Leadership

An old adage states “a true leader is born, not made”.

This may have an essence of truth in it, but leaders can be made or developed through life changing events, or just through growing up.

I am sure all of us have thought at some time, that a particular person is a great leader.   Maybe it was something in that person’s character or personality or deeds that resonated with us, or that we acknowledged some admirable quality.

Leaders come from all avenues of existence – music, politics, wars, charitable people, adventurers, the Conscientious Objector, those who rise and take charge in times of crises – be it natural or man-made, or through personal discovery.

Leadership can be unexpected, forced upon the unsuspecting and sometimes unwilling person.

Or, others who from the moment that they can walk and talk, display organization ability and attract friends, neighbours, school mates.

What do true leaders have in their hearts?   Surely they would have bravery, courage, passion, determination, fortitude, tenacity, humility, humanness.    Do these qualities or actions not mirror some facet of God’s direction?

I want to read part of an article called ENCOURAGING THE HEART by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner.

Courage. Encourage. Two words, same origin. Heart. You gotta have heart – miles and miles and miles of it.   There is no bravery or boldness without heart.   There is no spirit or support without heart.  There is no sacrifice or soul without heart.  Nothing great ever gets done without heart.  You gotta have heart.

And at the heart of leadership is caring.  Without caring, leadership has no purpose.  And without showing others that you care and what you care about, other people won’t care about what you say or what you know.  As a relationship, leadership requires a connection between leaders and their constituents over matters, in the simplest sense, of the heart.   It is personal and it is interpersonal.

We need heart because the struggle to the top is arduous.  Our research tells us that if we are going to make it to the summit we need someone shouting in our ear.  “Come on, you can do it.  I know you can do it!”  it is not something we easily admit – a lot of times we think we can do it alone.  But we all really do need encouragement.   Encouragement boosts performance, strengthens our resolve, and improves our health.  Otherwise, why perform to an audience?  Why not just sing to an empty room, play to an empty arena, or sell only to yourself?  We need the applause and knowing that we are connecting to others in order to do our best.  We need the enthusiasm and the energy from others.

We need to feel connected to others and, in turn, they to us, because greatness is never achieved all by ourselves alone.  Encouraging the Heart is the leadership practice that connects us with one another.  It signals and documents that we are in “this” together – whatever this project, programme, campaign, neighbourhood, congregation, division, and so on, may be.

Leaders encourage the connectedness of their followers.

Now, what of other leaders, explorers such as Hannibal, Alexander the Great, Marco Polo, Military strategists such as Napoleon – all incredible in their greatness, but who led 1000’s of men to early and futile graves.   However, were these leaders not empowered by earlier victories?

What of the other explorers – of life itself – such as the discovery of penicillin, of the circulation of blood, of the x-ray.    These researchers did not keep the information to themselves.   They pioneered for the good of mankind.

A true leader is not the person with the most dominant personality, the loudest voice, or the most to say.   True leaders come from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all education levels.

From the words of the writer, Joseph Campbell “ “the hero is heroic because at some point he stops off the path that everyone else is on and heads off into the woods where there is no path and no indication of help.   But he does it anyway.   It is the first step in to the woods that is the heroic moment.   And then everything is in place – help appears that is exactly needed, when he needs it.

He asks – do you have a path that you have to step off?

Not all leaders are safe to be amongst us – those whose passion turned to fervour of greed and self-serving decisions; those who are overtaken by evil.

Through the ages, there have been good and bad in many leaders.   There have been those who have swept the populous into depths of confusion by their false charisma, or through the office of their appointment.   Those ancient kings – Canute, Midas, the Hapsburg royalty of Europe, the fierce cruelty of queens of England and Russia, feudal lords of ancient China and Japan, directed the course of history with their decisions.

It is important that we are all discerning of those who are, or who pretend to be leaders.   We should question their actions if they do not sit well with us; we can always withdraw our support – after all, we are sufficiently empowered to be able to do so.

There are those infamous people, who often commenced their path with genuine and serious intention but denigrated in to appalling acts.   Leaders of countries, politicians,  heads of state, religious leaders.    Names we may know – Hitler, Stalin, General Mao, Charles Manson, the Baader Meinhoff group, Oliver Cromwell.   Some would include ShakaZulu, a very clever but an utterly vicious despot.

