In the light of the tremendous stress laid upon the leadership role in both secular and religious worlds, it is a general principle that we can influence and lead others only so far as we ourselves have gone. The person most likely to be successful is the one who leads not by merely pointing the way, but by having trodden it himself. We are leaders to the extent that we inspire others to follow us.
Almost everyone is called to lead in some capacity. A father leads his family, parents lead their children, a teacher leads students, a pastor leads the church, everyone leads someone. The person you follow determines your inspiration and aspirations.
The difference between management and leadership is chiefly in the way those being managed or led are motivated. So for those of us that are in leadership positions, here are some timeless model for today’s leaders.
Integrity: Leaders are people of integrity. They have every dimension of their lives centered in consistent obedience to God. There are no “closets,” no hidden areas that can’t bear public scrutiny. They live above board in their financial dealings, sexual behaviour and in family life. No area of their lives is out of control. Physical, emotional and spiritual discipline is expressed.
Their motives for doing things are pure. People can easily detect dishonest measures or questionable ethics. Following the path of least resistance, such practices usually filter down from the top and begin to permeate the whole organisation. A Leader should “walk the talk.” Also, like the one who leads others, you should have a set of values that guide your actions and show the consistency of motives in your character and conduct.
The power of example – a life lived out loud – speaks volumes, beyond any leadership book or seminar, conference, moulding young leaders around us who are forming opinions, receiving impressions and drawing conclusions about life and all the possibilities. Whether you’re a Christian leader or secular leader, your character will impact on how far goals are reached in your organisation when you adhere to a robust set of principles and take responsibility for your actions; you will be exhibiting integrity.
Authenticity: Authenticity encompasses trustworthiness, openness, empathy and being real. People are becoming very wary of leaders who are fake, narcissistic, secretive or self-serving. Teams are getting bolder at calling out destructive character traits that impact their livelihood and the corporate world. The best leaders today are authentic; it’s how we connect and build trust in our teams and organisations.
Vision: As a leader, you should have both foresight and insight. When you do, you will be able to envision the result of the policies, strategies or methods you advocates. You need always to look ahead to see how systems proposed will affect not only the present but succeeding generations.
Although leaders are typically good at vision casting, your followers need to know and buy into your vision. A leader needs to have the ability to inspire and influence the thinking, attitudes, and behaviour of people under the scope of his influence. You have to know how to set ideas, people, organisation, and societies in motion; someone who takes followers on a journey to the fulfillment of the vision. The foundation for improvement, change and progress is a vision.
Communication And ‘Soft Skills’: “Soft skills” like communication, listening and public speaking have become crucial in the day-to-day leadership and corporate environment. Without effective communication, as leaders, you’re just figureheads. Focusing on the interpersonal interactions, you can reach individuals where they are and connect better.
Open-Mindedness: One of the most significant traits global leaders have is that they are exceptionally adaptable, which implies they will change course and adjust to additional active measures as soon as their paradigm becomes limiting. They are also open to criticism and are readily accessible to run ideas by and open to communication. They gather ideas and information from a variety of political, economic and cultural sources, this gives them a well-rounded view, protects them from groupthink and fortifies what is true in their own heart and mind.
Diplomacy: Leadership demands skill in dealing with persons or sensitive situations. As a leaders you need to have the ability to reconcile viewpoints without giving offence or compromising principle. In the leader and follower relationship, as a leader you must be able to conduct delicate negotiations and mediate in matters concerning personnel in a way that recognises mutual rights and yet leads to a harmonious solution.
Self-Control: Leaders cannot control their external world until they can control their internal world. The most potent form of government is self-government. The wise King Solomon once said: “He who is easing back to outrage is superior to the relentless, and he who governs his soul than he who takes a city.” Self- discipline is one of the significant characteristics of a leader. Indiscipline causes a leader to lose his or her influence. The appetites for food, drink, sleep, and sex is legitimate; but when we violate God’s laws to satisfy ourselves, or we become addicted to these appetites, we lose our moral authority.
Love: Love helps a leader appreciate each person’s worth, recognise their potential and creates the desire to add value to them. When love is absent, greed, envy, selfishness, malice, rejection, hatred and such vices manifest in abundance. When you do not love the people you lead, it causes the spread of the cancer of self- centeredness in the system. The way leaders treat people is the way the people also treat one another.
One word that describes the act of love is the word respect. Everyone deserves a measure of respect. We should use the words “Sir” and “Madam’ generously not minding the status of the person being addressed. Love empowers you as a leader and increases your influence.
Team Building: Leaders build a strong relationship with team members, relationship matters, there is a place for good people skills. Connections are the magic that binds followers, and these relationships are built on trust, mutual respect, and loyalty. Certainly, there is a tendency for teams to be factionalised because of cultural, technological and ideological differences. As a leaders you need to develop effective skills to manage team conflict.
Steadiness While Remaining Adaptable: Technological advancements are happening at a rapid pace, which affects the way leaders do business often. Inflexible leadership causes organisations to lag behind competitors, which could ultimately lead to losing market share – or worse, becoming obsolete. Staying on the cutting edge of any industry requires flexibility and the ability to adapt quickly to the changes in the marketplace for you as a leader and the team you lead.
Global Mindset: As a leader, you should be open to diverse perspectives in the decision-making process. Although you can have strong opinions, your leadership proclivities allow for interaction with others who may have alternative views and solutions. This protects you from your blind spots and makes you less likely to make avoidable mistakes. It is important you look out for best practices and systems to achieve your goals and objectives. Don’t be threatened by other gifted followers or leaders, but be energised by them, their passion and their ideas. You need to appreciate elements of different cultures and open your heart wide to recognise and deal with your own internally held prejudices and those of the ones you are leading.
Share The Power: As a global leader, you should have a multi-generational approach that equips younger leaders/followers to be more effective than the previous generation. These include intentionally integrating young leaders into your decision-making process, as well as major organisational initiatives. These also involve creating opportunities for them to express creativity, to make mistakes and become a better leader. There are things you will never be able to do, and potentials in you that you will never realise until you share your power and influence with others. They understand that good leaders empower others.
Regardless of who it is you’re leading – followers or leaders – leadership is never easy.
But when you’re a leader who is leading others, some basic principles will make a difference. The key to being a great follower is to be an imitator. A copycat. As Kyle Idleman says, it’s about being a follower, not a fan. Fans standoff in the distance and admire; followers get up close and stay in step with a person’s every move.
The truth is, this principle isn’t just for leaders; it’s the key to being a great human being generally.
The real test of the effectiveness of the leader is this: Are your people better off when they leave than when they arrived?
Are your employees more employable, better people, and have they grown more as a result of your leadership and influence?
About the Author
Dr. Kenny (Kehinde) Folarin is a Success Coach, Teacher, Conference Speaker, Certified Management Consultant, Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Strategic Leadership Expert. He bagged his Ph.D. at Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA in Strategic Leadership. He is also an Executive Pastor and currently the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Daystar Christian Centre, Lagos, Nigeria. He has worked with some of the most successful leaders to grow their businesses and organisations exponentially by focusing on people and leadership development. His trade tools include people empowerment, dispensing leadership principles and institutionalising personal development to fast-track individual goals and transform organisations. He can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org.