What does it mean to lead?

By : Kamil Toume.

As per the Centre for Creative Leadership The life of a modern-day leader clearly is not easy. Inside their organizations, they need to lead and motivate a diversified group of people, work across organizational boundaries, improve efficiency, and achieve growth. Externally, they face a complex and globalized environment; they have to manage the requirements of government, keep up with competitors, and meet the expectations of other stakeholders. And within this global environment, there are many cultural considerations leaders must face to be effective. They must work across cultural boundaries and alongside others who, at times, are very different from them and have different ways of getting work completed.

Also, CCL summed up the main challenges which leaders face around the world:

  • Developing Managerial Effectiveness—The challenge of developing the relevant skills—such as time management, prioritization, strategic thinking, decision-making, and getting up to speed with the job—to be more effective at work.

  • Inspiring Others—The challenge of inspiring or motivating others to ensure they are satisfied with their jobs; how to motivate a workforce to work smarter.

  • Developing Employees—The challenge of developing others, including topics around mentoring and coaching.

  • Leading a Team—The challenge of team-building, team development, and team management; how to instill pride in a team or support the team, how to lead a big team, and what to do when taking over a new team.

  • Guiding Change—The challenge of managing, mobilizing, understanding, and leading change. How to mitigate change consequences, overcome resistance to change, and deal with employees’ reaction to change.

  • Managing Internal Stakeholders and Politics—The challenge of managing relationships, politics, and image. Gaining managerial support and managing up; getting buy-in from other departments, groups, or individuals.

There is always a big debate about the difference between management and leadership. Are leaders and managers dissimilar, and if so, how? Is what mentioned above by CCL management or leadership?Most modern definitions of leadership are circular, identifying leaders as individuals with the capabilities to lead or direct a group or the manager administers; the leader innovates. The manager is a copy; the leader is an original. The manager maintains; the leader develops.

                                                      kamil toume

              This is very confusing and leads nowhere.

Any manager can be a leader if we go back to discuss the title of the article which is “What does it mean to lead?”What is the definition of a leader? The leader is the one who has followers, the question is how to get followers, the answer is simply inspiration, leadership responsibility is to inspire people to go in the destination that leaders set, the problem is how to inspire people to go the extra mile.

Everybody in any organisation from secretary to CEO can be leaders if they follow this cycle or pattern which is not my cycle but the pattern that most renowned successful leaders in the world have followed in their endeavors.And for all would be leaders if they do not follow it,t hey fall into the management category which is not a bad thing at all and they have to accept this fact that they have not yet reached the leadership level.

  • “Why to believe in”

Human beings all deeply want to believe in something. It’s in our basic human nature. If you want to motivate staff, customers and investors with ease, one of the most vital things you can do is give them a “why” to believe in.

There is a fascinating study by Dr. Adam Grant and his colleagues who worked with call center employees at the University of Michigan. These employees had the unenviable task of cold calling alums to ask for money. One of the groups in this study was able to meet a scholarship recipient and talk to him first hand. The scholarship recipient talked about how much the scholarship had changed his life, and he thanked the people in the call center for their hard work. Once the call center workers realized how their work had an impact, they became motivated to work harder and the group’s weekly revenue increased an amazing 400%.

In another study, when nurses assembling surgical kits met the health-care practitioners who would use their kits, the nurses worked 64% more minutes and made 15% fewer errors than those nurses who did not meet the “end user ”

Great leaders know that people are intrinsically motivated when they understand why they are doing something, and the best leaders put the correct conditions in place to ensure people gain this deeper connection.

If we look closely on Steve Jobs and why he was different,he was singularly devoted not to technology, but to how people interacted withgty_steve_jobs2__dm_111006_wmain technologyIt wasn’t for us to fit into a world of computers, but for computers to fit into a world of people. That is what made Jobs different. Jobs lived above his company and its products. This is what made Jobs one of the great leaders of our time. He didn’t lead a company – he led people. He inspired them. He had a cause, and everyone followed him in his pursuit. What made him an iconic businessman, which transformed in a major way the lifestyle of human beings and their interaction with technology.

