As I travel across most of the countries in Africa for example, I see a continent with a bright future but bogged down by uncountable glitches, hiccups or problems stemming from the office of most of the leaders of organizations that see leadership as only a political position instead of total service towards the development of mankind.
In contrast, leadership is not positional but functional. In other words, holding a position in government or in any corporate organization or having authority does not necessarily make one a leader. Position only provides opportunities whereas functional or servant leadership inspires, motivates and ignites group members’ passion towards achieving a common goal.
It is great being a leader over hundreds, or even thousands of people. Your positive influence is more than a magnetic force. It does attract the hearts of followers to your ideals, charisma or personality. Nevertheless, wrong leaders fail in the pursuit of their dream(s) when malevolent practices or attitudes emerge to thwart the confidence followers have in them. In that vein, subordinates marvel who actually charts their course.
When leaders fail in their pursuit, it is the society and generations yet unborn who suffer the most. In this article, we delve into some of the attitudes which speedily impede the movement of frail leaders whose lack of responsibility makes people wonder if they are in control or an external force is pulling their legs instead. Such an imbalanced or indecisive leader is an error to the community in which he leads. Comprehensively, let us examine the attitudes of a weak leader:
Thinking too much of oneself and resisting corrections from an experienced person is pride. Over the years, leaders who never accepted their mistakes in the moment of despondency but insisted on their right found themselves behind penitentiary or a state of humiliation. Occupying a high position makes some people think that they are on top of the world. They never respect others. They talk to people as if they are of no value. When angry, they throw tantrum at every subordinate.
They yell at their subordinates and injure them with disastrous statements. In their fits of anger, their words are like a piercing double-edged sword which cuts deep into the soul and marrow of people. Proud leaders manhandle their staff members and treat them as if they are not part of the human race. Leaders therefore fail because of this canker of pride. Such people are not qualified to lead people.
Leaders who are full of themselves have difficulty in being humble because they often need reassurance through the praises of others. I have watched highly gifted acquaintances who have manifested this character failure and moved on as if they have done nothing wrong. I was in a meeting some time back when a young vicar who had been given an opportunity by his senior cleric to address the conference audience lost a great opportunity. For the start, he spoke so well until the bombshell was released: he claimed to be extremely more intelligent than anyone in his ecclesiastical set up and that was why he was appointed to speak.
His utterance, at that point, made people uncomfortable till some individuals left the meeting feeling deeply disappointed in the senior vicar for asking an ‘immature and proud person’ to speak. Such a young leader was carried away by the caliber of people within the hall and therefore wanted to impress the audience. However, he had no idea of a great door of opportunity that could have opened for him but for his pride, he lost it.
Again, I have seen skillful musicians, who had a chance to minister on a big platform but through their negative utterances and actions, they missed an opportunity of being invited again. I have come to know that when people start raising their voice against your negative attitude, their words travel faster to places unknown to you thereby closing all those doors. When people think they are too big and all others are of no use, they miss their significance. Though professionalism and proper protocol must be observed in your approach as a leader, you must be careful with your behaviour.
Proud people who find it difficult to submit to authority have a personality deficiency. Their insubordination is as a result of the negative picture they have created about themselves. They never value those leading them. Sometimes it may be out of envy or a self-centredness. Until we deal with the pride in our hearts, we will earnestly fail in our pursuit.
Sharing the vision with the wrong people
Many visions have been aborted as a result of premature exposure. Many ideas have been cut off because of the haste to reveal them to self-seeking people whose agenda is to frustrate you from achieving that dream. Certain external forces have the power to stifle or hinder you if you are too quick to expose your vision to those poisonous and envious people outside your domain of operation. People’s vision to start an orphanage, a hospitality business, soap manufacturing company, children’s shop, writing a book, or pursuing further studies have all been terminated because of the presence of human resistance.
