Caribbean history is very unique and diverse and as a result we have many, many different perspectives when it comes to the topic of leadership. I use the word “perspective” because what I am about to share with you is just that: my perspective.
Over the last five years or so, I have been very intentional in learning more about leadership and its role in the development of myself, our communities and the Caribbean as an entity. I have observed over time that our “leaders” don’t always exhibit all the behaviours expected of a leader and it is possible that this is a result of our history.
Forced Christianisation of the new world by the colonial powers, slavery, indentureship… All of these events lead to what seems to be the perpetuation of hierarchical leadership, positional rather than persuasive or more importantly, influential leadership. We see it in our homes, our education system, our law enforcement agencies and our governments.
Where have we gone wrong?
How do we overcome the leadership virus which seems to be infecting our society and trickles down into our businesses?
One of my mentors, John C. Maxwell, who was recently named, for the 7th straight year, as the world’s number one authority on the subject says,
“Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less.”
This leads me to believe that what our leaders need to….scratch that; what WE need to focus on is influence. However, before we can influence others, there are some things we must improve in ourselves.
The greatest form of leadership is self leadership. Too often we focus outward when the challenge begins with us. In my pursuit to add value to my Caribbean community I have put together these 3 Tips to Improve Our Leadership. While this list is by no means exhaustive, I believe it is a great place to start.
Activity is Not Necessarily Accomplishment
Have you ever been in a situation where you are working, and working, and working but you never seem to get anywhere? Or maybe you started an exercise regime and for months you trained and after it was all over you realized you gained weight? Truth be told, most people go through life, active, or as we like to say busy, and at the end of it all, they never really accomplish anything tangible. You’re probably asking yourself, “What does all this have to do with leadership?”
As I said earlier, the greatest form of leadership is self leadership. We cannot hope to lead others if we cannot first effectively and efficiently lead ourselves. Too often, we as entrepreneurs and business owners get caught in the activity matrix. We keep ourselves busy, with no real consideration for the way we measure the effectiveness of our activities and the gaps that may arise.
Some years ago, in the early stages of my working life, part of my business was calling prospective clients as well as existing clients to market new products and services that I was offering. I was extremely diligent in this exercise. I would usually put aside a couple hours, twice a week, to make phone calls. The problem was after months of making all those phone calls and putting in all those hours, I hadn’t made a cent. I later learnt there was a gap in my practice.
“Fortune is in the follow up” was what one of my mentors told me. This made me realize that my priorities were skewed and as a consequence, my effectiveness as a leader and entrepreneur suffered.
This brings me to my point: leaders prioritize!
Set up your action items in order of importance and urgency and tackle them as they come. Determine if what you are doing will bring you the greatest return. Leaders are able to look ahead and more importantly, they are able to do the important things even though it may be uncomfortable and sometimes even painful.
A Leader Needs a Picture
People do what they see their leaders doing. It’s as simple as that.
Think about it for awhile; everything you do today, you do because you saw someone in your life (usually someone you look up to or admire) do it that way.
A leader should be able to act and live their lives in such a way, that paints a picture of integrity, transparency, ethics and all the other commendable qualities that should be exhibited by a good leader. Just as I was writing this article, I was having a discussion with my wife about living a transparent life and how important it is for a leader.
In my line of work, I interact with teens on a regular basis and as a leader and someone they look up to I have to be careful that what I am telling them to do is congruent with how they see me live my life. I cannot stress this enough: People do what they see you do; they don’t do what you say. Self leadership truly begins when what you say matches what you do.
It stands to reason then, that if as a leader, whether it be in a school, in your own business or even in your own home, you are experiencing undesirable behaviours or qualities from the people under your charge that you should probably check yourself first before dealing with them. Even the Bible recommends that one must first remove the plank from one’s own eye before one attempts to remove the speck from another’s.
Leaders Add, Leaders don’t Subtract
Have you ever noticed that in and out of election campaign seasons, opposing sides tend to lambast each other in an attempt to gain ground with voters and – more importantly – to bury their opponents?
While it is understood that human nature desires to win it is to be noted that a true leader does not seek to diminish others in order to make themselves bigger or better. A true leader adds to those who they come into contact with, by means of service.
A head of state, teacher, parent or business owner will run a much more successful ship if he or she makes it a priority to add into the lives of his or her constituents, students, children, employees and partners, rather than look down on and undermine them in an attempt to assert their authority.
Take Mother Teresa for instance. She was a great leader, focused on adding value to everyone she came into contact with. She was not rich or powerful looking, but her brand of leadership, leadership by addition, gave her the moral authority and opportunity to speak with and counsel large multinational gatherings. She was highly respected and sought after because of her mandate to give of herself in order to add to the lives of others. Notice the difference in what she did as opposed to what we know to be leadership as exemplified by those in “authority”.
Remember, leaders add, they do not subtract.
If nothing else we must know, without a shadow of a doubt that leadership starts with each individual and will expand and filter its way – good or bad – into all the aspects of our society. Continue to practice and develop sound leadership habits.