The Leadership Trap

“An untouched drum does not speak.” – African proverb

 

Leadership is the most amazing task any person in this life can find. Not only do you get to serve a people, but you also get the opportunity to create a future for them and to shape their destiny. Altogether, you are handed the mantle to re-create the beauty of our humanity. What else could be more privileged than to be handed the muscle to affect how a people think of themselves, of others and of the world around them; and ultimately the kind of relationships they carve in life? It is akin to playing god for a period of time. Can you appreciate why in ancient times – and quite often today –  societies perceived their leaders as gods?

 

To lead is a wonderful duty, but it is not for the faint-hearted. It is like you have been given the power to arrest humanity’s attention and inspire in people various degrees of attitude that empower them to live a life that’s a little more beautiful and joyous, or afflict themselves with hardships and discontentment. It transcends the everyday reality of using processes, tools and equipment to achieve a target, by using one’s lifestyle to demonstrate how the impossible can be made possible and what attitudes need to be exhibited communally in order to achieve a system that uplifts a people. It is a tough call, and the reason Jesus Christ advocates that leaders must lower themselves beneath their populace in order to lift them high. It is impossible to lift any person high if you are standing on top of that individual, unless you are a magician.

 

Like it or not, the leader is accountable for the needs of all the people as a whole. He or she is tasked to serve all the people in a manner that allows them to become better individuals. Consequently, the leader’s success or failure depends on how well each individual life is improved and appreciated. Of course, because no individual is all-powerful, we end up defining leadership efforts in numbers – as to what percentage of the populace actually benefitted. The sadder reality is that those numbers do not mean much when the emotional state of the people is negatively skewed; and when they become positively skewed, they do not care about the numbers.

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Here is wherein the trap of leadership lies. No matter how prepared one is, one arrives at the top not really knowing how deep the expectations of the populace are. You might know some, and have the know-how to tackle a few of them; but on the whole, you will be ignorant about what the populace actually wants for themselves. And because the expectations are not apparent, leaders realise a little late that the valley gaps are too huge to fill with one swoop of a solution. It is a challenge that makes many leaders react and be engulfed with feelings of entrapment, especially if one has good intentions of wanting to lift the people up. But we also need to appreciate that the gap is needed to inspire the leader to build a team based on the best of the best.

 

This is the reason advocacies have trumpeted that leadership is not an opportunity to live large and luxuriously. It is individuals with poor self-esteem who behave thus when offered the opportunity to serve. Instead, leaders must sacrifice their lives for the good of their organisations and societies. Truly ingenious leaders recognise that they must “lead with a willingness to die – not only figuratively but also literally – giving themselves up for the good their people in order to nourish and cherish them”. After all, leadership is about love for a people, whereby the leader has to care a lot about the people in order to want to serve them in a delightful manner. It is not a fun job, despite it being the dream task most individuals aspire for. Leadership can be confusing and stressful as the consequences of one’s decisions start to affect the community or society.

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This does not mean leaders have to be near-perfect individuals. It is far from that. They just need to be authentic individuals with proper understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, who surround themselves with ‘good’ teams. The greatest good any person in a leadership role can do for him or herself is to surround him or herself with a team whose members will be sincere with him or her. Those team-members should have integrity and be courageous enough to paint the reality-picture as it is when it is requested. Without that, a leader will work with false assumptions and be unable to create the “aggregate quality of life that gives pleasure to the senses and pleasurably exalts the mind and spirit” of his or her people.

 

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Kodwo Brumpon is a management consultant and a life coach who inspires individuals, groups and corporate bodies to think and feel that which is true, and helps them to positively respond to that which is beautiful, while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions. Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at kodwobrumpon@gmail.com

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