In the Bible, young Joseph’s dream triggered anger and jealousy in the hearts of his brothers. He was always in a haste to inform his brothers and parents of his new dream of the moon and the stars all making obeisance to him. Though the dream Joseph had was about his future enthronement onto the seat of government, his impatience and immaturity did cost him as his brothers plotted evil against him. Had it not been for the grace of God, Joseph would have lost the realization of his vision. Many a time, leaders who talk too much are in a hurry to inform people of a new found opportunity not knowing that such people are agents of darkness.
In your presence, they may express their excitement about the opportunity at stake but inwardly they wish that open door was theirs. Certain people are deadly like a venomous viper ready to ‘bite off’ the fulfillment of your vision. To every Nehemiah (leader) of any generation, are the presence of the Tobiahs and Sanballats (disparagers). What I mean is that, if you don’t walk in wisdom, detractors are around to pounce on the manifestation of your dream.
The hearts of such people are full of rage and jealousy just because you are moving faster than them. They quietly listen to your conversation with the expectation that they have a clean heart to support you only to discover later on that they were in to destroy you. Whom do you share your vision with? Where do you seek professional advice in times of crises?
I’m not advocating for total secrecy because, in this world, we always need people to support us. However, it is important to talk to the right people. Unable to find a selfless person to share your ideas with may cause your downfall as a leader.
Focusing on the minor instead of the major
It is one thing locating your purpose and another maximizing it to the fullest. Surprisingly, most people waste time focusing their attention on what they are no better at doing. That is what I mean by focusing on the minor instead of the major. Everyone has his strengths and weaknesses. In our strength, dwells the maximization of our gifts and abilities. Our weaknesses are the abilities we consistently struggle in. Whenever leaders struggle with what they don’t excel in but for popularity sake attempt to prove to the public that they can also do something better, they eventually fail in their pursuit.
A couple of years ago, I met a young talented man. He had excellent skills in event management. He was praised by all and sundry for his stupendous managerial skills in the organisation of events. Unfortunately, he was misguided to enter into public speaking which, to me, wasn’t his strength. He was a total failure in his new chosen field as he was not cut for such a profession. Today, he lives a miserable life as his former job has been taken over by an equally excellent person. This is the picture of most people. They step into areas they are not fully gifted in until they become disappointed and frustrated in their detection.
In the Bible (Galatians 2:7), Paul and Peter for example, had excellent spiritual assignments to different groups of people. Paul was highly gifted to minister to the Gentiles whereas Peter was also gifted in ministering to the Jews. The day Paul tried ministering to the Jews he was extremely humiliated until the support of some Apostles came in handy. The same also applies to Peter.
When he visited the house of a Gentile, he was almost rejected by the church until the timely grace of God intervened to bring understanding to the church. However, Paul and Peter found it easier ministering God’s Word to the Gentiles and Jews respectively because they knew of their specific assignments and each was also interested in the progress of the other. These two apostles understood their specific strengths and weaknesses in ministry and paid particular attention to their strengths instead. Unable to focus attention on our strengths leads to the total disaster of our life’s mission.
One can easily detect from a weak leader that without any external force his thinking is far below the bar. In fact, such people don’t think outside the box. They are comfortable with their present average living. Small-minded leaders are antiquated in their ways of doing things. They are used to the old way of doing things at the expense of the global trend. Small-minded leaders are satisfied with their present location, the state of affairs of their organisation and the mediocre living of their families and workers.
In fact, they have no plan for a greater life. That is the pessimist’s or defeatist’s mindset. Until we learn to widen our scope and welcome good things in our lives and people around us, we will never make any mental and physical progress. We should have a mindset such that though we are operating on a local level, our dream of enhancing our image and the power of marketing our products on the international platform will be on the go.
I know some countries with rich mineral resources but they have no means of turning these raw materials into finished products. For immediate pleasure, they receive a peanut from these looters who rather take advantage of their ignorance and lack of competence. Where the former delights in receiving millions of dollars which are not even well accounted for, let alone to invest in the socio-economic development of their countries, the latter on the other hand bursts into laughter as the proceeds from these natural resources usually amounting to billions of United State dollars are continuously earned each year from their childish counterparts.
