I have a friend who requested me to give a talk about leadership. I have presumed that because I happen to be a senior prison official and as such, could share some thoughts, principles and approaches for those who one day would become leaders in their own respective turf. Of course, I obliged although hesitantly. It is never a walk in the park. I must be candid or else I would just be an ordinary speaker given to glib talking. I am never predisposed to waste precious time on bantering.
How I wish I could just give the audience, participants in the leadership session, a piece of paper with a working outline to follow. Where a list of enumerated number of skills and considerations are printed that would produce in them an instant model on which to base their leadership requirement. This however is easily said than done. There are as many leadership models as there are cultures and persuasions. And their qualities conflict with one another. One leadership quality may be successful in one class but would be failure in another. Attila the Hun may have been one great leader with exceptional leadership skill but if his style is used on the followers of Napoleon, he might carry the name of Attila the Hunted!
Alexander the Great was a spoiled kid. He was even tarnished as homosexual. But when he was compelled to lead a ragtag army that his father left, youthful as he was, he led them to a conquest no other great men ever achieved. Similarly, Napoleon was rejected when he applied in a European military academy for his physical size. He was too short to carry a rifle, too slim to carry supplies and ammo. But when he got conscripted in a local constabulary, he shone. He even bested those from the military academy and during the course of his leadership; he nearly conquered the whole civilized world!
Leadership depends on the time. It is something generational. He must be relevant. He should be knowledgeable of his environment. He must be sensitive to what is going on around him. Whether he chose to lead a bandit group or be at the top of an evangelist formation, he must have a ring of understanding on that which is happening from within and without.
Leadership in government service is a world different from leadership in the private sector. Even in government, there is such a thing as appointed leadership and elective one. The same can be said in the private sector where the owner is the leading capitalist but it is the technical expert that virtually leads in a de facto manner.
There are of course leaders in various fields of endeavour, in literature, science, religion, academics, ect. Leaders must exude a different persona and must exhibit a different mindset depending on their specific discipline. Miguel de Cervantes was serving time as prisoner, almost buried in a dungeon when he wrote Don Quixote de la Mancha on the wall using charcoal, but his single composition led to a classic which changed the world of literature. Steve Jobs, it has been said, was an arrogant leader but he literally carried and led an entire civilization on the road to advanced technology.
In my readings and personal estimation based on years of exposure with various leaders and their styles, I have made conclusive findings that on top of their flock, the most effective leaders are those who can manage their domestic and personal (that is, family) life on the path of stability—both in terms of emotional as well as material level. And While it is true that some outstanding historical figures have left their families to lead a contingent that would change history , most of them philosophers, religious and military, the greatest among them however are those whose families they led first towards glory. We have Abraham, Jesus, Mohamad, Gandhi, the list is almost endless.
Essentially, great leaders maintain a consistent thread of quality, whether they belong to a different class in history, whether they were seen as heroes or heels.
The leader understands everyone within his circle, even those who are against or critical of his qualities. He is accommodating to the extent of being perceived as generous. He knows how to sacrifice even to such a degree where his life would put on the line. He is therefore, in the real sense, at the head, or at the lead.
As such, he usually analyzes a given situation and always at the forefront of simplification. He never run out of options. Problems for him are challenges and hardship another word for opportunity. While he negotiates and settles, he is always exploring the better deal. He is not doing this to favour or gain advantage for himself; he is doing this for his family, friends, neighbours, community. He should live for others. His cause is never about anything personal for him.
In other words, true and genuine leadership is never a course at all. Contemporary times are never kind to him . Life is even heartless and unforgiving for him. His life is, at best, devoted principally to his loved ones. Yet it is through his sacrifices, that which he rejoices, that makes the day. In the final round, he swallows all the evil that would befall his family and environment; and for an ordinary man, it is even a seen as a curse!