I believe that we are all leaders within our respective circles of influence. We don’t need to have a title to lead but we certainly need to know what leadership means and have the right attitude. I also believe that a good leader is a good follower: if you are not able or willing to follow, why should others follow you?
Years ago I came across a great book called “The Leadership Challenge” by Jim Kouzes and Berry Posner, both professors at Santa Clara California University. The book was the product of an extensive research into the realm of corporate leadership. One would think that the book would be written in an academic style and be boring and very technical. Instead, it is an agile reading with a common sense approach derived from observation and experience. The book is at its 4th edition and cam be purchased for about $27.
The authors, who have since developed a consulting approach to their findings (you can follow their trends and ideas on their website at http://ca.leadershipchallenge.com/WileyCDA/) capture the essence of their research and experience of leadership by defining what they call ‘The 5 Practices of Ledership’:
- · Model the Way
- · Inspire a Shared Vision
- · Challenge the Process
- · Enable Others to Act
- · Encourage the Heart
I will not provide specifics of these 5 principles today, but I wish to point out to something I read in the book and caught my attention.
Kouzes and Posner state that some people see beyond the horizon of time and into the future. They are not divine sent prophets but they believe that dreams can become realities. They state that these people “open our eyes and lift our spirits. They build our trust and strengthen our relationships. They stand firm against the winds of resistance and give us courage to continue the quest. We call them leaders. They take us to places we have never been before. We are fortunate that they do.”
This reminds me of another of my favourite authors, Stephen Covey, who said that we need to ‘Begin with the End in Mind’. It is the power of vision and the stamina and resiliency to stick to that vision notwithstanding the storms, trials and tribulations in our lives. Can you think of any individual that has had that effect on you? What made her or him so special to you? Can you see the dreams and vision in that person? Does the word ‘inspiration’ come to mind when you think of that individual?
One incredible individual that has made and continues to make a huge difference in the lives of his community, and by reflection and ripple effect, in the lives of many is a humble, modest man from Uganda whose name is Stone. He was a soccer player and a very good one. He was noticed by a European Team scout and was on the verge of signing a contract and moving to Europe, the greatest dream of every soccer player in his country. One day, while he was playing a game in his hometown, a player from the opposite team came unto him and intentionally severed the ligaments in his right leg basically ending his career. Stone did not react, he told the other player that he did what he had to do and he did not have any resentments against him. It seems easy to say but could we do it? Stone decided to dedicate his life to help young kids to become good kids. He started to coach a team of young men in his impoverished neighbourhood. However, he did not just coach those boys. He found them jobs, he talked to them, he took them into his home and spent time with them. He kept them out of the street. He gave a purpose to their lives. He could have been angry to the misfortunes in his life but he decided to be proactive and move on and make a difference. And he has. In my eyes, he is a leader.
My father was a leader for me. He dedicated his life to his family and ensured that we could have a bright future. I can think of many other leaders whose name is not Ghandi or Mother Theresa or John F. Kennedy. They are leaders too, but the ones I know make a difference in my life every single day.