Five key realities for leader to transform their organisations
Namibia, Africa and the world need a new breed of leaders, a cadre of people who are attuned to five key realities:
The first reality all new leaders need to embrace is the fact that change is the only constant in life. Many things in life are predictable. Some things can be stopped; others can be delayed. And still others can be slowed down. The one thing that is guaranteed in our lives is change.
It will always happen, and will do so at its own pace and with its own time. And real, meaningful, change is never silent or subtle. Like strong wind it blows and sweeps everything in its wake. Those who are prepared for change will prosper, whilst those who are ill-prepared will perish. Like rootless trees they will be uprooted and blown away in any direction. And change is global – one cannot run away to a different part of the world and hope to hide from change. To effectively deal with change, we need a new breed of leaders in our society – leaders who are capable of anticipating the future; leaders who are responsive when life so demands; leaders who have a vision; leaders with purpose and leaders who invoke innovation at every turn to stay ahead of change. There is an urgent need, and not just in Namibia, but on the entire African continent, to eradicate poverty and other social and economic ills that hamper us as people to rise to our true potential. This calls for a new breed of great men and women who are evidently hungry to rise to the occasion, and who are sufficiently courageous to put themselves out there.
Leadership reality number two is the need to rise to the occasion. This talks to a leader’s ability to take risks. It is easy to follow the herd and go with the whirlwind. After all, that’s where the world is going, you would argue. It is easy to give up on our vision because it is too difficult and demanding; because there are too many and urgent things that overwhelm us; because we are afraid of making mistakes and taking risks that could cost us. Yet as leaders, the onus is on us to move the world forward. We need to own our visions, to take risks to give effect to our visions, and intrinsically to accept that we will make mistakes on this journey. Whether we act or not, we face only two choices – success or failure. The question clearly becomes – would you as a leader be satisfied with a legacy of failure because you were afraid of taking risks and venturing into the unknown in pursuit of the greater good of humanity or will you sail into the sunset peacefully knowing you have succeeded because you were bold? The choice is squarely in your hands. Number three is the need to have the first line of access to knowledge. The saying that you are what you know might come across as marginalizing but reality is that decisions and choices are made based on information at our disposal. When we are able to access knowledge as leaders, we can dream better, we can anticipate better, we can decide better, we can lead better and we can guide better. We will grow as individuals whilst at the same time also growing those around us and the organizations we lead. As effective leaders, we need constantly to revisit our ‘knowledge baskets’ and actively seek ways of enriching these baskets. You should talk to diverse people; you should read widely; and you should attend relevant forums and listen to a diverse range of speakers. To be among the new breed of leaders, you need to have an open line, as it were, to current knowledge. You never know enough and you can certainly never rely on yesterday’s knowledge. You are sure to become a dinosaur if you did.
The fourth reality is the need to remain relevant as a leader. Success frequently breeds contempt, and often leads to arrogance and complacency. Successful leaders are routinely tempted to think that they know it all; that they have mastered it all, and that they have become indispensable to humanity. They often dis-engage from the people and the things that made them successful and become arrogant and detached. They lose track of what is happening in their surrounds and quickly forget that the leadership methods of yesteryear naturally become extinct. They ignore the fact, too, that they need continuously to renew and re-invent themselves. Belonging to the new breed of leadership requires that you remain grounded in your surroundings as a leader, that you continuously re-invent yourself and that you take calculated risks to remain relevant. You need to move with the times.
And finally, number five is the need to lead with an open heart, with passion and to remain hungry. Leadership is as much about people as it is about outcomes. A true leader achieves miracles through ordinary people. He gets people to follow him voluntarily. He gets people to commit to his vision and not only share in, but also truly co-own, that vision. True leaders lift their followers to new, souring heights.
How do they achieve all these fantastic results?
They do so from the heart. They have a genuine desire to help others to achieve their true potential. They are passionate about what they do and believe in. And they are always hungry – hungry to learn more, to achieve more, to help more people; and hungry for a better future not so much for themselves but specifically for others around them. Followers do not dedicate themselves to their leaders’ causes because such leaders have the best – or award-winning – strategic plans. They do so because of their leaders’ genuine passion for them. Jesus Christ’s disciples followed Him because of His genuine love and care for us human beings, not because of some philosophically-worded strategy document He had. You can say the same thing about Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. Their passion was written on their hearts. Their hunger for the betterment of humanity was inspirational. They were literally able to move mountains with their passion alone. They were, for their time, a new breed of leaders. And lessons from their lives remain true and relevant to this day.