Lead us ….not into temptation nor the abyss

It could be the heatwave. Maybe it is just me getting looking at the world differently: becoming aware of my own mortality.  But, I see madness. It is Alice in Wonderland but the seedy, dark version. The sense of delightful wonderment is absent, replaced by shocked astonishment. What is the world coming to? To misquote the well-known Pete Seeger song[1]: ‘Where have all the leaders (flowers) gone?’ Indeed, ‘far, far away’.

What does it mean to lead? Leadership programmes at prestigious business schools abound, thousands of books on the topic have been written and will be churned out till Kingdom come. A Google search for leadership articles in 2019 threw up 1.330.000.000 results; Google Scholar weighed in with 3.970.000 articles. The renowned Harvard Business Review has 26.460 leadership related articles on its website. There is enough academic material and case studies to turn the world, as we know it, into Utopia. And yet, one size does not fit all.

It seems that academia and researchers are continuously trying to find the Holy Grail of leadership or at least the magic formula or X factor that makes a leader outstanding. But, they often fail to acknowledge that leadership, at whatever level, is dependent on two things: context and culture.

Great leaders share common traits irrespective of time and place, but as we know, timing is everything. Ghandi was a great leader but would he have the same impact or success today? Ditto Alexander the Great, Queen Victoria, and many, many more. They were the right fit, at the right time in a specific cultural context.

So, what is the sign of true leadership? In my view, leaders are born not made. I have come across a rare few true leader visionaries in my life. What makes them stand out from other mere mortals? They are single-minded, passionate and inspiring. They lead by example, inspiring followers to work overtime, for little or no money, to go above and beyond their job description. They trust, and they have an unfaltering belief in human potential. They give you wings.

These leaders’  influence continues to resonates long after their death.

Finally, what type of leaders do we deserve? What if we choose the popular, easy candidate who turns out  to be less leader, more hot air? Well, then we have ourselves to blame. Even worse, if we become complacent or disengaged, opportunistic types will sneak in through the back door to become ‘leaders’. Great leaders do not set out to lead: their vision and beliefs drive them, which in turn, attract their followers.

In a world driven by information overload, leading to all sorts of addictions and dependencies, how do we separate the wheat from the chaff? How do we prepare the youth to choose future leaders? Why do we choose them? Is it based on their Instagram following? Their ubiquitous social media presence? Their loudness or their wealth?

There is no absolute answer: only personal choice. Yours.

I once knew a man. Or so, I thought.

He was unlike any other man I had ever met.

And in retrospect, would ever meet.

He was a prophet.

Not honoured In his own land, by his own people or in his lifetime.

Chosen by destiny

He was a leader.


[1] https://www.bing.com/search?q=where+have+all+the+flowers+gone+marlene+dietrich&qs=n&form=QBRE&sp=-1&ghc=1&pq=where+have+all+the+flowers+gone+marlene+di&sc=0-42&sk=&cvid=47ED38C9F5BD458DA1B8DF6132C08A91