Written by Eniola Ositelu
What comes to mind when you hear the word leader? Is it public office holders like the President, or even clergymen? Well, perhaps I should start with what leadership entails. Simply put, leadership is your ability to cope with change.
With this view, if I asked you again who you think a leader is, would you still think of the same group of people? I hope not.
We all face challenges every single day. Whether it’s working from home while still expected to deliver the same results or a sudden change in a scheduled meeting with a client when you are already deep in traffic.
Take for example a young family who recently relocated to Malta. The change is apparent; infrastructure works just fine; education is free amongst other benefits. Now if that family’s prayer life was centered around problems emanating from inept leadership and poor infrastructure, they will either not need much prayer or switch their prayer points completely. What the parents choose to do is ‘coping with change’, and their children will follow their lead.
We find ourselves taking leadership-based decisions daily. It is a tough task leading people right now; parenting, marriage, career, church- but there has never been a better time to take up the mantle of leadership whether that means leading your colleagues, your direct reports, or even yourself.
The journey actually starts with self. If leadership is about coping with change, then, self-leadership should first look within, Think about it! Why should anyone be led by you when you are struggling to lead yourself? Without leadership from within, you will eventually squander any opportunity to lead because you were not prepared for it.
I often share the story of a young Youth Corper (For our audience outside Nigeria, the National Youth Service Corps is a one-year mandatory call of duty for every Nigerian citizen upon completion of university education) who was given an enviable head start with a top bank where he was assigned to serve. He eventually lost the opportunity of full-time employment at the bank, because he chose to keep the company of a rogue cartel within the procurement unit that regularly defrauded the bank. Now, it was not his intention from the onset to be part of a cartel that defrauds a bank; the opportunity presented itself, and like many people with low impulse control, he indulged.
Once we can win the battle of the mind, every other battle can be managed. As they say, “your background should not leave your back to the ground”. Begin to feed your mind with what equips it. Ask people who read books a lot, it almost seems like reading is a waste of time, but there’s a way the brain retains relevant information or the pictures you serve it and releases it when you need it the most.
The successful campaign of The United Negro College Fund in the 70’s “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”, still holds today. If you feed your mind with negative energy and lethargy, that is exactly the output you will get. We should start paying attention to what we listen to, watch and speak. After all, Proverbs 4:23 says “guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
KNOW AND START ACTING LIKE A LEADER
Stop waiting to attain a position before seeing yourself as a leader. As aforementioned, it is all about coping with change as well as influence, and not necessarily about a position. Of course, power is a tool but it is not sufficient by itself if you intend to lead people and not manipulate them. True leadership is how legacies are made. I’m sure you have heard cases of powerful men subject to the whims and caprices of seemingly powerless individuals. Delilah, for one, had no physical strength or wealth, yet her influence on Samson was so strong.
Today, I want to announce to you that you can lead your boss, your colleagues, and your team, not the Delilah way of course! First, identify how you can add value that resonates with all stakeholders and then draw up a plan to deliver on that proposition. Everyone is looking for someone who will make their life a lot easier and free up their time to do more pressing stuff.
In the Part II of this Article, I go on to explain how you can become an effective leader in everyday life by learning to embrace change, understanding how you inspire others, releasing the flow of positive energy and combating fear and stress.
Meet you there!