A true leader is a rarity and it is no wonder that they are looked up to and revered by common mortals. We are imperfect beings and when we see a human being endowed with all the lofty virtues that we hold dear, we tend to revere him.
A leader is the one who lives by the adage “Do as I do,” rather than “Do as I say.” True leaders have integrity. It is central to everything they do. They are known for the values, principles, and rules they live by and abide, irrespective of the circumstances.
All true leaders share the same qualities, regardless of whether they are leaders in business or in society. They realize that whatever scale they measure their ethics with; they have to raise the bar while leading people. True leaders work alongside the people they lead. They realize that leadership is not about a single person; it’s about the entire team. It’s about “we” rather than “me.”
Human history has shown us that every tribe has trusted its leader because they believe that the leader has a sense of responsibility and duty greater than the self. The leader embodies the trust of his/her tribe and leads them towards the future, however, uncertain it may be. And yet, the tribe follows the leader, regardless of this uncertainty.
Honesty, Trust, Integrity – The Three Core Values
The foremost quality of a leader is honesty that inspires undying trust. A business and its employees are only as good as the leader. It is, in fact, a reflection of the leader’s personality. If the leader is honest, the team follows suit. If the leader, through his actions, promotes a healthy office life, he/she can encourage the employees to follow those standards and never deviate from them. It is often said that “Being honest always pays so that you never have to remember what you said.”
Personal integrity is paramount for leaders. If leaders follow what they preach, only then can they be followed with trust. According to Gunnar Lovelace, Co-CEO, and Co-Founder, Thrive Market, “Our employees are a direct reflection of the values we embody as leaders. If we’re playing from a reactive and obsolete playbook of needing to be right instead of doing what’s right, then we limit the full potential of our business and lose quality talent. If you focus on becoming authentic in all your interactions, that will rub off on your business and your culture, and the rest takes care of itself.”
Are Great Leaders Born, and Not Made?
To an extent, one can learn some of the skills that help make a better, more effective leader, but I believe that leadership qualities are innate and inherent. A great leader is born, not always made. Leadership is inherently linked to us at a more transcendental level. And because it is a property of the relationship between different individuals, it certainly cannot be defined as a characteristic of a single individual.
To understand how leadership is about “we” and not “me,” let us take the oft-repeated analogy of hydrogen and oxygen, neither of which have the properties of wetness. And yet when they combine, they form water, which gains the property of wetness. This means that leadership extends well beyond the finite “me.”
As humans, we are not put on this earth as individuals who simply bump into each other in their quest to satisfy material desires. There is no “me.” There is a deeper “I-we” relationship that we need to acknowledge and appreciate. And thus, a true leader is the one who realizes this natural “I-we” relationship and acts consistently with it.
So What Went Wrong?
In today’s age, the Alpha wants to succeed, unfortunately, at all costs. This means often forsaking the interests of his company, employees, and other stakeholders. Many “business leaders” believe that leadership is all about delivering maximum results and driving profits by whichever means possible. The definition of such a leader is rather shallow – “one who measures up to expected results.” This leads to disastrous results.
True leadership is a forgotten art these days. Instead of learning from our forefathers and carrying the leadership mantle forward, we have let political correctness and self-get in the way, thereby drifting from the sound values and principles laid down by some of the truly great leaders of yore.
The “Belief Hurdle”
As humans, we hold certain beliefs in our mind’s eye, through which we perceive what we call reality. This reality isn’t as unadulterated as we might believe but is influenced by our thoughts. It is these beliefs and pre-conceived notions about reality that we hold that direct our perceptions of experience. The day we have the courage to suspend all our current beliefs, we will see unexplored possibilities and countless other perspectives. This is where a true leader’s capabilities lie – to see beyond what is.
When the leader does see the possibilities that lie beyond current reality, he facilitates their turning into a probable reality for all and not only for the self. This is where the leader’s thoughts are in sync with the “I-we” relationship.
Leadership Begins with the Empowerment of Self
We live in an ego-centric, materialistically-driven society. But in reality, our lives are linked with each other on a deeper, transcendental level. If we continuously focus on the “me,” we will eventually destroy the “we.” True leadership helps the collective to achieve self-actualization and not just material gains. This can happen only when the leader empowers him/herself. True leadership begins with self-development.
Leadership Isn’t about Hierarchy
The most common misconception among us is that leaders are the ones at the top of the management hierarchy. A CEO is a leader, while the manager is not. A true leader may not hold any position of power and yet can be one of the finest leaders among men. This is because he has the power of empathy. He believes firmly in the “I-we” relationship that makes us all inextricably linked with each other at a transcendental level. He cares for the wellbeing of the other individual and he is concerned about his progress and development.
A true leader sees another person as a human being, not so different from him/herself. Unfortunately, the word “leader” itself depicts a situation of one leading and the others following. But as previously explained, a true leader is the one who works “among” his people and not “apart” from them. He is always “in the game.”
Leaders are True Heroes
You need a unique transformation of the self to place the well-being and development of your followers above and beyond self-preservation. This implies transcending our animal instincts and revealing our noble and exalted human values. And when we can transcend our base instincts to focus our attention on the needs of our fellow beings, we can actualize the latent potential of a human being. This is when one is known as a leader.