You Can be a Great Leader
I think most of us would agree that the need for excellent leadership is one of the greatest challenges we are facing in our society. It is a frequent topic of conversation around the dinner table as well as in business meetings. What we often miss though, is that every single one of us is a leader because each of us influences other people in our environment either positively or negatively whether it be our children, colleagues or people in the community. The real question is what kind of leader we are.
Interestingly, true leadership is not about who is in charge. It is about the capacity of a person to positively influence others. The well-known business writer Stephen Covey said “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so strongly that they come to see it in themselves.” The boss in a company may be in charge but may be so self-focused that they don’t actually lead because others don’t feel inspired by them to change and grow. False leadership seeks recognition, power or status. True leadership always puts the focus on serving the other and helping them to reach their potential.
When I think back on my life, the people who have had the greatest influence on me have been those who generously shared their knowledge and experience to help me develop my gifts. When one spends time with people who day in and day out strive to live their values and to help one to reach one’s potential it makes a lasting impact.
People all over the world of a variety of faith backgrounds and none, have recognized Pope Francis as a great leader. Far beyond the position he holds, his immense influence is the result of people inspired by a model of servant-leadership which challenges the prevailing model of our time. His focus is always on the other (especially the poor and the vulnerable); he seeks to understand the needs and experience of those he leads; he holds out a vision of a church which reaches out with compassion to all of humanity. His living out of the values he holds as most important, gives us a sense of a person of integrity whose leadership we can trust.
The challenge is not just to admire great leaders but to learn from them and develop our own capacity to lead. To do that we need to constantly be reflecting on our own leadership: Is my focus on myself or on developing others? Who do I encounter each day whom I can encourage, inspire or challenge? What are the particular values Christ is asking me to live out in the world? How faithfully am I living those values? What are the graces I need to live them more fully? And what is the vision for the future that I see that I can share with others to inspire them. If each of us does this consistently, we will become better leaders and that will transform our homes, our schools, our places of work and ultimately our society.
The Leaders we Deserve? Prof Al Gini, international expert on leadership and public ethics, will deliver this year’s Winter Living Theology lectures: Joburg (20-22 May), Durban (26-28 May) and Cape Town (3-5 June). There are also evening events in parishes and business schools in each city. Contact WLT@jesuitinstitute.org.za for more information.