The major difference is that, whereas some make wise investment, others squander the little they have on immediate pleasure. Like the hedonist’s approach, a small-minded person believes that immediate pleasure must supersede all other things. In fact, small-mindedness is a major reason for the downfall of leaders of countries. Though these countries sit on gold, diamonds, copper, manganese and other rich resources, they complain of poverty. No wonder they run helter-skelter usually without any comprehensive plan in search of grants or loans with high interest rates to the detriment of the economic health of their countries.
Until we turn to formal education and rightly invest in the mental development of our children, they may also fall into the same soup of ignorance. Till we widely open our minds and take hold of great opportunities, we will keep on crawling like the snail and the tortoise – little movements instead of galloping like a horse or running like a cheetah with precision towards a major achievement. Until we learn to be positive in our thinking, every situation will look opaque in our faces. Some time ago, I visited one of my aunties in the city of Kumasi, Ghana. In her living room was displayed this bold inscription: Small minds talk about things; average minds care less about the manifestation of things but great minds achieve big things.
My mind was quickly set into creative thinking upon reading that wisdom statement. I wonder the number of people who might have read that masterpiece and have been acting on it. But I was greatly inspired to wake up from my reverie and to explore greater opportunities in life. Small-mindedness is the state of mind of the weak. They sit back in self-contentment while smarter people take advantage of their property.
They care less about their present state of affairs let alone their future aspirations. Their mindset is focused on the belief that it is God who has created others to have great opportunities whilst the majority lives in a state of servitude. I have an opposing opinion. We have been created equal with matchless opportunities in the sight of God. God is not a partial supernatural being. But the issue is, if we don’t learn to seize the right moment, others speedily overtake us.
The world is in a race of greatness and only the prepared mind and the keenest ones win the race. So, my friend, we better wake up from our slumber and defy the odds. Until we stretch our minds out a little bit, ordinariness will be smiling in our faces.
Timing is knowing when to change, act and implement certain core decisions to the health of the organisation. However, some leaders fail when they don’t know of the exact time to implement those decisions. The issue of taxation for example has always been a major issue in most countries. Where inflation rate is constantly rising and it is almost unbearable to enjoy a good economic life, it becomes another big blow in the faces of entrepreneurs and businessmen when income tax and valued added taxes are increased at an exorbitant rate making it impossible to trade.
When leaders of countries initiate projects and actions, the question I ask myself is, are they timely? Implementation of decisions thrives better in a conducive environment where there is low cost of living but high standard of living. Unless in a critical condition where the leader has no choice than to implement an urgent and difficult decision, great and experienced managers always know when to act and when not to respond.
Again, untimely response to an unkind statement released by the media can have a negative impact on your image as a leader. It is always better to consult professionals in your chosen field for advice. That is the reason why every leader must have a selfless counsellor who understands the dynamics of leadership. If you are in the boat of constantly lashing back at people out of anger, you need either a clinical psychologist or a professional counsellor to help manage the ‘ego’ of your temperament. For your information, there is no perfect leader, however, certain mistakes can easily be avoided by leaders when they are emotionally mature.
Finally, farming practices for example, teach us about timing. Do you know that the development of crops emerges with time? Uprooting them at the wrong time with the aim of consuming them may lead to foul-tasting foods ending up on one’s table. It therefore pays to wait for the opportune time when they mature. Indeed, this is what happens when out of impatience we act on our impulse to have our way out. It pays to wait!
Institutions collapse when those known to be leading are rather led by felons whose agenda is to deepen the cracks in the system, divide their subordinates and rule with no sense of direction. As a concerned person, identify all the discussed concerns and respectfully help change the attitude of your leader in order to make a positive impact.
The writer is an Academic, Visiting Lecturer, Leadership Consultant and a Reverend Minister with the WordSprings City Church, Kumasi-Ghana. This article is an extract from the writer’s book, 16 Reasons why Leaders Fail.
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