“Whatever you are, be a good one” -Abraham Lincoln –
Our personal life is the premise upon which good or bad leadership traits are cultivated. The responsibilities and publicity that come with a leadership role are not difficult to attain. One can fool and manipulate him/herself to the helm of power but what one cannot do is fake who he/she truly is for long; sooner or later the real person will emerge.
A leadership position will always expose those intrinsic values held by a person. Thus it is quite crucial to understand that leadership is not a reward nor an entitlement but a responsibility. This requires ongoing self-reflection of a leader’s personal life as well as overcoming certain behaviors that may affect one’s effectiveness. Those who view leadership as a reward, an entitlement or that it is only for the “elite few”, often view personal leadership as a non-entity. Leadership begins and ends with self, how one goes about discharging public duties will largely be influenced by one’s personal leadership success or failure.
You can only lead where you have been, you can only inspire others if you have been an inspiration to yourself. Catastrophe in leadership begins when one assumes a leadership role that is not in harmony with who one is. The next generation of leaders especially in Africa, should begin to take themselves seriously and cultivate a leadership ethos at a personal level first. How can you lead others in a particular direction when you yourself have no sense of direction in your own life?
How can you align people to the vision of the organization or nation when you have no personal vision? How can you inspire those below you to overcome when you have not overcome anything and you keep nursing your own struggles? How can you instill discipline in the organization or nation when you cannot abide by the set of principles governing that organization or nation at a personal level? How can you expect others to observe and keep the law when you are the number one law breaker? How can you appreciate those you lead when you undermine your own abilities? How can you care for those you lead when you are always involved in habits that damage the essence of your being?
It is a misnomer to lead others without unrelenting commitment to self-leadership. It means nothing to be celebrated by the masses (as they can only see the façade), yet be condemned by your own conscious. The ongoing test of every leader in the public eye is that of becoming an “actor or actress”. This is when one leads to play a role that is actually not integral to his/her personal life. This is a huge deception in many organizations today, including religious organizations. It’s simple really, as a leader never preach what you don’t personally practice and don’t ask people to go the distance you are not willing to go yourself or have not already covered.
A leadership position should never be used as a cover up for one’s frailties. When this happens, leaders begin to use their positions to weaken and lower the standards or value systems of an organization or nation merely to ensure their self-preservation. These individuals are threatened by anything or anybody that may expose who they really are. These leaders are chief manipulators, intimidators and very divisive in their undertakings and want to impose their control over those they lead. As this is the only alternative, they have to hide how they have failed at leading themselves. Sadly, most Africans have come to believe that this is how a leader ought be.
Africa is like a woman who has been consistently abused by men most of her life and has thus lost hope, as to whether there are any good men out there. The common African doesn’t know what good leadership is, let alone a good leader. This is why it is difficult to hold those in leadership accountable, instead we seem to be drawn and support those types of leaders who have failed dismally as far as personal leadership is concerned. Our ability to elect the kind of leaders that we truly need in order for us to move forward, has also been affected due to the leadership drought and abuse we have suffered in our continent.
In order to rectify this, it starts today with you, by committing that you will be a good leader to yourself first and that this will be your first duty to humanity.
By Kelvin Namwanza
Author /Leadership consultant /Life coach