What about the inspired people leading masses – such as Martin Luther King, the American Human Rights leader who gave impassioned and magnificent and peaceful speeches, drumming up the consciousness of those who listened to him.   Perhaps his most famous speech that opened with the words ‘I have a dream’.

 

In thinking deeply about all the people you regard as true leaders, you will probably be surprised about whom they are, how they present themselves, what they support or defend or champion, and the role they play in people’s lives, in existence of nature, and the protection of mother earth.

Some leaders may figuratively “chain themselves to the railings”, other leaders may send calm letters to newspapers.   Some may sail their boats in front of whaling ships – others encourage their neighbours to recyle plastic.

It does not matter how dramatic or intense the action is, the fact that the connection was made, and the conversation was had, that the thought was acknowledged, this demonstrates leadership.

In speaking about Connection : Connection is one of our fundamental human needs.   It is also one of the building blocks of genuine happiness.   We are social animals and we depend on one another to flourish and grow.   Connection has other aspects too, and each one adds a new dimension.

Perhaps – here are 3 :

Connection of Our Inner Self – our inner self is like the calm depth and vastness of the ocean.   Though there may be turbulent waves of emotions at the surface, there is always an immense calm reservoir in the depths below.   The inner self shows up in many ways.   Have you ever heard the whispers of intuition in the quiet hours, maybe even in the shower?  Do you sometimes just have a gut feeling about a person or a situation or a cause?  Do you trust your inner compass to guide you where you need to go?  Listening to your deeper self will reveal the answers.

Another could be Connecting to Others – by focusing your attention on being there for others, you expand yourself to include more – more life, deeper relationships and greater meaning.  Touching someone else’s life, whether through community volunteering or just by being a friend, opens the door to a joy that lingers.  When you connect with the heart of another, the good feelings will come right back to you.   Beautiful and meaningful moments await when you reach out to those around you.

The 3rd possibility of connection is the connecting to Something Greater – what if everyone is born with a purpose, and equipped with the abilities to bring it forth, like the power of choice, intelligence, innate talents and a creative spark?  That spark lives in each and every person and connects us to something greater.   You too are part of something greater, however you define it.   You have that spark of greatness within you.   You have already felt that connection at times in your life.   Know that it is on call any time, just waiting for you to say “yes”.

So, what really is leadership?

Is it the changing the mindset of the people who follow.    Is it just a conversation?   Is it the way an individual presents himself to the world – those who lead by example.

Those who have the intensity of leadership, those who are authentic and totally true to themselves, those who make the connection with their people.   Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister said : I am the leader, so I must follow my people.

True leaders are aware of their surroundings, they make the connection, they have that conversation.

One of the greatest challenges we all face is understanding and embracing our own leadership potential.   This is normal.   Perhaps we shy away from being in the spotlight – that may be our understanding of leadership.     Our attitudes, beliefs, prejudices, fears, hopes, glories have led us all to practice what others celebrate, or question, and indeed, what we celebrate or question.    We are all leaders in some area or another.

But, It is not enough to be a leader.   The world is full of leaders who cause us to wonder how in the world they achieved that position.      True leaders must make connections – at a deep level.   They need to be created every day, on purpose.   Connect the people in our homes, where we work, in our suburbs, our cities, our country.   Connect so that we, our children, our friends, and strangers breathe in this connection and collectively allow souls to rise resulting ultimately in that elusive concept called ‘peace on earth’.

If you question your own leadership potential, then take heed of words from author Susan Scott, “Love is a practice – when outside influences are challenging, allow your quiet heart to lead you”.

Leadership does not have to be a crazy, loud event with bells and whistles;  it can be a quiet steadfast belief in something great for your Soul, the Soul of the people.   Great leadership shows that you care.

In closing, I would hope that you are inspired with this poem by Alan Barysh :

You have the right to make the world beautiful!

It’s your right by birth!

You have the right to make the world hospitable to all forms of life!

You have the right to be creative and build a planet

That corresponds with your highest and boldest aspirations!

You have the right to make the world beautiful

And the right to create this beauty by any means necessary!