Leadership: Lessons along the way – 3

No one qualifies to feature in a future he is not willing to help create. Too many people want what is good but they are not willing to pay the necessary price to get it. They want handouts or hand-me-downs when what they need is a hand-up! They want crutches instead of platforms. So, their dreams die at the point of desire because they are not willing to deliberately be a part of its fulfilment. This category of people always wants someone else to make things happen for them so that they can have someone to blame when things go awry!

At a leadership conference that I facilitated some years ago, one of the issues that gave rise to animated discourse was the issue of leaders being taken for granted and not being appreciated – and in fact being betrayed and abused – by the very people into whose lives they have invested quality time. Debacle, right? Not when you have the understanding that no matter how good you are to people, not everyone will appreciate you equally. Out of envy, some will not appreciate you at all because they secretly wish they could trade places with you and be the one getting whatever accolades you are getting! People raised with an entitlement mindset hardly see the need for appreciating others because they have the mind that the world owes them everything. People who did not grow up in an environment where they were affirmed for good deeds will also never see the need to affirm or appreciate anyone. Many a pastor would tell you that most people in his congregation don’t even know his birthday and don’t care, even if they get angry at him for not remembering theirs. Ask any CEO how many of his subordinates have ever thought of his special day, talk less of appreciating him with a gift for being such a good boss. Some employees say it would look as if they are trying to be in “oga’s” good books. And I ask, what is wrong in that?

As a leader, even when people express appreciation to you verbally or through gifts, don’t get carried away. Appreciation is not necessarily a sign of commitment to you. It is largely a sign of your relevance at a given time. Some people have walked up to me or chatted me up from out of the blues to tell me how much they now appreciate the things I taught them several years ago. When asked why they had to wait so long to express these sentiments, they replied promptly that at the time I taught them, they did not see the value. But now they see it and they are eternally grateful that I taught them when I did.

This leads me to a very pertinent, though sometimes painful lesson. It is natural for someone who gives out so much to others to feel disappointed that the proportion of people who have you in mind at all is very small compared to the number of people you are or have invested your life and time in. Truth be told, ninety-nine percent of the time, people are more preoccupied with themselves, their vision, their project etc., that they hardly have time to think of you! Ouch!

Have you ever trained people based on an expectation that they will thereafter be expected to fill a certain gap in your organization, only to have them leave at the point where you felt they could now step into the prepared role? This is one of the major reasons for burnout and exhaustion in leadership. This issue features like a recurring decimal in almost every pastors’ conference! It is one of the reasons why many company CEOs do not place much premium on staff training and development. Feeling betrayed and abused is only natural. I used to feel that way too until I learnt that expecting too much from people only sets you up for massive disappointment.

Influence is first local before it is global. If you cannot make a difference where you are now, you will not be able to do so anywhere else. Value contribution or addition is a trait that has universal relevance. But its seed must be sown and cultivated in your immediate milieu. On the street where you live, who knows you and for what? When your name is mentioned in the city where you live or the place where you work or do business, what is associated with that mention? A life of influence is never attention-seeking but it cannot be in anonymity for long too. Monuments are erected in concrete on the face on the earth but legacies are erected in memories in the hearts of men.

I am always fascinated by the story in the Bible of a woman called Dorcas. One day, she dropped dead; an incident that caused such great uproar among the other women in that community because of her value to the community. They sent for the apostle Peter. As soon as he arrived, he met a whole community of women in lamentation with each one holding a napkin, handkerchief, apron etc., that Dorcas had made for them. They were not just mourning; they did not want her to die. Peter prayed and she was revived. Those who light up other people’s pathways will themselves never walk in darkness.

Kindness knows no distance. You don’t need to be physically present to be a blessing to others. Many of the people who have benefitted one thing or the other from me are people I have never met! I mentor more people from a distance than I do in proximity. This is one of the advantages of technology.

Imagine this. You spent hours to prepare and offer a free class online, and some people who didn’t think it was important to be there at the appropriate time are asking questions two days after the class! I used to oblige until recently. Anyone who doesn’t think I am worthy of his time, attention, compliments and resources, is not worthy of my sweat either. I will still give out of benevolence, but bending over backwards to give quality time to those who don’t think they need or appreciate me or the value that I carry, only robs me of the time I should have dedicated to those who do!

Along the way, I also learnt that the difference between the poor and the rich is not their background or environment. It is coded in three words; contribution, communication and connection! Value contributors are in short supply but in high demand. They run enterprise and are enriched by consumers. Those who can solve problems for others and have developed a capacity to communicate that value in a way that connects it with those who need it will forever find that the universe is wired to empower and enrich them. Those who only wait to receive and consume value will always remain the tools for that enrichment.

The Yoruba captured that wisdom when they said, “the giver’s hand is always on top of the receiver’s”!

 

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

 

 

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