“Home is not where we live; home is where we belong.” – African proverb
All around us, leadership has become trendy. Maybe it is the power, or the perks that come with it. Whichever it is, many are the individuals who now desire and actually think of themselves as leaders. A simple survey will reveal how quickly people are willing to tick the leadership box on their resumes, and their desire to express it in every which way by using all the resources at hand – media, money, power and influence for the world to believe that, indeed, they are leaders. Interestingly, many of us get carried away by the boastful approach and we hand them leadership position in politics, business and in our social circles. But, are they really leaders?
In our time, leadership has actually become a buzzword associated with accomplishment of self-interests, success and wealth. It is not surprising that everyone wants to be a leader, even though the DNA of society produces very few leaders at any point in time. We often forget that where there are no followers, leadership is not necessary. Sadly, because we have swept ‘following and followers’ under the carpet, together with their contributions, many are subjected to an intense pressure to exemplify leadership qualities – even though they do not quite understand what is expected of them.
We are all a part of the leadership challenge the world is experiencing. And it is because we are quick to heap accolades on the people in positions of leadership, instead on the individuals who actually do the work. History is filled with the names of leaders, but were they the ones who actually built the kingdoms and organisations? Was it the pharaohs who built the pyramids or the followers? Society and projects are built by a web of effort rather than the vision of a single person. It takes all of us working together to create the difference our humanity needs to make the world a better place. That is why we need a new kind of leadership; one that recognises the efforts of all.
The ‘face-of-the-people’ type of leadership is misdirecting our talents and resources. It is breeding a generation of individuals who care more about having their voices heard and their faces seen; about being ‘the-face-on-the-poster’, than in actually making a positive difference in their homes and communities. True change is never accomplished by an individual.
Our nation’s independence was not solely won by Kwame Nkrumah; he was only the face of the crusade, a talented orator in a larger movement for change. Our freedom was won by the combined sacrifices of all our forefathers. It was a drive that was bigger than the drive of one individual. Likewise, our development will be more than the effort of the president or our politicians. We all need to chip-in all the good in us, and make all the necessary sacrifices.
To lead is not the same as holding a position. To lead is to lift a people up, to dignify the least of your followers so that they can hold their heads up as high as the leader does. It is to make a difference that positively shapes our humanity. No individual needs to be a leader to make an impact. We all matter. Every contribution matters, likewise every sacrifice – as long as it is geared toward making our humanity better. The media’s love for sensationalising certain individuals does not mean they are the ones who do the most work. That is far from the truth. More often, the ‘the-face-on-the-poster’ does a lot of talking and less of the walking.
Our understanding of leadership is filled with missteps and lessons to learn. It is actually a part of the awakening process. That is why we need to be discerning in choosing the faces of our causes. We need individuals who will work with all people and acknowledge their contributions and suffering. A leader does not work with his or her ‘friends and family’. That is the mark of a wolf in a sheepdog’s clothing. Leaders who behave as such are ‘hired mercenaries’. They work in the interests of those who put them there. The best s/he can do is to enrich the inner circle while the masses suffer.
Leaders are charged to serve their people and their organisations. But this mission is not myopic. Instead, whatever actions s/he undertakes affects the rest of our humanity. That is why a leader must always reach out to all, and should be concerned for the well-being of his people and people everywhere else. We all need each other regardless of our ethnicities and ideologies.
“There is only one humanity. We have the same origin and the same destiny.” This explains why leadership entails uniting a people. Even though a leader’s constituency does not include all people, his or her talk and walk must be universal in nature for the whole human race. So, when one leads, one has to have our humanity as the vision. That is the new kind of leadership the world desperately needs.
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 [email protected]