There’s always a basis for a leader’s actions and inactions. When leaders mean well or they don’t, it’s not about what they say. It’s about what they do. This is critical because people vary in their motivation to lead. Beyond conception and saying, there must be action backed by a commitment to follow through to the end. When leaders are selfless or selfish, it’s always in their deeds. Don’t be quick to measure what they say. Wait and measure what they do. So there is a thematic apperception test that seeks to project personality experiments to assess leaders’ need for power (Hughes et al. 2015). Some leaders personalise power and others socialise it. The greatest gift of every leader is to make the world a better place for the next generation. I once had a line manager who said it right in my face, “I’ll show you where power lies”. Honestly, I felt sad for him. That is when I got to know that he didn’t know he always had the power. This is my take.
Leaders should crave for influence and not power. Because they have the power. What they always don’t have is the influence. Unfortunately, power is transient. Influencing is lasting. Munroe (2009), Welch (2005), Hughes et al (2015) and Maxwell (2005) suggest that leadership is about legacy. But when it comes to leader motives it must inch a notch higher. It’s also about relevance, when the motive is right. Leaders must create a good and sustainable ambience for others to grow to realise their dreams and potentials. So leadership is actually not about the leader. Leadership is about others. Empower others and make them relevant to apply themselves for leadership success.
The fact that you crave for power to lead doesn’t necessarily mean that you would be successful as a leader. Some leaders fight for power, they win power and they use power impulsively because they forget that their strength lies in their influence and not in the power. As long as people vary in their motivation to lead a team, an organisation or a country, their deeds will surely give them away as selfless or selfish. To the point, not everyone wants to lead and not everyone can lead. But the myth has also been demystified that everyone can lead. One beautiful statement I always hear from politicians in particular is: “I didn’t want to lead, but my people said I have to lead”. This is sad, and I guess it’s not true either. Because a leader would have to go through a process which involves self-assessment, the least.
A leader must answer the simple question – Why do I want to lead? If your answer does not point to solving a particular problem that would turn the fortunes of a team, an institution or a country around, forget it! If you can’t be true to your followers, at least be true to yourself. Look into the mirror and ask yourself over and over again about your intention to lead and how it would motivate the followers to fix situations. To be an effective leader, the motive must be clear, without malice and it be must be known. Don’t keep on talking. Act. Don’t be going around saying. Show it. Enough of the promises. Just prove it!