Feature Article of Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Columnist: Tengey, Samuel

Leading yourself: the starting point for effective leadership

Samuel Tengey, PhD

The subject of leadership has become a topical issue in recent times. The reasons? Leaders have been in the forefront of great positive transformations. But leaders have also been at the center of most atrocities. The centrality of leadership and the increased attention it has received would be appreciated against the backdrop that leadership action always has serious ramifications for individuals, groups, and even entire nation completely distant from the leadership action. Hence, what the current generation needs is strong, effective, and selfless disciplined leaders. Join me to explore the subject of leadership.

Leadership is one of the many terms that have several meanings. In fact the term has been used for so many things that one is sometimes left confused as to exactly what it means. For example, it is used to denote a situation where one influences others towards a goal. In this usage, the leader need not have a position to be able to lead others. In that sense the leader may be located at any level in the organisation's or society's hierarchy. In other instances it is used to denote a group of persons mandated to lead others in an organisation, a community, a city or a country. But the term has also been used to refer to how people lead in positions of leadership, ie the act of leading.

In this blog however, I would be employing the term to refer to ability to influence. In short, leadership is influence; leading means influencing. Influencing may come through several means: emulation (exemplary), persuasion, suggestion, motivation or coercion.

All leadership begins with self; hence without the ability to lead oneself, it is almost impossible to lead others. Self-leading means being in control of one's life in the areas where one has the responsibility to do so (I said so because as a Christian, it is the Lord Jesus who is in control of my life but there are certainly areas where He expects me to lead myself by developing the disciplines necessary for getting things done, getting out of trouble and disgrace).

Leading oneself also means, and necessarily requires understanding oneself in terms of one's emotions, personality, abilities, individuality, strengths and weaknesses, and being able to respond to this individuality. Knowing who I am and who I am not helps me to decide on what to spend my time doing and what to stay away from. It helps me to identify my strengths; leveraging on these, whilst working to improve upon my weaknesses. It means being in control of my emotions and not allowing them to come in my way. In short, self leadership is part of the now increasingly important and broader topic of emotional intelligence, which many studies have found to be prerequisite for leadership effectiveness.

Self leadership is the foundation for developing and wielding leadership power. For instances the sources of leadership power include expert power and referent power. Expert power arises from one's superior or exceptional knowledge and expertise in one's given area of practice. This does not come by good luck; it comes through constant practice arising from self discipline. Referent power is leadership power one wields as a result of a strong, disciplined character, which comes from self discipline.

Without self leadership, you can rise to leadership but you may soon mess up. Whereas competence and knowledge may take you to a leadership position; what it takes to maintain you there is a strong character that comes only through self discipline. In the absence of self leadership, people placed in leadership positions to keep the law and maintain order, and ensure the right thing is done have turned out as the law breakers who do the wrong thing. There are uncountable instances of Police officers turning out to be criminals; religious priests becoming pedophiles and thief of church resources, medical officers/surgeons have fondled with the private parts of their clients. We will have no space for more such examples.

In conclusion, self leadership is the starting point of effective leadership. There is often the time of preparation for leadership- where no one knows or recognises you; that is the time when you need to develop a strong leadership so when you get brought up for positional leadership you do not mess up. Examples from the Bible include Daniel and Joseph who had very trying moments growing up, and in obscurity but ended up as successful leaders due to strong self discipline and moral character. Stay hooked on for the next subtopic. But to contact me before the next issue, just email mcsam3000@gmail.com

About the author Dr Tengey is a Human Resource Development practitioner and Leadership and Management Development consultant, and professional educator in Ghana. His management and leadership development seminars and workshops for corporate bodies and church organisations, and personal development sessions on entrepreneurship, career development and personal effectiveness have been found to be exceptionally insightful and helpful. He delights in providing workable solutions to organisational problems especially those relating to the management of people. He may be reached via mcsam3000@gmail.com