In 1997, I started writing and teaching on leadership, so it is a river I have been swimming in for about 23 years! And if you have been swimming in the river of an important area of life for that long, you should know it in and out. I said that to say this: I do know leadership like the back of my palm. And beyond knowing it, I have lived it for about three decades and I am still living it in the now. Experimentally, I know what it means to lead a people out of nothing into something significant. And I do know how to paddle the canoe of an insignificant company into significance. Furthermore, I have helped several CEOs, leaders of religious institutions and government agencies to sharpen their axe-heads, moving out of nothing into something.
Also, contrary to what most of our people believe and live in a context of leadership—in Nigeria and on this continent as a whole, I do know that there is nothing glamorous about true leadership. And I do know that leadership becomes lifeless when you remove sacrifice out of it. Leaders sometimes may need to go hungry for those within their spheres of influence not to go to bed, wrestling hunger! And you may need to stop buying clothes—to take a good care of the various needs of those under your leadership.
Over the years, no one just desires to become a real leader. It is crisis that throws up true leaders. Those who desire to become leaders without wanting to solve problems are at best destructive-locusts, not leaders. Before our independence in Nigeria, all of our forefathers—who led their people in history, it was war and some other crisis of life that threw them up. During wars and some other crisis of life, people would be looking up to folks to lead them forward and having been immersed in the process of leadership for many years, the strongest and the best amongst them would step forward, solving problems for them. Today, it is a different ball game.
Too, if you want to completely die to self, then, become a leader! No true leader—thinks about himself and his interests first. What fills a leader’s mind like air—are the problems confronting his people! He goes to bed, thinking about them and when he climbs out of his bed, he wakes up with all of them on his mind. In short, he lives for his people. He does not live in opulence while his people are living in abject poverty.
Who then is a leader? If you want to be confused about who a leader is, do go online. There are several millions of definitions, when it comes to who a leader is. Buddy, before defining to you, who a true leader is, because by doing so, it will help you to be able to identify fake leaders when you see them in the corporate world, politics and religion, let me clarify some important issues in a context of leadership. To start with, it is possible to be a leadership expert without being a true leader. In Nigeria and across the length and breadth of Africa, there is a sea of faces of leadership experts, but heartbreakingly, they are not leaders! They are teaching on leadership, but they are not leaders. And the truth is, in this day and time, people are looking for true leaders, not mere leadership experts!
Also, it is possible for folks to occupy varied leadership positions and not be true leaders. I work with too far many organizations and institutions and over the years, I have met with too many people who are not leaders, but occupying varied crucial leadership positions! This is to further reinforce the fact that it is possible to occupy wide-ranging leadership positions without being true leaders.
Too, it is possible to be able to quote many leadership definitions without being a leader. Leading the pack stems beyond being able to quote some sweet words on leadership. In fact, true leaders may not even be able to memorize some of the definitions of leadership on the internet and on the inside of some leadership books, but those within their spheres of influence do know that they are leaders.
It is correspondingly possible to be rich in cash and not be a leader. And it is possible to be poor in cash and be a leader. Mahatma Gandhi led Indians against the most powerful empire (England) on earth in those days and he was not rich in cash! Nelson Mandela led his people out of apartheid, but wasn’t rich in cash, he was extremely rich in values, though. Your slavery in Nigeria will last for a very long time till you realize what I am sharing here. Those who are going to lead Nigeria out of the quagmire that we have found ourselves may be very poor in cash, but very rich in values! Hear me, people who are poor in values but rich in cash cannot lead Nigeria beyond where she is!
As I coast home, who then is a leader? A leader is someone who sits where his followers sit, suffers hunger for his people not to go hungry, he is not served, he rather serves and he lays down his life for his people. He is not a servant leader, he is a servant! He is not more important than those following him. And he does not need to study abroad to be a leader. He does not speak carelessly, but when he speaks, everyone listens to him. He does not steal from his people and gives a little to them, so they can think he cares. A true leader loves his people as his own soul. This (and more) is the portrait of a true leader, so when you see fake ones, ignore them. Till I come your way again next time, see you where true leaders are found!
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