Most often than not, leadership does not necessarily arise from a position, the position, however, advances leadership.
It seems to me that almost all the leaders we admire, whose stories we love to hear and tell, whose biographies and autobiographies have graced our bookshelves, have been people who have seen a need and rose to the challenge, to meet that need. It is this rising to the challenge – their leadership – that pushed them to a position, which we have come to recognize as their leadership position; it was never the other way round.
I am not talking about people who are born to find leadership positions waiting for them; leaders like queens and kings, I am talking about ordinary people who rose to be great leaders in their generation. I am talking about leaders like Mother Teresa, William Wilberforce, Festo Kivengere, Mirtin Luther King Jr., Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela, I am sure you can add to this list. These leaders did not rise to greatness because of their position prior to their leadership influence but rather, their leadership influence pushed each one of them to a position that advanced their leadership. It is what they did – their response to the needs of their time – that pushed them to the positions/levels of greatness that we have come to associate them with.
We can all agree that a leadership position is critical in order for certain objectives to be advanced and achieved. There are certain things that can only be achieved when a leader is in a particular leadership position no matter his influence prior to the position. However, as was the case in the examples mentioned above, and in many other cases we have encountered, people offer leadership positions to those who are already serving the needs to which the position is required, with the hope that the position will advance what they had already begun to do.
Whether one believes his teachings or not, Jesus Christ was spot on when he said that, “the greatest among you is the one who serves” (Luke 22:26). Servant Leadership, which is increasingly becoming popular in leadership and management studies, (go here for more on Servant Leadership), is about ignoring or even forgetting our positions, to serve/respond to the needs around us. The needs that surround us, which need our response, are service opportunities.
It is interesting to note that every time someone genuinely rises to meet a need, without any vested interests, people offer him the position and gift of leadership. I call leadership a gift because it is given by those who follow. It is given by those who accept to be moved by the leader’ influence towards the direction and, or goals he has set for them.
It should be noted also, that those who seek position for their own self interests have learnt the trick. They know how to deceive their ‘victims’ – the would be followers – in the short term. The only difference is that they do not last long before their true colors show. However, they never rise to true greatness like true servant leaders do. They may succeed in getting the position but that is all they get. They are soon forgotten when the position is no more. On the contrary, we still talk about and follow great leaders long after they have moved from their positions.
Does leadership arise from a position or does a position advance already existing leadership? Tell me what you think; leave a comment in the comments’ section bellow.