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The Leadership Revolution

01 February 2006   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Paul Jones
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The Leadership Revolution 
 
When I was studying as a young man I remember one of my professors giving a lecture on the importance of being prophetic and revolutionary.That was nearly 25 years ago and I have never forgotten it.Prophetic, although complex and grossly misunderstood, is probably the easier of the two to understand.Revolution is normally attributed to freedom fighters, warring kings and religious zealots, not to business and community leaders. Unfortunately the word ‘revolution’ seems to be associated with negative elements rather than positive transformation.
 
As I am writing this article, we as South Africans are soon going to be voting in the local elections for a party or an individual who we hope will have our best interests at heart; local government being the vehicle chosen by the ANC to ensure service delivery – "A Better Life for All”. Both the ANC and the DA (of course the NNP is now part of the ANC – I wonder if anyone prophesied that ten years ago?) are focusing their advertising campaigns on the importance of fighting corruption and improving service delivery.The ANC has done extremely well since coming into power but corruption within local government remains one of their biggest challenges.Examples include municipal managers running businesses on the side, while ensuring they get paid huge monthly salaries, mayors and councilors who use the system for their own benefit.Little or no thought is given for the people at grass root level who voted them in.The variety of taxes that we, businesses and individuals, are expected to pay are supposed to be used for moral causes. It is not unreasonable to expect that our taxes are used wisely.
 
Unfortunately, the in-fighting and politicking that takes place is detrimental to all, especially those who are not getting what they were promised.These are NOT exceptions but are often the norm.Of course there are municipalities, government organisations and individuals within these organisations that are moral and are doing a great job in servicing civil society.I think we all wish that there were more of these revolutionary leaders who are committed to making a positive difference.

For a moment, let’s not forget that government is not alone in unethical behaviour.The King Commission was called to set a benchmark for corporate governance issues and yet, time and again, we see how individuals and organisations violate these issues. South Africa is not the only country who behaves in this manner.It is universal; think of Enron, WorldCom, Parmalat - the list goes on and on. We all know that leadership is about influence, but what is needed most is not just influential people, but people with influence for good. We need a leadership revolution.As aleader,I need to experience myself as a person among people as opposed to experiencing myself as the person among objects. When I experience myself as the person, I tend to forget the whole UBUNTU theory – I am because you are.
 
Unfortunately as we become wealthy, we tend to neglect the fundamental principles relating to a sense of community and purpose.The last thing I want to do in this article is to mow the lawn, again and again.I want us to experiment with some principles that are timeless, yet remain as relevant today as they were then.
 
Having read the life stories of a number of revolutionaries, I have been challenged by their sense of destiny and purpose. I find it apparent that these individuals who participate in a revolution are radically changed by their immersion in the process.The ultimate success or failure of a revolution depends on how tightly its advocates align themselves with the cause and how open they are to becoming the embodiment of what they profess to bring to life.Revolutionaries experience a significant change as they align themselves with and live out their cause.I think the challenge for most of us lies in  answering this simple question: How much am I prepared to change? We also need to understand that change brings its own challenges such as our friends and colleagues starting to notice the difference in us, our marriages being challenged or outgrowing our current job or company.The stresses are enormous.If we wish to be revolutionary, we would need to raise the standard.What follows are a few suggestions on how we can attain this higher standard.

Realigning our personal identity

We are a sum total of our thoughts.We are what we think we are.Human behaviour is a series of complex negotiations among our self-image, character, values, sense of purpose and culture.Each choice we make is our best attempt to balance all these things.Who we think we are, or who we believe ourselves to be, is a major hindrance to all that we can become.This is called arrested development. Stop and think for a moment, ask yourself this one question: On a scale of one to ten, at what level am I living out my life potential? 
 
I think for all of us realise that no matter what we have achieved or what we have become, there is just so much more.We are scared to go where we have never been before.After all, a revolution is a dangerous and demanding undertaking; it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Revolutionaries have the right attitude

Let’s face it, the challenges that we are faced with daily are not always easy.Things don’t always work out the way that we planned. It is easy for us to feel sorry for ourselves. At the end of the day all we have is our attitude - our belief system.In the midst of dealing with major issues and disappointments we somehow have to make sure that our thinking remains positive.The key is to stay focused on the big issue and not allow the negative issues to impact on us in such a way that we are debilitated.

