One of the cornerstones of leadership is the responsibility to unleash peoples’ potential – taking others where they would not have got by themselves.
This in itself is a serious challenge and begs two questions:
- What is this potential? and
- How does one even know that others would not have got there by themselves?
These questions lead onto a third and even more important question:
Why do you want to lead?
Common sense tells us that the underlying purpose of leadership is to lead. This may sound simple but in order to lead, one first has to give people a reason to follow!
The answer may appear simple:
- Offer them something of value.
- Make them believe that they are going to get something out of following you.
So this then begs the question, what reasons are YOU putting out there for people to follow you?
Are your reasons based on a genuine intent to unleash people’s capacity or offer a new direction?
Or is there another reason?
Are you doing this for yourself – for your own benefit at the expense of people who are too vulnerable to know any better?
What is your reason to lead?
Again, our common sense tells us that people do not behave or act in a specific way unless they see benefit for themselves. Even if the things they are doing are likely to have a negative outcome.
For example, even though a person may be unhappy, they remain in that unhappy state because they do not believe they have another choice. They don’t actually believe they are getting some benefit from it. They may however not really be aware because they do not see the benefit. For example, instead of taking responsibility, the unconscious benefit is that they can blame others and the past for their current circumstances and behaviours.
This may sound illogical but it is that individual’s reality. To them it is very real and valuable to the extent that they will not listen to reason. For example, people stay in abusive relationships and even go so far as to protect or defend the abusers. “He hit me because he loves me, I shouldn’t have upset him.”
Nobody is going to follow another person and call them their leader unless that leader has offered them the promise of benefits. The catch is that some people understand the benefits that they want and they align themselves to someone who symbolises this.
Why do people follow bad leaders?
This group of followers (the opportunists) see only what they stand to gain in the short term. They do not consider the longer term consequences. They align with the leader’s ideas and so get the takings. Cadre deployment is an exact example. They (the leader and followers) call that unleashing potential but the cost to others (outside their circle) is immense.
Another group of people (the blind followers) only become aware of the benefit once the ‘leader’ has introduced them to his ideas. This group blindly and ignorantly follows the leader’s ideas because they are caught up in the aura of what is promised (i.e. a ‘piece of the pie’ on offer).
So the idea of taking followers where they would not have got by themselves comes into play. However, this farce is only about one thing and one thing alone – how will I benefit? The leader is only looking out for him/herself and the followers are usually left with empty or broken promises (unless they are in the inner circle).
Again, the long-term cost is immense. Hitler was a good example. The German people followed him blindly and the long term cost to them was incalculable.
So, is modern day leadership a truly authentic response to people’s needs or is it a selfish way to get what I want at the expense of others? Have we manipulated leadership into something that it is not and, in the process, convinced the naive that they need it?
Examples of self-serving leadership (not that this should even be called leadership) are rife. People use others for their own gain; manipulating vulnerable people in order to make sure they get the benefits for themselves. They are not genuine leaders but ‘crooks’ who use threats, fear, empty promises and blame to take from others for their own benefit. The current violence in Durban stems from this – people who want ‘a piece of the pie’ are manipulating ignorant people into destroying infrastructure so that they can get what THEY want – appointment as ward counsellors.
How should you lead?
By rights, leadership should be the ultimate service to people. It is a very real process of forfeiting one’s own interests for the sake of others. It is giving generously of one’s ‘life’ to make sure that others can find theirs. Our own Madiba was a shining example of this type of leadership. It is a great pity that he could not have stayed at the helm for longer.
Authentic or genuine leadership takes into account the real benefits of bringing about change – for ALL people, not only those who follow. True leaders give people a genuine reason to follow them because they believe that value lies in people – all people.
They have a very deep sense of peoples’ potential and they create the opportunities for real change because they hold an authentic belief that people can be truly remarkable.
Bruniquel & Associates (Pty) Ltd
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