Last week’s article was inspired by the 10,000 meter men’s final during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, from which we drew a few lessons in leadership. In summary, we learned that
it is important to always look around us and see if others around us can still follow our pace and direction. Whether in the business, the family, in church, at school or indeed in the Government, we need to check always if there is anybody or if there are groups of people that fall behind, that cannot keep up with the pace set by the frontrunners. There are many reasons why some or even many cannot keep up, like for example illness, weakness, poverty, lack of access to resources and services or the lack of opportunity, just to name a few.
The second lesson we learned was, that recognising reasons why others remain behind, gives us now the opportunity to do something about it. We can slow down, provide support, help somebody, encourage them, empower somebody, provide opportunities and show the way. Indeed, Ethiopia enjoys a steep economic growth, but who can keep up with the pace and who is remaining behind? What then can be done to close the gap?
Thirdly, while we are trying our best and grow our business and economy at a respectable rate, as long as other economies grow faster, a gap will develop and become bigger as we progress. This is especially apparent in ITC. Internet capacity and speed are growing globally by the day and in most cases faster than we can keep up with here. In other words, the digital divide keeps getting wider and wider. We should not be satisfied with the apparent speed of our development but instead aim to catch up with the frontrunners, lest we keep falling behind.
Fourthly, recognising the contribution of all team members is very important if the team is indeed to accomplish such remarkable achievement.
Finally, as we all play a leadership role in our work, at home and in whatever position we hold, it should be all our desire and aim to groom the younger talents around us and help them grow and succeed and be ready to take over from us. Only then, whatever we achieved, will be sustained.
In addition, leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves. How to do this well is not that easy though and here follow some suggestion that may help in exercising effective leadership.
An effective leader must be able to communicate. Great leaders have the ability to visually communicate their message to people and they understand that one of their key tasks is to find ways to grow people. You see, you can’t do it all by yourself and it is therefore important to find a way to get much of your vision seen, implemented and added to by others. The leader sees the big picture but (s)he also sees the necessity of sharing that picture with others who can help in making it reality.
An effective leader is creative in handling problems. The ability to creatively find solutions will determine the success or failure of each difficulty. Key is to use a crisis as an opportunity for change. Like every coin has its flipside, most problems bring along a window for opportunities. When we begin to look for opportunities through these windows which we never saw before because we are comfortable or caught in the situation we are in, we will begin looking at things positively and learn to be creative, sometimes referred to as “thinking out of the box”.
An effective leader is a generous contributor. Turning our mindset around, the measure of a leader is not the number of people who serve him/her but the number of people (s)he serves. Real leaders have something to give and they give it freely.
An effective leader acts consistently. People need to be able to depend on their leaders. The moment a leader becomes inconsistent, people will lose their confidence and will stop trusting that person. And this is something we see happening around us all the time, even at home where parents are strict on a certain issue today and allow the children to do the very same thing tomorrow. In the process the children begin to loose respect for their parents and find ways to take advantage of their parents’ inconsistent behaviour. Similarly, people would rather follow a leader they disagree with than one they agree with but is constantly changing positions.
Now, leadership is not something set aside for senior executives who perpetuate the prevailing mindset that says: “The boss does all the important thinking and decision making around here.” No, everyone can be a leader, regardless of position as longs as we take our own responsibility and live by principles that guide our personal leadership. Remember the proverb that says:
He who thinks that he is leading and has no one following him, is only taking a walk.