We know that there are basically two types of organisational leaders – the transactional and the transformational. Transactional leaders are the ones who work with the safety of the status quo. Transformational leaders strive with all their might to change the existing order of things. They are the ones who bring about major, positive change for a group, organisation or society. We have seen that Steve Jobs was able to direct his people and make them do things which they had never done before, but these things were also essential for the realisation of his vision and plans. I leave it your judgment to deduce what style of leadership Jobs followed.

His big “Why” Apple vision which is “Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them”rallied people around him to work in blood, sweat, and tears to reach the future. He articulated and communicated “Apple why” and those who believe in it work tirelessly to make it a reality.

  • Follow & Empower :

Shoulder to shoulder M.K. Gandhi In India inspired millions of people to fight for their rights, and he walked with them so India could achieve independence in 1947. This is quite a complex question. Mahatma had done something that no other human has ever done before him – unite a quarter of the world population (with extreme diversity) on a peace mission with no modern tools, heridatory authority or religious gospels.

His vision became everyone’s dream and ensured that the country’s push for independence was unstoppable. The world needs leaders like him who can think beyond problems, have a vision, and inspire people to convert challenges into opportunities, a step at a time.

Mahatma Gandhi was an uber cool leader who was willing to experiment crazy paths. He was a real servant leader as he truly cared about people: Not just Indians. But, everyone.When the Mahatma announced the call to boycott British clothes (to rejuvenate the Indian economy & break the British monopoly) he took the time to visit the mills in Manchester & apologize to the workers. The British weavers never let him apologize and actually cheered his boycott.

Gandhi’s service started in his days in South Africa, where he taught English to Indians without any382f5413942db3ebbea6f7d2e15943c4 remuneration to improve their living conditions among racial tensions. At one point, when a leper came to his door, he gave him food, dressed his wounds, looked after him, and then sent him to the hospital . As he longed to be involved in humanitarian work, he helped as a nurse in a hospital and spent two hours daily serving the patients when he was in South Africa . When the black plague, or pneumonic plague, which was more terrible and fatal than the bubonic, struck Indians in South Africa, Gandhi volunteered to nurse the victims, disregarding infection and fully knowing the risks. When Gandhi was in South Africa with his family, the Zulu rebellion took place and many Zulus were injured and there was no one to attend to their injuries.

At that time Gandhi along with twenty-three Indian volunteers, formed the Indian ambulance corps with the permission of the Governor and attended to the injured and nursed them back to health. From the Day 1 until the end, Mahatma was at the grassroots. He had little interest in parliaments, assemblies, round tables and bills. He traveled the trains, met people and bonded with the common man. Almost every corner in India was touched by the Mahatma. Although he was among the most important persons in the world, he would usually be merged in the crowds.

  • Protect & Sacrifice 

The first job that I got after graduation was in Sept 2006, the first three weeks were fantastic. I was finishing my work, getting back home, very happy, very excited to wake up the second day and get back to work again. But all of that happiness and joy went to a grinding halt shortly. Thservant leadershipe company was going through some financial difficulties, the board met at that time and discussed the proposal of budget cuts in order to save money for the business. They opted for layoffs which have become the business norm nowadays where management throw people out of the company to balance the books.

I remember that night, I was having a normal conversation with my manager, Safwan Sibai and with two other colleagues. An hour later, I was on my way to leave but Mr. Sibai asked me to stay for a while. I looked at him and I said: Is there a problem? Without saying anything to me, He gave me a letter. I took and read it but the subject line of the letter captured my eyes, it was: my termination notice without stating clearly any reasons clarifying why. I finished reading the letter wondering in silence why it happened like this despite my dedication and also why Safwan did not challenge the CEO decision as my manager. I took the letter and decided to leave, I opened the door but he said: Do not be in a rush; I have something to tell you: To which I replied: “Why? I lost my job and nobody cares”.

