- “A child who is to be successful is not to be reared exclusively on a bed of down.” – Ghanaian proverb
The scariest flaw often displayed by individuals who occupy leadership positions is their ‘all-knowing’ attitude. Quite the majority of them assume their knowledge got them there, and thus what they say should be what the team endorses.
They assume they are individually and totally responsible for the performance of an organisation or society; so much so that the well-being of the people is synonymous with his or her well-being. This is one of the many reasons despots never appreciate the sufferings of their people. Their vision is so internalised that when they feel good, it translates as everyone else is synced to their state-of-wellness.
This normally happens because the inner circle of such leaders mimic their actions. When the leader laughs, they all laugh. When he or she is miserable, they all wear miserable faces. They are always simulating the experiences of the leader, thus preventing them from appreciating that life does not at unfold according to his or her moods. That is why leaders must always understand that the hypocrisy of their inner circle is their greatest weakness.
Interestingly, many of us act hypocritically around leaders. We value the privilege of being around the leader a lot more than him or her attaining greatness. So, we would rather unconsciously let our leaders descend into egoism than be honest about the effects of their actions on their followers. As a matter of fact, we are the ones who inspire them to become all-knowing.
It must be pointed out that many of us would not willingly lend our support to any individual who displays the ‘all-knowing’ attitude to be selected for a leadership office. But it is our negligence in correcting them from their initial ethical lapses that often inspires them to become crazy. When we start turning a blind eye to little dictatorial lapses, they are emboldened to play the field. And then what started as a handful of soil grows into a mound, and then a hill – and finally it becomes a mountainous attitude we all have to live with or under.
This does not also mean the leaders start out with evil intentions. It is far from that. They start out ‘meaning well’, except they shift the gears into drive without an ethical compass. Their eagerness to navigate the vast terrain blinds them to the need to act in good faith. They do not initially consider the other constituents because they assume they will fall in place.
It is an old attitude-configuration, but one that always rears its head in every generation…and yet many of us assume the lessons of old have been learned. It is not easy for an individual who has been vested with authority to be humble. As Jerry Useem wrote: “If power were a prescription drug, it would come with a long list of known side-effects: It can intoxicate. It can corrupt. No one is immune from it.
Power makes us “more impulsive, less risk-aware and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view”. We become less and less tolerant of criticisms and opposition if any – the underlying reason being that many of us see vested authority as a means of doing great things in order to attain greatness.
We should never assume it is wrong to desire to be great. In actuality, it is a desire God placed in us. He wants us to be great in everything we do. That is our true calling: to be great individuals in our fields of work, relationships and in life. What we misunderstand about greatness is what we have to do and how we go about it.
True greatness resides in humility. That is why the good book teaches that “anyone who wants to be great, must be the servant of all”. The path of greatness is experiential service to all, and not preferential treatments for some. The moment a leader engages in the latter, he or she creates a structure where the voice of the marginalised and the weak fade away and their needs remains unattended.
And it is not because the leader’s compassion has diminished. Rather, the inner circle who receive the preferential treatment – desirous of ensuring the milk and honey does not stop flowing into their mouths – will concoct stories and evidence for the pleasure of the leader. They have and will sing choruses of praises which balloon the ego of leaders.
This glorification usually lures the leader into neglecting his or her people, and in the process inspires the leader to develop what psychologists label ‘empathy deficit’. But if as a leader you do not treat the least of your followers with care and concern, how do you expect them to wish you well? Will they not despise you and wish the worst of fates for you? Thus, when you are vested with authority please be aware that the best feedback comes from the least of your followers, and not from your inner circle…
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and a philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true by helping them positively respond to that which is beautiful is while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]