Life Lesson #8: The Task Of Leadership

The leadership model I grew up with painted a picture of a strong and clever leader who leads weak and ignorant people from obscurity to success; from ignorance to enlightenment. The perception was that the success of the team, the school, the household, the country, the world, depends on the qualities of the leader, because the followers were inherently inept. This view runs parallel to the fundamental philosophy I grew up with that people are inherently bad and can’t think for themselves. The model was essentially one of a strong leader who leads the loyal followers out of their misery. Without the leader they are nothing. Leadership, then, was about ruling and controlling and managing. 

Closely aligned to this leadership view is the idea that a leadership appointment is a recognition of how smart you are and that you could demand loyalty and “obedience” from your followers. They must respect you and follow your orders. Your followers are there to serve you. Being appointed a leader means you “have arrived”. 

Then I read the following John Buchan quote: “The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, the greatness is already there”. 

What a refreshing way to look at leadership. It took me a while to grasp it. People have greatness in them.

The task of leadership is to elicit the greatness that is already there. 

Does that mean people are inherently good? I’ve been around long enough to know that people are often wicked, dishonest and evil. So, I think John Buchan meant to emphasise people’s potential for greatness over their potential for obscurity. He essentially moves the focus from the negative to the positive. 

After intense reflection I realised the leadership model I grew up with was flawed. Leadership is less about control and more about service; less about telling people what to do and more about creating an environment where the best in people can come shining through. Being appointed in a leadership position is less about your importance and more about the people you are called to serve. Leadership is less about ruling and more about serving. 

People have the potential for greatness in them. If, as a leader, you believe it and encourage it, you are often rewarded with fantastic results. 

Have a wonderful day. Allow your greatness to come shining through! 

Stay blessed,
René Otto, CEO: MiWay Insurance Ltd

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