Here is a paper my father wrote on 10th October 1997. I got it as I was going through his old books, files etc. It may be still relevant for today’s leaders or those aspiring to lead.
Leadership has been defined in many terms but appropriately as the ingredient of personality which causes people to follow. Leadership has many faces and carries with it many responsibilities.
Leaders have roles to play including initiating, organizing, questioning, motivating, formulating etc. With the community, the leader’s obligation would be to bring out the best from within the community and help members of the same to achieve their goals through persuasion, interpersonal relations and above all tolerance.
Leadership can either be described as good or bad in quality. The symptoms of bad leadership should be made more recognizable by the people. Leaders operate among people and must be with people and in these human relations, there is nothing better than sincerity and respect for others by the leaders.
Stereotyping of leadership usually comes from our own cultural background, the environment and history. There are different types of leadership that exist today. They include;
- Traditional and hereditary. In this case, they are born into the position. Some are ceremonial in their functions.
- Military leadership. Those who emerge as leaders in this sphere are skill full, disciplined, courageous, and charismatic. There have in place an established code of conduct for the obedience of the power ranks.
- Eloquent leadership. Those who emerge as leaders in this category do so because of their unique personalities and the life they lead or preach which evoke the allegiance of others.
- Spontaneous leaders. These are persons who possess many qualities which appeal to people and are suitable for modern society. Spontaneous leaders are those individuals who within their own organizations, institutions and communities shape public opinion and create the crux of national life. It is however important to note that a military or hereditary leader may also emerge as a spontaneous leader provided that they have qualities that appeal to people and are suitable to modern society. Leadership in this context is not confined to posts in government or organizations but involves thousands of persons from the family level through to the president of the nation, all of whom are involved in getting people to follow a direction.
Leadership can be described as good or bad. There are numerous qualities that can make a leader appear good before people. The main qualities which are considered very important are:
- Integrity: to be a good leader one must be honest, open and morally upright, not corruptible but responsible in all the actions which he/she takes.
- Genuine respect for others: to be a good leader one must recognize and protect the rights of the people and show considerations for their feelings and opinions etc. The people have here may mean members of an organization, institution, agency etc. They must have faith and respect for the people being led. To cultivate faith, the leader must put in place a deliberate effort aimed at building trust between the people and the leader, hence creating a sense of personal dignity.
- Receptive and understanding: to be a good leader one must be able or quick to receive new ideas, suggestions and perceive the importance of the same to the organization or community. A good leader must be rational, friendly and accessible and should serve the interest of those who elevated her/him to that position.
The leader should provide opportunities for the less gifted as well as the vocal ones to contribute to the group thinking, planning and selection of objectives for the benefit and in the interest of the whole group.
By listening to suggestions and ideas, the leader is able to identify weaknesses and potential within the group and should strive to create a conducive working environment by showing concern for the well-being of the people. ([cf. rigidity & rudeness).
- Tolerance and courage: To be a good leader, one must be able to endure, without protecting, things that are unpalatable or disagreeable in the interest of the organization/institution. At the same, the leader must have the ability to control fear in the face of danger for the cohesion of the group.
In any organization, differences in opinions should be expected and when they occur they should be acknowledged, because it is inherited in human nature, creating a conflict of beliefs, ideas, feeling etc. Tolerating troubles and handling them constructively strengthen one’s capacity to manage the group.
A leader must accept challenges and be ready to be educated on the areas contested. If, however, the challenges are simply to frustrate the goals of the organization, then the leader should have the courage to reprimand and in case of failure, punishment must be administered to those members who may be bent on misleading the group. Inability to act on culprits breed discontent, disunity and provides fertile ground for corruption.
- Impartiality: To be a good leader, she/he must not favour one person more than another. A leader must be fair and neutral in dealing with his people. Partiality in a leader can easily be seen in the practice of favouritism and nepotism, which normally cripples productivity, results also in poor service and breeds corruption and demoralizes the group. Some individuals begin to behave as if they are above the law.
A leader should, therefore not overlook experience, efficiency and skills in assigning responsibilities. In group discussions relating to decision making, a good leader should avoid partial attention to some members of the group. Opportunities should be provided to group should accept to listen to the views of other people.
- Skilful and imaginative: A good leader should possess the ability to do his/her work well. The same should also have the ability to form mental pictures of the roles and obligations of his/her calling in a creative way. Must be able to initiate and innovate things for the good of the group etc. society is dynamic therefore the leader must have the capacity to adjust to the changing situations. This calls for sound education and high education and a high capacity of imagination in order to keep pace with the process of development. A leader equipped with skill and imagination should use the same to persuade and convince other people to make them see reason, but not to intimidate others.
A Leader must have first-hand knowledge about the working procedures of the organization and its interest in order to foster its objectives. The leader must also share the beliefs, expectations, ideas and aspirations of the group which are normally related to their performance or behavior.
Imaginative leaders should be able to predict human behaviors as result of human choices or decisions and should be able to explain technicalities involved in a given situation, while always seeking to solve problems within the group. The individual’s commitment to the values of the group/ organization takes first stage here.