Leadership is power and with great power comes great responsibility. There are over 60 000 books with “leadership” in their titles on Amazon alone, this speaks to the need to define and understand leadership and the desire that people have to learn to become leaders and increase their influence and subsequently; their power. However, writing a book on leadership does not make you a leader, presenting a masterclass on leadership does not make you a leader. Leadership is not merely a title you are given; it is a reflection of the attitudes and behaviours of those you lead and your ability to influence them and if you are not leading anyone, you cannot consider yourself a leader.
Leadership is earned; it is a steady progression that begins with leading one’s self. Mastering oneself is the essence of leading, it is the entry way to influencing and impacting the lives of others. People are drawn to inherent leaders who lead themselves because they have a lifestyle that is different from people who do not practice self-leadership. This difference is reflected in the results they produce. For example, consider a student who gets straight A’s, they are usually the first nominee for the position of “team leader” when it comes to group projects, why? Because other students in the class have seen their results and have chosen to be led by a student whose work and results are different from others. But think about this straight A student, did they get their results by accident or did they have to practice self-leadership to avoid distractions, to focus, to stay on course? Without self-leadership, your peers will see you as an equal, however, when your self-leadership is reflected in your results, people will choose you of their own accord, they will aspire to be like you and will be influenced by your thoughts and words. This will not only earn you recognition but respect and authority.
“Leadership is not given, it’s taken”- At Boshoff, this quote perfectly explains the attitude of a leader. Leaders are responsible and accountable; they do not shy away from consequences or play the “blame game”. Everything rises and falls on leadership and leaders are aware of this and moreover, they choose this. There was a tv show back in the early 2000’s called The Apprentice with Donald Trump at its helm, every week young professionals would work on a business project as a team and every week, there was a project manager who was chosen to lead the project. If the team won, the project manager received the praise, if the team lost, the project manager got fired. The concept from this is clear: as a leader the proverbial buck, stops with you.
To lead is to serve and this, is one of the quintessential principles of leadership or rather of positive leadership. Leadership is the ability to influence others, however that influence can either be positive or negative. Negative influence leads to the harm of the followers and this can be literal or figurative. It leads followers to a worse of place or situation than they were in before they were led by the “bad” or negative leader. Think about young men who join gangs and are influenced by rappers or someone around the neighbourhood to join a gang, what are the results? Jail time, toxic masculinity or individuals who have a negative impact on society. And especially in the context of South Africa where many believe there is a crisis of leadership, it is imperative that we take ownership and lead future generations the right way and this begins in the home. I am a proud family man and I intentionally lead my sons and teach them wrong from right, I intentionally teach them about showing everyone respect and tolerance and I teach them to be accountable for their behaviour. I am raising self-leaders and I believe we as adults, in business, education, media, sport or any other industry, we need to teach the next generation to lead themselves and demonstrate positive leadership because people will be influenced, whether positively or negatively is our choice.
Lead where you are. You may never become president but in your organisation, in your family, lead where you are because the people around you need it. Leadership is an act of service and is truly about valuing people, seeing the potential in people and investing in that potential. When you lead you take people from where they are to an elevated status, they can be more enlightened, healthier, more efficient, more productive, more positive, wealthier… the list goes on.
With great power comes great responsibility. Leading is not about power, but rather power is a consequence of leadership. We should all aspire to inspire others to be the best version of themselves in any context we find ourselves in.