indicate that previous generations have produced weak leaders who fade in the presence of true leadership and leave our present generation in this same leadership vacuum.
The disgrace and fall of renowned leaders, the exposure of corruption and unethical activities among political and business leaders, and the covert conspiracies of government betraying their own people serve as evidence that this lack of quality leadership is affecting almost every sphere of our lives. We urgently need competent leaders.
Where do we look for such leaders? While we often think of leaders as “out there,” we need to look within ourselves. Each one of us is a leader who can affect the people and institutions in our own sphere of influence. When we begin with ourselves, we will naturally have an effect on the lives of others in the bigger society.
Lere Baale is a Director of Business School Netherlands www.bsn-mba.net and a Certified Strategy Consultant at Howes Consulting Group www.howesgroup.com