Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Leadership: A Practical Meaning

Leadership has diverse meanings and different facets, depending on which angle it’s visualised. Peter Northouse sees leadership as “a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”  Winston and Patterson said:  “a leader is one or more people who selects, equips, trains, and influences one or more follower(s) who have diverse gifts, abilities, and skills and focuses the follower(s) to the organization’s mission and objectives, causing the follower(s) to willingly and enthusiastically expend spiritual, emotional, and physical energy in a concerted and coordinated effort to achieve the organization’s mission and objectives.”

Encarta Dictionary defines a leader as a guide, director, organizer, guru, adviser, frontrunner, spearhead, leading light, trailblazer, ground breaker, forerunner, head, chief, manager, superior, principal, boss, supervisor, kingpin, and top dog. To Gary Yukl, leadership is “the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives”.

The truth is that leadership covers all areas of our life and so it could be said to be a part of our culture since culture has been defined to mean a way of life.  Leadership is seen at every level in the society, from the family level to kinsmen, community, local, state, national, even to global level. Requiring various capacities, leadership is simply the ability to lead, i.e., guide, direct or influence people.  It means management, control, guidance, headship, direction and governance.

Characteristics of leadership show that it is a process.  It involves influencing others, it happens within the context of a group, it involves goal attainment, and it’s a transactional event that happens between leaders and their followers.  It has to do with the attainment of goals, whether explicit or implicit, whether the group is made up of two individuals or thousands. The leader is in a position to direct the group or individual toward the attainment of some goals. The factors which determine who leads are inheritance (traits and talents), appropriate learning opportunities, and the situation.

Everything rises and falls on leadership. When a critical analysis of issues is done, the reality we arrive at is that the leadership of any institution whether family, company, religious body, or country is faulty or otherwise.  Meaning, if the organisation experiences increase, abundance and progress, the leadership got it right, but if it is the other way round, the leadership definitely is faulty. Leadership is a dynamic or changing process. It is dynamic in the sense that, while influence is always present, the person exercising influence may change frequently. Not only does possession of influence depend upon the situation, but it also depends upon the relevancy to the situation of the individual’s skills and abilities. An effective leader has a vision, inspires others, acts with integrity, is authentic, and delivers results.

Above all, practical leadership for me is well captured by Myles Munroe (late), a Preacher of the gospel of Christ.  He said “the greatest act of leadership is what happens in your absence”.   If everything you’ve done dies with you, you are a failure. True leadership is measured by what happens after you die. This is why true leaders don’t invest in buildings, they invest in people. Why, because success without a successor is a failure. So YOUR legacy should not be in buildings, programmes or projects, but in people. So the greatest act of a leader is mentoring. Who are you mentoring to take your place?  True leaders make themselves unnecessary.  Great leaders measure their greatness by their absence.  If you die today as a leader in an accident, what happens to your organisation, business or ministry?  So I encourage you today to identify your successors and mentor them and train them. What happens in your absence that is “your legacy”.

Abiola Adimula – Nigeria

Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 23


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This entry was posted on July 27, 2017 by and tagged , , , .
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