Leadership nepotism


What do the words cousin, brother, mother, aunt and leadership have in common? They are all relative terms.

Do you show the expected personal attributes of leadership; authority, influence, charm, determination, strength, ruthlessness, a competitive desire to win coupled with strong business acumen? Are you already at the helm of a large corporation?

Warning: bad news in-coming. That doesn't make you a leader.

An effective leader understands and rejects as folly these customary perceptions of leadership in favour of the only requirement that a leader must have. People who want to follow you.

Are you an intrepid explorer of business unknowns brandishing your machete of menace? Do you feel secure in the knowledge that you are in command of a team of highly paid cheerleaders? What happens when the money runs out or flight becomes preferable to living in fear of more cuts?

Instilling allegiance by means of a bigger paycheck or by implied consequences doesn't make you a leader.

You cannot call yourself a leader unless people choose to follow you

You cannot call yourself a leader unless people choose to follow you. The key word here is 'choose'. Threats of "my way or the highway" might be effective at keeping you in power, at least for a time, but eventually, one by one you will lose people to destination Anywhere.

Once the exodus begins you will soon find yourself in Anywhere's neighbouring town, Nowhere

What personal attributes must I acquire before I can call myself a leader?

More bad news in-coming! People don't follow people. People follow ideas.

A leader's role is to act as the liberator of an idea. They give the idea credibility and substance. They imbue it with passion and aspiration. They are not the focal point of the movement but the conduit between the present and the future.

Why should people follow you? The mistake customarily made by those seeking leadership is to attempt to adopt the qualities of other successful leaders. These people fail to recognise that the authority of successful leaders doesn't come from within but from the reflected qualities of the ideas they promote.

True leaders inherit their authority by virtue of making manifest the possibility of a better future. Note the use of possibilities. A leader's primary role is not to ensure you reach a point but to make you believe you can.

Faux leaders lay claim to leadership with faux ideas. "We must build a better, more efficient business model" or "we must improve our profits to ensure that our business survives and thrives." How many times have you heard your business leaders utter these compelling phrases? How often have you been motivated to redouble your efforts to make the lives of a few shareholders, richer ones?

An idea only qualifies as a genuine rallying call if it offers something for everyone at every level of society or business. Each person who climbs onboard must feel that his or her contributions will make a difference and just possibly, the difference.

I recognise that we are challenging the common perceptions of leadership but if we wish to develop better management at all levels of business, we must be prepared to push past outdated boundaries that serve the few, in favour of the many. We must create an idea of the modern business world where each individual contributes equally and is rewarded equally.

We must develop leaders who are not afraid to be the servants of an idea. For make no mistake, that is what true leaders are, servants. Leadership is a subservient role. Leaders must discard all thoughts of self in favour of a compelling vision that dictates their every decision. Such a vision makes leaders of us all.

I invite each of you to contribute your leadership, to become servants of a vision; a vision of a new reality that we can all share.

We are waiting for you.


About The Author

René Da Costa
René Da Costa

René Da Costa is an author and consultant.

Older Comments

These are interesting thoughts and in fact the analysis of what a true leader is, is extremely insightful. There are a number of problems with this though - at the very beggining you discard all the traditional ideas of leadership such as chrisma etc., the strange thing is, have you never sat in a room and heard someone speak who by their very presence demands that you listen and adhere to what they say? You cynically dismiss this and then promote with ideological fervour your own belief that leadership is driven by ideas. While leadership may be driven by ideas, shareholders pay wages and so while you cynically dismiss all other ways of leadership, most leaders would cynically dismiss your thoughts on ideas driven leadership because they know who pays the bills!

Good column though, and I actually agree with you but unfortunatley 99% of people will take the safe option because that way they are less likely to get fired!

Javan Bramhall

Useful and clearly argued.

Michael Bayler