I think, however, it is important to make sure that we are realistic in our evaluations.It is no use being positively stupid and denying the reality of what’s taking place around us.This is where meaningful relationships play a major role.I have at least three mentors who speak into my life.And then of course there’s my wife. We men are reluctant to get input from our wives but it is amazing how wise they are. Us males, or some of us anyway, think that our wives don’t have the necessary wisdom, but we forget that they love us, sometimes unconditionally, and that they are only trying to protect us. Anyway, I think it is a learning curve for all of us.

At the end of the day the most valuable asset you have is your attitude. Make sure it’s the right one.
 
Build your character 
 
Integrity is a must-have quality; honesty, reliability and trustworthiness are not some old fashioned philosophy.It is a value system that makes revolutionary leaders honorable.Empathy and humility are also character traits that are not often spoken about in senior management or board meetings, yet these are the traits that make the great, greater.

Our character will be the legacy that we leave behind – not only when we die but when we perhaps change jobs or position. People will remember you for the things I have mentioned above.The day is coming where organisations will place a higher value on character.In fact, the people we lead will demand it from us.Right now in South Africa we are seeing people standing together and uniting against those who lack character.They are in essence saying that it’s not okay for leaders to abuse their power; it’s not okay to enrich yourself at the cost of the people. It’s not okay! 

Forget the politics

Jockeying for position occurs in most organisations.All the perks are up for grabs – titles, physical location, compensation, power plays, benefits, operational resources – and even the most committed players consciously go for them.Leaders who understand their purpose and why they are there don’t have time to play the political game. Dr Scott Peck, who unfortunately died recently, makes a profound statement;
 
So we arrive at the great paradox of power:  The only civil reason to seek power is to lose it, to give it away.The one mark, above all else, of the true servant leader, is that they empower others.The first duty of the civil leader is to train successors – not a successor, but as many successors as possible as quickly as possible.Use your power to seek and find people with potential to lead even greater than your own, nurture their potential with all you’ve got and then get out of the way.”The Lone Ranger is dead!

The model for leadership is changing.The heroes of the past are no longer.The new model is about community, it’s about others. In the knowledge era, we will finally have to surrender the myth of leaders as isolated heroes commanding their organisations from on high.Top-down directives, even when they are implemented, reinforce an environment of fear, distrust and internal competitiveness that reduce collaboration and cooperation.They foster compliance instead of commitment, yet only genuine commitment can bring about the courage, imagination, patience and perseverance necessary in a knowledge creating organisation.

"For those reasons, leadership in the future will be distributed among diverse individuals and teams who share responsibility for creating the organisation's future.”

Peter Senge – Author of the Fifth Discipline Leaders like Senge are building on the concept of team leadership to look for more open models. Some postmodern leaders like the metaphor of an air traffic controller (ATC).An ATC doesn't fly the airplane, he or she only directs them.The primary function of an ATC is to clear aircraft for take-off and landing and ensure that they stay on the safe path once airborne. The ATC is almost an invisible part of the process, but his or her role is essential in enabling the flight.Others prefer the metaphor of symphony conductor.A good conductor does not merely tell everyone what to do; rather he helps everyone to hear  what is so.For this he is not primarily a telling but a listening individual.Even while the orchestra is performing loudly, he is listening inwardly to silent music.He is not so much commanding as he is obedient. Revolutionary leaders are a new breed. 

They will be criticised by some and they will be applauded by others.They will sometimes have the answers but sometimes they may not even know the first step on the journey.
 
"I will carry the Ring to Mordor…… though I do not know the way."   Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring
 
Revolutionary leaders understand the need to engage their people if they are going to achieve what needs to be achieved.May our leaders in South Africa understand that the transformation has only just begun.We are one of the youngest democracies in the world. We have done well.But we can do better.It is not acceptable to abuse our power; it’s not okay to be unproductive.Corruption is not okay! History will decide whether this generation of leaders was worthy to follow in the footsteps of the great revolutionaries of the past.I leave you with the closing words of possibly the greatest revolutionary of the 20th century.

Mr Nelson Mandela closes his autobiography with these words: "I have walked that long road to freedom.I have tried not to falter;I have made mistakes along the way.But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come.But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities and I dare not linger, for my walk is not yet ended.”
 
Source: By Paul Jones (TaxTALK)



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