I once heard it said that if you consider yourself a leader and you have nobody following you, then you are simply taking a stroll. Funny but true. The essence of leadership is in taking people towards a vision. A vision that makes the lives of the people and their generations to come better than the current situation they find themselves in.
When I think about leadership, two things come to mind as necessary for the making of a leader; character and competence. Competence speaks of ability to perform the tasks at hand and deliver what is necessary to move the group towards the vision. Competence answers the question of if the leader has the skills necessary to maneuver the challenges that will come along the way, strategize and solve problems that arise along the way, and generally deal with issues.
Competency is what causes a leader to rise to the top. Or it is that which makes a person the one to be deferred to when situations arise on the path to the destination. But it is character that keeps the leader standing. It is the character of a leader that earns he or she the respect needed. Character also keeps the leader going against all odds. Character is the heart attitude of a leader, and this is what this post is focused on.
The following I believe are necessary pieces of character to form the heart of leadership:
- Humility. Humility is the ability to recognize where you are in relationship to the situation you find yourself in. The opposite is pride and arrogance when a person believes they are bigger and better than everyone around them. Thinking more highly of themselves as they ought to. Solomon in portraying the wisdom of God said, “Pride goes before destruction,” therefore leaders must constantly keep themselves submitted to the notion that they are humans and susceptible to mistakes and errors. When they happen, he or she must be willing to fix them and not bully his or her way through them.
- A teachable attitude. Many people believe that as a leader you must have the answers to every question. While issues that arise in the course of leadership challenge the competency of the leader, it is not beneath the leader to seek the counsel of others. I remember the biblical story of the Syrian general, Naaman. Naaman was leprous and he had gone visiting a prophet in Israel who was known to be able to heal. On Naaman’s arrival to the prophets home, he didn’t even come out of his chambers to give audience to this “high and mighty” general, but sent word for him to go dip himself seven times in the Jordan, one of the dirtiest rivers then. The general was angry and fumed, vented etc, but there was a little handmaiden who put her life on the line and offered suggestion, “if the prophet had asked you to do something great, wont you have done it”. That was the light bulb for this general, and he did what was asked and he was healed! (2 Kings 5)
- Integrity.There are many things you can lack and still steer clear of danger. Integrity isn’t one of them. Integrity is the leader’s personal code of ethics. For a leader, it must be a few steps above that of the average person in the group. The integrity of a leader must be evident to all. When in a leadership position, there a people who are by default looking for your downfall, hence you need the extra foundation and support pillars of integrity to stand against attacks on your person. Integrity is something you build over time. It is learned. With each mistake, you learn a lesson, then you make a decision and a commitment that strengthens your character.
- Endurance. As you lead others towards the vision laid out, you will face obstacles, and many people will want to quit, but as a leader this should not be you. People feed of your energy, perseverance and persistence. As often said, persistence is one of the major character attributes of those who succeed. As a leader you don’t just need the strength to persevere against all odds for yourself only, you also need the strength to feed your followers with the same energy. There are times you will have to motivate yourself first, and from there motivate others, and they might not be responsive, but you must make sure you endure. Because at such times, your persistence is all that keeps the people going.
- Love. If there is one thing that sums of the heart of leadership. A leader has a heart for the people he or she leads. It’s a sincere desire for the development of the people and an improvement in the lives of the people. Great leaders are people who are sacrificially willing to give to others. They find fulfillment in knowing that their vision is becoming a reality in the life of another person. Love seeks to honor and respect the wishes and desires of the other person even if the leader does not agree. Leaders will guide to the best of their ability, but for the sake of love, never impose their own desires.
Cultivate the leader inside of you! I know there are more attributes of leadership, so share some with us all…