Even idols have clay feet

You have seen him. Or read his books. Or heard him speak. Or watched his teaching videos. He is suave. Debonair. Great public speaker who knows how to arrest the attention of his audience while firing them up to higher standards and loftier ideals. He seems to always take the right steps. He is not expected to eat anywhere and anyhow. He should not be given to public display of emotions like mere mortals. He must never be angry or raise his voice in public. When hurt, he must smile. When provoked, he must shrug and move on as if it didn’t matter.

Fear? It’s supposed to be alien to him. He should have an idea about everything or at least those around him expect him to. If and when he seems to fall short of popular expectations, his critics always believe that they can do a better job than him. He is to represent and manage the interests of several, yet to many of them, he is an enemy. He is to be everyone’s encourager and hold things together even when he is falling apart. Everyone expects him to solve every problem even when he himself is mired in several personal challenges. Slap him on one cheek, he is expected to simply turn the other cheek so that you can, if need be, repeat the process. His marriage must be a perfect poster-face of the ideal home. His spouse and children must get things right, walk and talk in a particular way just to suit a narrative that doesn’t necessarily line up with logic.

Even when he dresses casually, there must be a classy slant to his look. His canvass shoes must never be dirty. Eat in public? That would be an anathema. He should not crack jokes in public because he must not appear too human.

Who has this intimidating profile? This is the image most people have of the quintessential leader. What exactly is wrong with this picture? Everything. The rock-solid, perfect, together, flawless human leader is an oxymoron. It is rooted in the unrealistic myth of an illusory phantasmagoria of what seems to be their function and lifestyle which makes most people believe that once a person becomes a leader, he is expected to be infallible. For this reason, many people are highly unforgiving of his foibles which essentially make sure he is grounded in the realm of humanity.

In reality, the rich also cry. Do you remember the popular Mexican sitcom by that title in the eighties? Idols do have clay feet. The best of men are still men at their best. Because he is first human before being a leader, no leader is infallible. To get the best of any leader, you must first recognize and acknowledge the fact that he is fallible. To better understand the frailties and downsides of the leadership burden, I will use the acronym F.AL.L.I.B.L.E.

Leaders fail. Ask any great leader if he has ever failed. If he wants to be honest with you, his first reaction would likely be a long laugh. Why? Because you are asking a question with a very predictable answer! Every great leader will regale you with chapters and seasons of failure that he experienced at various times in his life. This is aside of many misfortunes that he must have experienced in the trajectory of his journey in responsibility. Exemplary leadership is not about never failing or falling. It is about the capacity to rise above and walk beyond the failure and to get up, clean up and move on, having learnt the lessons from the experience! I once sat with a multi-millionaire who had made good for himself outside the general circuit of contract-peddling and name-dropping. While telling me about his life experiences, he made reference to the establishment of Leyland, manufacturers of the Land Rover range of vehicles in Nigeria several years ago, a deal in which he lost a whopping five million POUNDS STERLING. That was in 1976, at a time when the Naira was exchanging for a little over sixty kobo to the US Dollar! I was flustered. Seeing my bewilderment, he wasted no time in telling me that such experiences actually taught him more lessons than success could ever have taught him!

You probably have heard that great men and leaders fear nothing and no one. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I have never met a leader who has never been afraid. There are several times in the life of every leader where, confronted with several challenges, he literally has his heart in his mouth. His heart is racing and his blood pressure likely on the rise. Yet he is never expected to betray the emotion of fear before his followers because he is not to be seen as falling apart when his troops are dismayed. Courage has never been the absence of fear or danger. It is the ability to look fear in the face, confronting it with a resolution that an expected outcome is more desirable than the fear-inducing experience. I have been in situations where I was almost peeing in my pants but had to put up a stoic face and smile as if there was no problem! The faith of a leader is rooted in the understanding that avoiding a challenge will not necessarily make it go away. So he does whatever it takes to confront it. Brave leadership is simply the capacity to act in the face of uncertainty, forging ahead in the knowledge that a coin can only fall on one of its sides. Leaders who have found a compelling ‘WHY’ rise above the fear and do the needful rather than the convenient.

The path of leadership can be a lonely road. Very often, the leader finds himself in a position where he is the only one who has successfully completed in his mind, the journey that he is calling others to embark upon with him. Those who do not know where you are headed can hardly be expected to give you reliable direction that can guarantee your arrival. For this reason, leaders are largely misunderstood and sometimes wonder who they can trust. So, even while working with people, they hardly have genuine relationships. As the one expected to solve problems for others, few care to know if he has any! I have been a pastor for close to 30 years. I can say that many of my parishioners pray for me but I do not remember the last time that anyone actually asked me what I need prayers on! Even when a pastor is sick in his own body, he is expected to pray for everyone else and visit the sick while he battles his challenges alone with God. To the average church member, a pastor should never have a health challenge. At the peak of Jesus’ agony before he went to the cross, he requested that his three prominent disciples accompany him to go and pray. One hour did not pass by before they fell asleep, leaving Him to His predicament…

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!