When you look around, or read social media posts or hard copy news stories, you quickly see people mistaking leadership for the power someone has over others or over resources.
It’s been said many times, in many different ways, but, given the often twisted leadership behaviour that we witness in South Africa, it has to be said many more times: leadership starts with leading self, with the ability to have power over ourselves, to be self disciplined with power. This happens as a result of an internal reflective process. As a person in a position of leadership, first I must claim and understand my own power, and then learn how to use it responsibly. It’s a question of understanding, our intrinsic worth. Not the worth of our bank balance, the worth of our car or house, the number of people that report to me, not the extrinsic measurements of worth.
When leaders are driven by their extrinsic worth, they allow themselves to be easily influenced by opportunists, they allow themselves to be tempted by getting quick illegal financial gains…or to defy constitutional court orders. The superficial appearances of worth and success cause leaders to go astray, to lead them to believe they are powerful. At most this is a temporary illusion of power, fuelled often by others’ fear and misunderstanding of leadership.
In the long run citizens trust and follow leaders whose power comes from having a strong grasp of their own value, regardless of their position or circumstances – they use their worth to genuinely empower others and enable their community, business or country to grow. The extrinsically driven leaders instead seek more and more power for themselves, at the expense of others, more focused on accruing fame and fortune than helping their fellow citizens.