Good Leaders Get up Again when they Fall
Let’s highlight a few of the most important qualities of a leader:
First and foremost, a leader must have:
A vision and a sense of purpose
One of the very first things good leaders do is to paint a picture of where the organisation needs to go and to show their followers how to work towards the goal that the organisation needs to achieve.
As a leader, therefore, you must be able to dream dreams of the kind of future you want to see. But the future is not something you wait for; it doesn’t end as a dream — the future is purposely created. You need to have a plan to create the future you dream of.
To win the support of your followers, the future you create must be a compelling one which inspires others to want to buy into the vision. To inspire others, you must be a person of influence.
Great leaders have inspired others to do extraordinary things. It is not a question of using force. A leader who uses force to achieve what he or she wants to achieve is a dictator.
True leadership thrives on the power to influence: the ability to inspire others so that they find themselves willingly and voluntarily doing what the leader wants them to do, without coercion and without fear of reprisals.
For followers to be inspired in this way, what the leader wants them to do should be something they can relate to; something about which they can say: “Yes, this is good for the organisation. Yes, this is good for us.”
A Person of Character
Now, for the leader to be able to influence and inspire others like this, he or she must be a person of character. This means a person who is consistent in behaviour, a person of integrity whose character is unquestionable; a person whose conduct and behaviour is beyond reproach.
In other words, the leader must be a role model. They must embody what they stand for; meaning that a leader must be someone who walks their talk. What it also means is that the leader must behave ethically in relation to their followers.
Going back to the need for a vision, it is important to note that it is not enough for the leader to have a vision — their character should be such that they do not betray the vision through bad and unethical behaviour. As John Maxwell has put it: “The leader finds the dream and then the people. The people find the leader and then the dream.”
The result of having a character that is not questionable is that such a person is trusted by others. It is easier to lead people who trust you, and hence leadership gurus have said trust makes leadership possible. As has been implied, character is built on the qualities of integrity, accountability and respectability.
Courage and Tenacity
Leadership also requires developing the qualities of courage and tenacity. You may have a compelling vision, and people sabotage you, oppose you, or even develop a hostile attitude towards you.
This highlights two principles: First, that in addition to courage and tenacity, you must be committed to your vision and principles. Your commitment to the cause will keep you going.
Second, the three qualities — commitment, courage and tenacity — highlight the fact that leadership is not for the fainthearted. It entails standing up for your principles in the face of opposition, and even in the face of failure.
Yes, in leadership sometimes you win and sometimes you fail. The thing to remember is to turn the failure into a lesson so that the failure becomes a lesson learnt for future success.
Leadership is like a race. In a race you may fall. The thing to do is to say to yourself: “It doesn’t matter how many times I fall. Every time I fall, I must stand up and continue with the race.”
After 11 years of writing his monthly column on Christian leadership in The Southern Cross, Prof Ngara will take a sabbatical. We thank him for his long service and invariably inspiring articles. Find his previous columns at www.scross.co.za/category/perspectives/ngara/