He paused for a moment then he gave me another letter that he already faxed and sent to the CEO office and surprisingly it was his resignation letter. I stood in wonder for a while to understand what happened and to make it more complicated; he gave me the third letter which was an apology from the CEO about his decision in the first letter to terminate my employment.

Mr. Sibai rejected the layoff decision and resigned as he could not accept it nor enforce it. His resignation was a blow to the management and as a result the CEO reconsidered his position, thus cancelled the termination. I asked myself why a manager in his position would resign and lose his job for one of his staff members. Mr. Sibai made the point clear the next day that true leaders are the ones who defend and serve their teams against dangers whether internal or external. He said, leadership is not a position but it is an action. “To lead people and hold the position of leader is first to face the danger for the people in your custody, not to sacrifice them for the perks of the position you hold”.

Mr. Sibai heroism not only saved my job but shaped my understanding of what a great leader is. He taught me an important lesson about leadership. It is more of a responsibility, than a position, Leadership is about caring selflessly for others. Good leaders are the same as good parents who strive passionately to raise and help their children to grow up and become better than themselves, no matter how many times they fail.

  • Inspire to Lead:

Martin-Luther-King-Wyatt--010The night before the March on Washington, on 28 August 1963, Martin Luther King asked his aides for advice about the next day’s speech. “Don’t use the lines about ‘I have a dream’, his adviser Wyatt Walker told him. “It’s trite, it’s cliche. You’ve used it too many times already.”

After a wide range of conflicting suggestions from his staff, King left the lobby at the Willard hotel in DC to put the final touches to a speech he hoped would be received, in his words, “like the Gettysburg address”. “I am now going upstairs to my room to counsel with my Lord,” he told them. “I will see you all tomorrow.”

For all King’s careful preparation, the part of the speech that went on to enter the history books was added extemporaneously while he was standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, speaking in full flight to the crowd. “I know that on the eve of his speech it was not in his mind to revisit the dream, It is open to debate just how spontaneous the insertion of the “I have a dream” section was (Euchner says a guest in the adjacent hotel room to King heard him rehearsing the segment the night before), but the two things we know for sure are that it was not in the prepared text and it wasn’t invented on the spot.

Watching the whole thing on TV in the White House, President John F Kennedy, who had never heard an entire King speech before, remarked: “He’s damned good. Damned good.” Almost everyone, including even King’s enemies, recognised the speech’s reach and resonance. William Sullivan, the FBI’s assistant director of domestic intelligence, recommended: “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous negro of the future of this nation.”

During the protests in Tiananmen Square, China, some protesters held up posters of King saying “I have a dream”. On the wall that Israel has built around parts of the West Bank, someone has written “I have a dream. This is not part of that dream.” The phrase “I have a dream” has been spotted in such disparate places as a train in Budapest and on a mural in suburban Sydney. Asked in 2008 whether they thought the speech was “relevant to people of your generation”, 68% of Americans said yes, including 76% of blacks and 67% of whites. Only 4% were not familiar with it.

The lesson from King’s speech is that nobody is inspired by plans, processes, procedures, goals, mission statements and the 100 steps to win the hearts and minds of people. Martin Luther king wrote” I had a dream speech”, he literally wrote I had a vision for the future that does not exist and people who believed in his message rallied in the mall in Washington DC.

There is only one thing and one thing only to lead which is to inspire people. Martin Luther king, Gandhi, Steve Jobs and many others did not use the modern invented styles and techniques of leaderships, all they did is that they have inspired the whole world not through plans and metrics but through their dreams, visions of the future and empowering people to make the world a better place .

To lead and hold the position of the leader,is to fully understand that leadership is not a title or crown,leadership is a series of actions that starts with inspiration and ends with inspiration. 


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