The dynamics of influential leadership – 4

To do nothing because you believe that you cannot do much is to forfeit the opportunity to make an indelible impact in your generation. The Holy Bible teaches us that those who wait for all conditions to be perfect will end up doing nothing. Every day, everywhere and every time is an opportunity to make a difference. If you can influence one person for good, you can influence a family. If you can influence a family, you can influence a community. If you can influence a community, you can influence a nation. If you can influence a nation, you can be a world-changer!

Ordinary people build monuments. Leaders build legacies. Eternity is written in the hearts of men. What this means to my mind is that if you plan to live forever, do not wait till you die and go to the hereafter. No man has his entire life story written on an epitaph. On an epitaph, every man’s life is summarized by a dash between dates; the year of birth and the year of death. It will take men and women who have been touched by our lives to tell the story and construct a meaningful narrative of our earthly sojourn. Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Obafemi Awolowo, Nelson Mandela, Helen Kelley, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs; you can mention more. None of these men and women is remembered for the number of houses they built, the number of cars that they had or the amount they had in the bank in their lifetime. When historians decode the mysteries in the dash between dates of their lives, it is always about the impact that they made on humanity.

Influence has nothing to do with age. When it comes to capacity for influence, age is merely a number. You are neither too young nor too old to live a meaningful life. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish girl who has become one of the world’s most vocal environmental activists on climate change turned seventeen            in January 2020! Remember Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl who has championed the cause of women education especially in fundamentalist Islamic enclaves? She started her campaign at the age of twelve. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 at the age of seventeen, the youngest laureate ever. Jesus Christ lived for only thirty-three years. Martin Luther King Jr. was thirty-six. Col. Sanders gave the world Kentucky Fried Chicken at sixty-five!

Great influencers are futurists. They make significant impact because they are able to stand outside of the inane realities of the mundane and project into the future to envisage an ideal that transcends the moribund present. Most people are comfortable staying in a rut even when they are not happy with it. Their comfort does not come because they don’t desire a change of status quo but because for them, the price and pain of change are too much to even contemplate. In many cases, it may be that they truly lack the capacity to do anything about their dilemma. Their incapacity therefore becomes the influencer’s opportunity. Because influencers are dreamers themselves, helping others to interpret their dreams comes naturally to them.

Influential leaders plant trees under whose shadows they may never have the privilege of resting. As arrowhead of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. in his historic speech “I have a Dream” spoke about having stood on the mountain-top and seen the promised land even if he was not going to have the privilege of entering into it with the people for whom he was an advocate. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. He was assassinated thereafter; but his martyrdom only got more traction for civil rights and racial equality in the American society.

Usually regarded by the elite as the “enfant terrible” of political engagement in South Western Nigeria in his lifetime, the late Lamidi Adedibu remains a study in political strategy in Nigeria. He never occupied any political office, yet never had any other occupation outside of party politics. He did not have much education but was a political kingmaker. He underscored the truism that indeed all politics is local. He did not start a political party but every party courted his support to win elections in the South West. How did one man have such a stranglehold on the political direction of the region while he was alive? He accommodated the ordinary folk (the actual voters) against whom the elite build walls! Hundreds of people who lived on the streets found food and refuge under his shelter. In a typical Robin Hood style, he took money from political office seekers and distributed to ordinary people who would never have had access to those office seekers. In spite of all the shenanigans usually associated with him, he won my respect in many ways when I learnt about his concern for the less privileged. Even though you could say that he did that as a political strategy, the fact remains that they trusted him to get their backs and would readily kill for him if he gave the word! In a press interview, he was once asked why he never aspired for political office but he largely determined who became what in Oyo State politics. He replied that he did not need political office if he could position others who, in the exercise of their functions could never ignore him whenever he needed something that was within their capacity to provide. A classic illustration of the Law of Obligation, aka one good turn deserves another! He gave an illustration of a man who takes ten men out to do a job he was contracted to do. Upon completion of the job, he is paid one thousand Naira. If he keeps one hundred Naira for himself and gives ninety to each of the ten men, some of them could feel cheated since they were the ones who actually did the job. But if he gives each of them a hundred Naira leaving himself with nothing and then turns around to request that each one should give him whatever he feels like as a mark of gratitude for helping them find work to do, the stingiest of them would give him at least ten Naira. Even if that is all that each person gives, he would end up having one hundred Naira, ten more than the ninety Naira left with each of the men who did the job. And they would have willingly and gladly given it to him!

From that illustration, I learnt a lesson that has remained with me ever since. Great favour is the reward of great influence. Joseph didn’t apply for a job. Summoned from jail, he only told Pharaoh what to do in a national crisis. Pharaoh promptly appointed him to oversee that process. His success in that assignment made him ruler in a nation he originally came to as a slave and took him to the centre stage of Christian history; underscoring the truism that those who consistently light up other people’s pathways will themselves never walk in darkness!

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

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