Leadership beyond the storm

He had led his team from one victory to another even in the face of stiff competition from the corporate behemoth that seemed to monopolize the landscape. He was formerly in the employ of Saujamite Ltd as the Personal Assistant to the CEO. However, as he demonstrated leadership in a way that put him firmly in the consciousness of the entire organization, a situation that riled his boss’ nerve to no end and attracted his implacable envy. After a few attempts on his life, the young man had to flee from his boss and the organization. On his exit, some other employees who were disenchanted and thoroughly disgruntled with the system pulled out and went to join him to form Son of Jesse Incorporated. The new company soon began to have its own challenges but one by one, the team, which had bonded very well under David’s leadership, surmounted them all and the venture blossomed even with lean resources.

One day, the team went out on an expedition. Unfortunately, while they were away, an aggressive competitor came in what appeared to be a rabidly hostile take-over bid and ravaged the entire company, stripping it bare of its major assets.  On their return, seeing the extent of damage done, every member of the team was disconsolate. All their investment was literally wiped out and it didn’t seem that there could be a way out. The gains of previous enterprise had, in a manner of speaking, gone up in smoke!  The only way forward in the natural was declaring bankruptcy. Even David the CEO was not spared. He too practically lost everything. Everyone including the CEO was grief-stricken. Where would they begin again from?

In the ensuing melee, all team members passed a vote of no confidence on the CEO. Unanimously, they voted to have him removed. Some even suggested that his exit should be greeted with ignominy. Put a publication in as many newspapers as possible as well social media to thoroughly tear to shreds, any modicum of honour that he might have. Nobody thought of the fact that their experience was also the CEO’s experience! None of them even remembered that it was Son of Jesse Inc. that gave them a chance and a landing pad that made their exit from Saujamite Ltd worth the move.

In the above story, I have tried to deconstruct the story of David and his ragtag army and their experience with the Amalekites. The original story is found in 1 Samuel 30.

Disappointments, betrayals, denials, persecution for a conviction, rebellion, disloyalty, distractions, slander, prejudice, the whole gamut and more. These are all familiar items on the experience menu of every leader worthy of that description. It is not a matter of ‘if’, it is a matter of ‘when’! This is why I tell people who desire leadership that until you are ready for the heat, don’t venture into the kitchen! Unfortunately, when not properly handled, the emotional and physical toll can cause the leader to sink into a depression. In fact many leaders who are unable to handle such pressure have been known to contemplate or even commit suicide!

So, how does a leader navigate the labyrinths of a contorted road that seems so laden with landmines?  It would be instructive to learn from what the CEO of Sons of Jesse Inc. did.

When faced with a crisis, the first thing a leader needs to do is get perspective. Return to the source of your inspiration. This is where a consciousness of the God-factor and the knowledge that He is the one who sets people in position for a higher purpose becomes absolutely necessary. Leaders who carry on as if there is no God are usually the greatest casualties of these issues. In the scenario narrated above, the leaders’ faith becomes the veritable anchor. In the original story, it is recorded that David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. He understood that his relationship with God was the only reason why Son of Jesse Incorporated could take up bigger competition and walk away victorious even when outnumbered and overwhelmed by them. Leaders who fall apart when their followers are overwhelmed or stand against them are clearly demonstrating to the followers that they (the leaders) probably never deserved to be called ‘leader’ in the first place. Effective leaders should never be uncomfortable with being vulnerable but they must never be seen to be indecisive. To act, they learn to draw on an inner strength for encouragement and stability when it seems that the world around them is crashing on their heads. If you are depressed within, you cannot have an answer to the storm without!

Second, recognize that your followers’ behavior is never really about them. It is a test of your own character. It is never about what people do TO you. It is about what happens IN you. More often than not, leaders who have experienced the pain of betrayal from those they had led and come to trust so implicitly simply become angry, bitter and vindictive against the followers concerned. At that point, they seek allies and define enemies in the rank. This breeds suspicion, prejudice and irrational, knee-jerk reactions that never allow the leader to see beyond the hurt. It is also the breeding ground for unbridled sycophancy. Stories calculated to polarize the rank even when crafted in the best of language to massage the leader’s ego and demonize some others begin to fly around. Once the leader develops an ear for such gossip, he soon becomes captive of a web from which he may never be able to extricate himself.

What many leaders fail to realize is that followers are constantly on the lookout for how their leader handles crisis because that is the greatest object lesson to them on how to be a successful leader. It is instructive to note that the same foot soldiers were used by David to pursue the aggressors and recover the entire lost fortunes of Son of Jesse Inc. He never looked outside them. Once he got perspective and strength from God, he simply engaged and encouraged the same team, helped them to nurse and deal with their feelings, and led them to another resounding victory. How did he do that? He held nothing against anyone. He kept trusting their ability to get things done given the right emotional environment. Even when some of them complained when David insisted that the dividends of the victory would be shared equally among everyone including those who were too weary to join the team, he rebuked them and insisted that every member of the team was valuable and that even the apparently weak ones had their utility value.

The true test of great leadership is not in leading without a crisis. It is in the leader’s capacity to navigate the waters without drowning himself and those he leads! If a leader can ensure that the waters flowing into the corporate boat don’t flow into him, he can stand in the storm and speak “Peace, be still”!

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

 

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