The Weekly Dream: Why Should I Follow You?

And everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.”
-1 Samuel 22:2

Let us remark, meanwhile, how indispensable everywhere a king is, in all movements of men. It is strikingly shown, in this very War, what becomes of men when they cannot find a chief man, and their enemies can.”
-Thomas Carlyle

What is leadership? More importantly, why would anyone want to become a leader? How do you become a leader? Can you be a leader with no followers? Today, leadership is spoken of in ethereal and lofty terms, like a Holy Grail of sorts. But, like many things, it is not often defined, which illustrates the elusiveness of the ideal. Furthermore, leadership profoundly is an extension of personality (leadership styles) on a collision course with various situations and scenarios. Yet, in these perilous times and in our communities, we need effective leadership more than ever.

A Closer Look

Leadership, simply defined, is a relationship of power, in which one has the ability to influence, motivate and guide others. This can occur formally or informally, depending upon the structure we operate in. Leadership can also vary in scope. At the extremes, one can either govern himself (self-control) or govern the entire world (God). So normally, we will find ourselves somewhere in the middle. We all have a certain style that we exhibit and also gravitate to. Leadership is essential to any group because we need someone to organize people and resources around a common vision and ensure accountability. Leadership archetypes abound throughout history and society.

For me, one of the greatest leaders in history was King David. The context for the verse at the beginning of this post shows David running for his life, trying to escape the current king, Saul. As he fled, the dregs of society attached themselves to him. Why? These were men who seemed to have problems with authority and the natural order of things. What was so special about David that he became a captain over them? David started out by himself, in a mountainside, watching sheep. However, something about his spirit or makeup made him willing to step up at the right time. Whether it was protecting the sheep or slaying Goliath. However, he also recognized and respected the structure he operated in, refusing to kill King Saul, when he had ample opportunity. David had vision, confidence and self-control. As a result of his leadership, Israel enjoyed a golden age of military dominance and prosperity.

Crisis in Leadership: Who are you following?

Who are the leaders in your life and why? Whether we know it or not, we are “following” someone. It is a fiction to believe that we are completely autonomous. With that said, what happens when leadership breaks down or the leader in no longer fit for the position? When this occurs, the group and culture is one in crisis and chaos ensues until someone else fills the void. However, every misstep of leadership inevitably weakens the prestige and power of the office (read Bush). There is an issue of credibility.

Often, this is the problem in our communities. The absence of males in the home and in our community institutions (e.g. church) leads to a crisis in discipline and authority. For example, fathers teach children how to operate and function under authority and within a chain of command. However, what happens when there is no father in the home or an effective male model? The result is a generation of undisciplined individuals who do not know how to lead nor respond to authority. As a result, the prisons are teeming with our brothers.

As a man, I struggle with this issue myself. Spending most of my life leading, I have yet to learn to effectively follow or to find that formal mentorship that often makes the difference. Perhaps, this is rooted in issues of trust and skepticism as to the motives of others? John Maxwell stated that individuals will only follow people whose leadership ability exceeds their own. Otherwise, there is no true incentive for them to put their own agenda to the side. In light of this, I pose the question, Why should anyone follow you? How should we respond in a crisis of leadership?

What is My Motivation?

Personally, I do not believe in born leaders. As the Bible states, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” How do you become chosen? By answering the call to leadership. We must first embrace the idea of ourselves as leaders, because someone is always watching your actions. Once you begin to do that, you begin to undergo the process of leadership development. Leadership development is all about attaining the habits, disposition and self-control to lead. Implicitly, that is what last week’s post was about: Stepping your game up. Whether you are leading from the back or the front, leaders set the standard for excellence. Next, we need vision. An effective vision:

Is clear and vibrant in the mind of the leader

Articulates a better future

Is a bridge between the less preferable now and the more desirable future

Compelling and energizing

Connects with people on an emotional and spiritual level

After vision, we must be able to articulate and execute the vision. This demands that we bring to bear all of the training and experience we have culminated in our development. A leadership theorist stated that leadership is not a set of traits, but a pattern of motivation. Leaders exhibit a high need for power, low need for affiliation, and a high level of activity inhibition (self control). I would alter these qualities to say that true leaders have a high need for positive change and empowerment, do not need a lot of external validation, and they must exhibit the mental and spiritual discipline of self-control.

How do we make leadership last?

There are two schools of effective leadership: transactional and transformational. Transactional evaluates the leader’s effectiveness in attaining a goal or an objective. Transformational leadership seeks to better the people, organization and society at large. Both have their place. But I am of the belief that first, we must transform the hearts and minds of those around us, and then the transactional side will take care of itself. How do we transform the hearts and minds of those around us? By living lives of integrity, conviction, sacrifice, passion and love. If we do not love those whom we seek to influence, we are not “Good Shepherds,” but robbers and thieves. By letting our light shine upon others, people will be drawn to us and our mission.

The world and the people are waiting for you to take your rightful place.

You cannot lead the people, if you do not love the people.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Question of the Week: What is your idea of a leader and why?

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