Musings of leaders in the making Part II Written By: Akunna Onwu,Transformational Life coach and UCT Associate Coaching Course graduate Mentorship & Wellness columnist

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Musings of leaders in the making: the stuff leaders are made of [Part 2]

What makes a great leader you might ask? Is it their ability to influence others in order to get the job done? Or does it also mean inspiring, persuading and developing personal connections?  All of the above are attributes, competencies and qualities that great leaders have been able to master.

There are many leaders that embody this.  Some of the most noteworthy leaders in our time are people like  Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey,  Strive Masiya, Richard Branson, Patrice Motsepe to name a few. I have always wondered what about them is truly inspiring that makes us want to emulate certain behaviors. That makes us believe their belief. That through their ability to influence and inspire, we are encouraged to forge on. The common thread found in those mentioned, apart from the great attributes and competencies they possess, is their position in society- their “celebrity status” so to speak.  So does that mean that there are no “ordinary” men and women in and around us that possess and display these attributes and competencies? Surely not!

We are so quick to consider great leaders as those in positions of power or in positions of authority. What we sometimes fail to see, is that there are many leaders who are sitting next to us at work or even at church or people we may come across that are great leaders in their own right.

To become a great leader requires a shift and change in mind-set. It means having the ability to inspire change in others and to influence others positively. And so with this in mind, I have listed 5 important attributes and competencies that I consider vital and necessary to becoming a great leader. This is in no means an exhaustive list, but I believe they are crucial attributes necessary for any great leader to have.

The call to serve

At the essence of it all, is the call to serve. It is the call to serve for a greater purpose outside of yourself and your ego; to serve with a common purpose and a common truth in mind. Great leaders understand that the position they are in, is one of shepherding. In other words, to guide, lead and steward the ship towards a goal or destination. This wisdom is born out of a place of humility and not of power or arrogance. These leaders truly understand the privilege and the gift they have been given and born out of this, is the commitment to the development of not only self, but more importantly others. Great leaders understand that is about giving of themselves for the success of all.  In other words, it’s about giving and not getting thus placing upon them the reminder of being humble.

Inspire and motivate

Murray Newlands says that “to be called a leader, you must inspire your team through your actions and words to believe in a common vision”. In other words, to inspire others means to lead by example. It is a matter of modelling the behavior you expect from those you lead or you will be found wanting. It is not about only doing what you say, but rather it is about inspiring and motivating others to want to do as you do, thus allowing the team to share in the vision and the purpose, in order to find grounding in the success of the goal. By inspiring your team, it empowers the team to want to implement and execute the vision.

Influence others

To be an effective leader it is important that you recognize and understand your ability to influence. In other words, to inspire and motivate change in those around you -be it towards a person’s attitude, beliefs, values or actions in order to achieve desired results or outcomes. The influencing may come through inspiration which denotes that there is an emotional request that awakens in another, the ability to be and do more. By increasing the confidence in another, their belief that they are capable of success is further heightened. This will in turn encourage a sense of accountability in those you lead and as such, become the catalyst for creating more leaders.

Create more leaders

According to Jack Welch “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others”. Great leaders understand the importance of creating more leaders as they strive to empower others to become leaders themselves through their positive influence. This denotes that there is some form of trust between the leader and those being led.

A useful tool in building trust is through delegation.  Effective delegation allows you to grow as a leader and more importantly establishes trust with those around you. It advocates the importance of responsibility and accountability as there is greater buy in towards the envisioned goal and its outcome. This allows those around you to see how their actions or lack thereof influences the greater picture, which in turn allows them to self-lead, thus creating a possible ripple influence on those following this new leader.

Have Courage – be authentic

Winston Churchil states that “courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”  Courageous leadership is also the ability to make the tough decisions in the face of uncertainty, adversity etc. It is being able to make decisions based from gut as well as facts in order to bring about a desired outcome. The thing about courageous leadership is that it inspires confidence in your abilities and may lead to success. It embodies trust, conviction and authenticity.

Courageous leadership is a breeding ground for authenticity- it indicates trust. In other words, being able to admit you don’t know what you don’t know. Authenticity simply means being you. It’s your unique barcode which distinguishes you from the next human being and this uniqueness is what will set you apart as a great leader.

Great Leaders not only understand the importance of the attributes and competencies mentioned above, they embody it.  In the final piece in the series, I will provide some insight into how you can start developing and learning how to build these competencies in order to be included among the greats.

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