Friday, 16 December 2016

Leadership isn't position

                 By Bayo Ogunmupe
       Many see leaders as those with position and power. Such people assume that leaders are the few people at the head of an organization. Nothing could be further from the truth. Peter Drucker a notable authority on leadership and management said: "All the effective leaders I have encountered, those I have worked with and those I merely watched knew few things; a leader is someone who has followed some principles. Popularity is not leadership. Leadership is not rank, titles or money; leadership is responsibility."
       Position, title and authority are often confused with leadership. That you are the president of a country or the chief executive of a company does not make you a leader. All a title does is just make you an executive. Whilst position and authority provide you with potentials, they do not make you a leader. You just don't suddenly become a leader just because you have a fancy new title.
       In fact you cannot lead in such circumstances, because leadership happens when people allow you to influence them. It is only when your influence causes people to work for a shared vision that you become a leader. Leadership is more of influence , trust and relationship than it is about control and governance. An American human rights champion, Ralph Nader defined leadership thus: "The function of leadership is to produce more leaders not more followers." 
       The danger of leadership as authority and position is  that it leads to dictatorship. Such leaders think that because of their elevated position they can do whatever they like. Titular leaders encourage the use of control to get things done. Such style of leadership results in the following negative outcomes. One, leading from such positions undermines meaningful change. Two, Such leaders crush the human spirit. Three, leading from position frustrates creativity. Four, leading from position erodes trust. Five, leading from position fosters mediocrity. Lastly, leading from position destroys empathy for others. Those who lead from position do not invest time needed on shared vision that inspires others.
       Leadership is not the exercise of control over others. Leadership is the empowerment of oneself and others towards  the execution of a shared objective. Which is why leadership is influence. It often comes as a surprise to new titular leaders that a large portion of their job involves influencing others outside of their control. The reality of governance is that you cannot control anyone- except yourself. That is why leading by control is the lowest form of leadership. Control is an illusion.
       Great leaders don't lead from position. That is why Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jnr, Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi still bestrode the world as colossuses. These leaders had no titles before they attained greatness; yet they molded the history of their time. Their leadership was defined by the impact they made in their time. Leadership then is about what you do, not what you are served. The hallmark of effective leadership is the influence you have on the lives of others. The greater your influence the greater your leadership.

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