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  Life is a journey and sometimes, we get lost. Leadership is a rollercoaster ride; sometimes, they love you, then they hate you and they may love you again. As you lead people in the corporate world, the first discovery you’d make is that your subjects are more comfortable with a familiar discomfort than they are with an unfamiliar new possibility.
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If you choose to change the route, expect opposition. On that path, you (your ideas and ideology) may die a hero or you live long enough to be the villain. Whatever the case is, understanding that people are complex and being prepared for that complexity is key. Carrying people along also is key. In the end, it’s really about others. Average people have the luxury of saying that spoilt child talk of “it’s my life, I can go where I want, I can live how I want to”. But that should not be you as a leader. When you become a truly authentic leader whether in the corporate world or in society, you just don’t go on that journey of your life alone anymore, you become the cowboy on the hill, top of the food chain, easy to spot. And your people (clients, employees, and even competitors) subconsciously come along and blames come along with it too. The outcomes can be unknown for it’s a Yellow Bricks Road. It’s bad enough that people forget that you’re also trying to figure some parts of it out. They assume you of all people should know the way as you’ve always gone the way so, show the way. You just can’t live anyhow. You really can’t even make excuses. A decade ago, I jumped out of college and started my business without any prior warning as to what leading a workforce is. After fiddling with it for years as a CEO, I found out the first rule of leadership: everything is your fault. Walk from there back. In the words of Lao-Tzu, “a leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him. But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.”  Leadership isn’t always about being on top or in front. The basic level of leadership is about how many people are actually following you; the advanced level looks at how many leaders and not followers follow you. Someone asked me yesterday during a strategy session I was facilitating on how best one can move from being a boss to being a leader. And my response is for the person to move from thinking of “I” to “we”. Real leaders travel light, not carrying the heavyweight of self-centeredness and ego. We, most times, can’t be totally selfless but we can, at least, exercise thinking less of ourselves in situations. The challenge of leadership to those in its position is that most people suffer from the delusion of grandeur (that is like a narcissist, literally seeing themselves as on top and others beneath so they talk and act down on those they should be uplifting). And talking about uplifting, the motivation that a leader generates is key. The energy you bring should be priceless. In my years of being in the corporate world and fighting competition in the marketplace, I have come to look out for the quality of those at the top. I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep (herd) led by a lion. He can inspire guts, he can raise wannabe lions. As a leader, ensure you try to not raise followers but leaders. Put them in positions where they also learn to lead. A leader is not a person who can perform better than his people. It is someone who can inspire his people to perform better than themselves and even him, willingly. True leadership is s powerful mental state than a position. Positional leadership rises and falls; it comes and goes but not true leadership. Whether true leadership or just merely being in its position, while in it, don’t forget to be human, pragmatic. More than your words, actions count. A leader is one that knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. Leadership, being organized and the quality of people around you are keys to the sustainable growth of your dream, especially in the enterprise system. The truth is, if you are a leader on a journey and no one is really following you, then you are only taking a walk. But for the right people to follow you enough to grow a good organization, there are principles and styles to it. And if you follow them, people will follow you. There are 4 leadership styles (directive and non-directive) TELLING: Directive/dictatorial/ autocratic SELLING: Directive, persuasive, oratory in delivery, still not enough room for follower input in decision making, COLLABORATING: Democratic (bear in mind that the wrong or misinformed people in a group, when given the power to always choose, will democratically make the wrong choice). EMPOWERING: This allows the followers to make decisions themselves. It’s called Management By Objectives. This is apt when you have disciplined high fliers. None of them is clear cut better, depending on the situation, the mentality of the team, the culture/state of the minds within and the level of maturity of the organization.
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But the following must be present as you lead people into being right for the organization to grow: VISION: Ensure you appear and communicate as a sound visionary. The truth is that people buy into the leader first and then the vision. SPEAK and COMMUNICATE eloquently with clarity and passion from a place of authority. People usually tend to follow people who they feel is deeper and stronger than them. Stand on solid grounds, or at least appear that way. RESPECT YOURSELF and then OTHERS: People naturally follow people they respect. INTUITION: Be deep enough to discern. Practice till you master meditation. Everything is created first from the mind. And the mind draws from the spirit. Be spiritually intelligent. DEVELOP MAGNETISM FOR THE BEST. You attract your kinds. And while at it, give value, show empathy and connection (touch a heart, before you touch a hand). DEVELOP AND MENTOR PEOPLE. And then have a nested inner circle from differing circle to spar on all levels. If I can sum up the keywords for leadership, it will be the following:
  • Be practical about it; run it; be a model to someone.
  • Be patient.
  • Show strength.
  • Assume you have no power.
  • Establish a team-wide goal.
  • Manage expectations.
  • Think outside of the box.
  • Stay ethical and fair.
  • Remember, you’re a leader, not a boss.
  • Be a role model.
  • Be fluid and adaptable.
  • Be a mentor.
  • Don’t buckle under opposition.
  • Prepare your team and prepare yourself.
  • Step out of situational conflict.
  • Show appreciation.
Success in leadership comes with a delicate balance; between difficulty and possibilities. This is further illustrated in the Theory of Desirable Difficulty made popular by Malcolm Gladwell. It is similar to the ancient biblical letter written to the Corinthians, saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”. There are, actually, deep powers buried in every difficult road and struggle waiting to be made manifest. Great leaders are like roses made from the concrete jungle, the harder the situation, the greater the outcome. People who don’t face that much adversity really don’t amount to much. This is why successors of great leader or rich kids rarely topple their parents’ achievement because they never went through what the suffering their parents or successors did. And except they go through a degree of Desirable Difficulty (which love won’t let their parents allow) and why kids with poor backgrounds have more chances of being more successful than smart kids. Back to an application of this in business, when your people experience the right amount of pressure, they do their best work. However, if there’s too much or too little pressure, then performance can suffer. The Theory of Desirable Difficulty is much complex than this. Too much or too little pressure will ruin performance. You need to find the right threshold. But how? Let me break it down. Imagine performance as a graph. It’s never linear but polynomial say cubic differentiated into quadratic. Finding the minimax and maximin of the curve is like finding what point Diminishing Return hits the X and Y variables of Productivity Curve in economics. You can actually represent it in a graph, (the curve will be like the inverted U shape curve, like the classic curve of the Law of Diminishing Return). Your role as a CEO is to supply some level of pressure on that curve so it rises. It’s a delicate rise though and your role is to find at just what point is best before a negative turn in the graph. At that point, growth is born out of pressure and previous difficulty. But if I am to tell the absolute truth, nothing is that absolute, not even universal laws (hence there won’t be the law of aerodynamics going against the law of gravity). If life or business is as absolute or as simple as mathematics, one would have simply equated the derivative of life quadratic function to zero and solve for x to get to know the exact maximum point on the curve. Unfortunately, it is not. So many variables known and unknown are involved in life equations, but there are predictive models about life and business, still, that makes things easy and one of the ones I’m sure of, is finding the balance between ease and difficulty. Leadership is a roller coaster journey to wherever we go, except that sometimes we get lost. The true test of leadership is in how quickly you can find your way back. It’s like the old, bad dusty Yellow Bricks Road that Dorothy Gale went through in the story from the 1900 book, The Wizard of Oz. Keep going, for difficult roads lead to beautiful places. I will see you at the top. Featured Image Source: Simplilearn
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This article was first published on 19th June 2021


Uwaoma Eizu is the founder and lead strategist of the Hexavian group. He is a graduate of Mathematics with two Master's Degrees, a PMP and other management certifications.

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