According to Marcus Buckingham, Leaders are fascinated by the future. You are a leader if, and only if, you are restless for change, impatient for progress, and deeply dissatisfied with the status quo. As a leader, you are never satisfied with the present, because in your head you can see a better future, and the friction between what is and what could be burns you, stirs you up, propels you forward. This is leadership. According to Jack Welch, the one and only ingredient that separates extraordinary organizations from ordinary ones is their leadership edge. Warren Bennis once said it is difficult to define leadership, but it is easy to recognize great leadership when you see one. According to John C. Maxwell, the best way to test whether a person can lead rather than just manage is to ask him or her to create positive change. Managers can maintain direction, but can’t change it. To move people in a new direction, you need influence. Only true leaders have influence.
The indefatigable leader of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has a few interesting words to say on this subject of effective or visionary leadership. “You either do something yourself, you create something, or you follow somebody. If you want to follow anybody, you have to wait for them to get in front of you to follow them. I want to be a winner, so I want to create. I cannot lie back and be idle, because I want everybody to work as hard as I do. How can I ask people to do things I’m not doing?”
One of the most damaging and also amongst the most common mistakes that people make about leadership is to assume that all “leaders” have it. That an individual is fortunate enough to find himself in a position of authority does not automatically confer upon him, leadership qualities. Far from it. Much as you will find individuals occupying leadership positions bereft of leadership qualities, so will you come across people within organizations and society in general lacking in titles but effectively playing leadership roles because they are endowed with the right qualities.
There is a plethora of leadership definitions out there – offered by academics, political and business leaders and even philosophers. All try to encapsulate within a few lines what leadership entails. It must be stated at this point that of the two generally accepted category of leaders – the transactional leader and the transformational leader – it is the latter that exemplifies leadership qualities. Common amongst most definitions of leadership is that a leader must have a clear vision of where he wants the entity to go and must posses the necessary skills to sell this vision to the body in a way that will inspire them towards the same goal. Furthermore, the transformational leader will motivate followers to act beyond the framework of exchange or transaction; he is proactive and forms new expectations in followers; he creates learning opportunities for his followers and stimulates followers to solve problems; he possesses good rhetorical and management skills; he has a high emotional intelligence quotient and is therefore able to develop a strong resonant bond with his followers which guarantees a high level of collective engagement; and last but not least, he motivates his followers to work towards goals that go beyond self interest. So, in a nutshell, true leadership means for one to possess intellectual skills, emotional skills, social skills, communication skills, management skills, financial management skills, strategic planning skills and technical skills. It would be pertinent to ask how well the average Nigerian political leader has exemplified these skills but I believe the tragic state of the nation will suffice to provide an answer to that question.
I must also add that an effective leader is not necessarily going to be the smartest, the most diligent, the strongest or the most outspoken person in the unit; whether this be in a family, a business organization or even a government. Also, the leader’s leadership quality will not only be measured by how well he/she is able to invoke in others a sense of ownership in the given project; or the ability to set the vision in a way that motivates and inspires others to share in that vision – though shared vision is one of the proven predictors of corporate success – a leader must be able to first identify each person’s talent and then place them where they can express that talent in a way the unit will benefit optimally from it. Next, the leader must harness the individual talents harmoniously unto perfect synergy. He or she must posses the skills to galvanize the energy and strength of the family members, staff or government officials to fulfill the corporate vision. A good leader commands respect and not necessarily fear, and invokes a desire in the people to follow him without having to apply too much or continuous coercion.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time.
Dapo Akande, a Businessday weekly columnist is a University of Surrey (UK) graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. An alumnus of the Institute for National Transformation; certified in Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence from Case Western Reserve College, USA. Author of two books, The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. Both books are used as course material in Babcock University’s Literature department. Dapo is a public speaker, a content creator and a highly sought after ghostwriter.