Do we want leaders who are keen to get into positions of power because they see the benefits for themselves or do we want leaders who want the power to serve their fellow citizens for the good of all?
Come election time, politicians are big on promises. Their expertise, however, seems to lie in being able to craft attractive and compelling promises rather than in being able to make the promises they make become reality.
Events in the recent US Presidential election and the UK Brexit vote make the point that, while democracy may be the best option available to us at this stage, the majority is not necessarily right.
My editorial this week, “What are leaders expected to do?” suggests two ways in which leaders can make a difference.
What are leaders expected to do?Whether in the world of work, politics or sport, the term “leadership” has become a status symbol. Everybody wants to be known as a leader, regardless of whether they have the qualities and skills to be a leader, or whether they are in a leadership position or not.
These misplaced expectations have resulted in people ending up in leadership positions who have not the faintest idea of what leaders are supposed to do. Once they are placed in a leadership position, therefore, their energies and efforts are directed at keeping themselves in their “leadership” position – at all costs.
Leadership then becomes synonymous with “power” and none of these so-called leaders wants to lose power once they’ve acquired it. Such people should rather be referred to as people in positions of power rather than in positions of leadership.
To hang onto their power, they will try to please whoever it is they think will help keep them in power. They will spend days, weeks and months plotting against those they perceive to be threats to their power. They will avoid making any decisions that are not central to their efforts to retain power.
Sound familiar? Thought so …
Leaders must lead others to something betterIn a nutshell, what few people genuinely understand is that leadership is about using your skills and qualities to take action in order to lead people to a better reality. That’s it. If you’re not leading people to something better, you’re not a leader. At best, you’re a dreamer, at worst, you’re a despot.
So, when we talk about a leader having vision, we’re talking about that leader having a vision of a better future to which he wants to lead people. And, more importantly, that leader needs to have the capacity to be able to make that vision a reality.
Leaders must put the needs of others first
Over the past 10 years, South Africans have experienced political leaders putting their interests and needs first. The result of this has been corruption on a scale never witnessed in the country. When leaders start taking care of themselves first, they become blind and deaf to the suffering of their followers.
Business leaders who put their own needs first pay themselves bonuses that border on the obscene, while the workers who have also played a key role in creating value for the company receive nothing.
I’m not suggesting that executives should not be appropriately rewarded for their skill and expertise, but I do think this should be within reason. I’m also not suggesting that there should be a blanket reward system that rewards those who have done nothing to create value for the company. I am however suggesting that a leadership team that is committed to the wellbeing of every worker will find an innovative way to reward everyone who contributed to creating value in the company.
When leaders put their own needs first, they’re the only ones who benefit. When they put the needs of others first everyone, in their country, their community or their company benefits.
What kind of leader do you want to be? More to the point, what kind of leader are you? Our country, our communities and our companies need leaders who are in leadership positions for the right reasons – to take people to a better future and to put their people’s needs before their own.
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches experienced business leaders as well as Millennial managers how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the "Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter".