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The last two weeks we looked into issues of leadership and drew lessons from the 10,000 meter men’s final during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. We learned that it is important to always look around us and see if others around us can still follow our pace and direction. 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. 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.
We then considered some suggestions, that may help in exercising effective leadership and saw that an effective leader must be able to communicate, is creative in handling problems, is a generous contributor and acts consistently.
We concluded that 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.
Leaders are people who focus on the creation of a common vision and they are able to mobilize people around and for that vision. In the process, they are focused and fully apply their energy and resources to it. They are also able to cope with change and guide their people, organization or business in the process. They are movers and designers. They do the right things. Managers in comparison are people who do the things right and can cope with the complexities of change. They handle matters, maintain order, organize and control. They are concerned with how things get done. Where the leader is the architect, the manager is the contractor.We need to realize that both management and leadership are vital and that one without the other is not sufficient. In other words, with all the attention focusing on leadership today, we must not neglect the importance of management. What is interesting to observe is that leaders, the visionaries, often have a hard time managing. They therefore better delegate the management of the company or the organization to people whose strength lies in management. The thing is you can lead people, not things. Things are managed and controlled. So, what things need managing and controlling?
Money, costs, information, time, structures, systems, processes, inventory, assets, facilities and tools need managing. All things without the freedom to choose. And sometimes people choose to be managed under their own leadership, not exercising their ability and freedom to choose.
Leadership then, can be understood as a proactive intention to affirm the worth and potential of those around us and to unite them as a complementary team in an effort to increase the influence and impact of our organization or business. Put more simply: Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves. In a team where people complement each other, individual strengths become productive and their weaknesses become irrelevant because they are compensated for by the strengths of others. Four roles can be distinguished in leadership and they are simply four qualities of personal leadership – vision, discipline, passion and conscience – which in the context of our organization or business become:
Modelling (conscience) or setting a good example
Pathfinding (vision) or jointly determine the course
Aligning (discipline) or setting up and manage systems to stay on course
Empowering (passion) or focusing talents on results, not methods. Then get out of people’s way and give help as requested.
If you are a director or CEO in any organization, you may see these four roles as a challenging but natural way to fulfil stewardship. But seeing them as roles for senior executives only would perpetuate the prevailing mindset that says: “The boss does all the important thinking and decision making.” No, these four roles are for everyone, regardless of position. And so, we must take our own responsibility and live by principles that guide our personal leadership. The biblical parables of the pounds and the talents illustrate that the more you use and magnify the gifts or talents you have been given, the more gifts and talents you are given. But if they are ignored or buried and remain undeveloped and unused, the very talents or gifts that you have been given will be lost and often given to another. So, you end up not only losing talents but also losing influence and opportunities. Instead, we should be exercising influence and take opportunities.