Leadership is not a mere event or game of chance. It is serious building work and many people hang their faith on leaders. As a leader, you lead yourself and others. Leadership is great responsibility that requires a bedrock of character, clarity of vision, and the large heart to build with others.
Leaders influence by modelling the way by being the change that they wish to see. They inspire others to dream and see possibilities. They restore hope and help others believe that the future can be brighter and better. Leaders build bridges, trust and things. They seek improvement and a better way, enabling others to act, own the dream, and feel included, thus inspiring and building confidence and hope. Leaders are willing to take responsibility when things go well and when things do not go well. Leadership is not a calling to entitlement but to thankless work and daily criticism.
Leaders are learners
Leaders learn to bear defeat with dignity, because greatness comes when you move from failure to failure without losing your nerve, vision or enthusiasm. Leaders learn how to accept criticism with poise because you learn from the feedback you get. Feedback is the breakfast that every good leader seeks and takes to his reflective heart. Feedback helps the leader improve, grow and develop. A leader keeps asking how he can do better. When you can no longer take feedback you cannot move forward with leadership and you cannot grow. Leaders learn how to receive applause, honours and acclaim with humility and grounded thinking. Hubris is the Achilles heel of leadership. Leaders always know that to win as a leader, there are many people that contribute to your success and greatness. To be great as a leader, there are always some people who hold your ladder for you.
Leaders think serious about the people that hold their ladder for them. Leadership is a daily journey and not a destination. It is a process of maturing, growing and building within and without. Unless you are willing to take the challenge and step forward and lead, you will never learn. It is always better to try something and fail, than to try nothing and win.
Leadership is an energy intensive job. The success of any leader is a return on the investment of energy. Without energy, a leader has no raw material to create results. A leader’s critical job is directing the energies of people toward noble visions. When you direct energy on the negative you lose focus and your mind remains clouded by despondency and despair. When you direct energy on vision, hope and possibilities ahead, you marshal unseen forces, liberate talent and sustain your stamina. Leaders learn how to wait and to sustain their stamina over a long period. Leadership is a time intensive task. The leadership task is a marathon and not a hundred yard sprint.
To sustain your stamina, develop leadership disciplines, renewal practices and greater self-awareness. The leader’s fortress is within. No winds blowing above a leader’s head can shake off the confidence and anchor within. As a leader, you are able to pick yourself up in moments of disappointments. As a leader, you are also able to calm yourself is moments of jubilation and remain focused. Great leaders learn to lead themselves and develop private victory. When you win within, whatever happens without can be dealt with.
The late Stephen Covey visited Zimbabwe in 2010 and addressed a Leadership Summit that was held in Harare. Having followed his work for years, I was privileged to attend and hear him share his clear and simple leadership message.
What leaders need to do is never complicated, it is the discipline to do it that is challenging. In his long career working with leaders, Covey consulted with chief executive officers, political leaders, and heads of state, managers and employees at thousands of organisations worldwide.
Many Fortune 500 and 100 companies adopted his innovative leadership techniques within their organisations. His work continues to influence leaders in every sphere who have integrated his ideas into their daily leadership practices. In 1996, Covey was recognised as one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential Americans and one of Sales and Marketing Management magazine’s top 25 power brokers.
The core of Covey’s leadership teachings is in his world-famous book best-selling book, entitled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that has sold more than 20 million copies in 38 languages.
For Covey, effectiveness and leadership is built on habits and not just singular performances. Habits are what you do daily. What you do daily determines what you become permanently in the leadership journey. According to Stephen Covey, the first-base where leaders win is to be able to secure private victory. The habits that constitute private victory are being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, and putting first things first. Before you can lead others well, lead yourself daily with diligence. As you lead others, do not forget to lead yourself. Many leaders try to change others, while great leaders work on changing themselves daily.
To lead yourself and have personal stamina, be proactive. Choose to act instead of waiting to be acted upon. Procrastination is not strategic action. Leaders do things and make things happen.
Nothing happens while you just wait and take the posture of a victim. Do not waste time thinking like a victim, talking like a victim and mobilising others to be victims. Be proactive. Always begin with the end in mind. Think about where you are going and build your “future history”. Be clear about your desired destination and then plot the course towards it. Every daily step that you take should point to your desired stations of greatness. Every failure along the way is an opportunity to correct course, sustain focus and keep moving forward towards greatness. Leaders put first things first. What matters most must never be sacrificed for what matters least. Leaders learn to keep the main things, the main things.
Every leader has an opportunity everyday to destroy or to build bridges to greatness. Leaders are builders, they build people, dreams and great organisations. There is so much to build and opportunities for leadership greatness everywhere. Leaders do not have the latitude to waste time when there is so much that they need to do. The role of a leader is to connect people and interact with them in such a way that they grow, develop and build. A leader sees the greatness in other people before they see it in themselves and works towards building greatness. Do not be disappointed as a leader because the people you have look weak, small and incompetent. Great leaders build great people. The people you have are your raw material of greatness. Leaders believe in people, build trust and keep adding to trust.
The trowel that a leader uses to build bridges is words, language and behaviour. Leaders build trust of character, trust of capability and trust of communication. Words can build or destroy, depending on the way they are used. Trust is earned through a lot of work, authentic communication and aligned behaviour. One careless word from a leader can destroy much. A few responsible and building words catapult things to new levels. Leaders strive to be consistent and worthy of trust. Leaders are aware of the power of their words as agents of building.
St. Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226 AD) was a great leader in the Roman Catholic Faith. He founded and built the Franciscan Order, assisted in building the woman’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis. There is a prayer that is attributed to St. Francis that every building leader should pray and sing. Destroying is easy, but building is hard and takes time. St. Francis prayed:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Amen.
This is the prayer of a great leader and builder of lives, and enduring institutions that continues to serve the world to this day. Wherever you lead, pray this prayer. Whatever the day, pray this prayer. Whatever side you stand on, pray this prayer and your leadership will soar.
Committed to your greatness.
Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author, and executive coach. His life purpose is to inspire and promote greatness. He can be reached at: [email protected] and Twitter: @MiltonKamwendo or WhatsApp at: 0772422634. His website is: www.miltonkamwendo.com
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