CPA Samwel Baraka Ochieng
Are you a Leader you would follow?
During the last Easter holidays, I took the opportunity to spend some time in the village. It was a serene time, and on one lazy afternoon, I decided to venture into what I believed to be familiar territory—the old grazing fields adjacent to Gwassi Hills, located in the county of endless potential, Homabay. This picturesque location holds many cherished memories for me. However, as I ventured deeper into the fields, my assumptions were proven wrong, as the shrubs had adorned resplendent beauty due to the recent downpours that had intensified their vibrant hues, and the once familiar paths were no longer recognizable.
Nature’s relentless forces had reshaped the terrain, and the lush undergrowth had triumphantly taken over. Moreover, to my awe, the streams that once meandered calmly through the grazing fields had swelled into raging torrents, their power eroding the very trails I used to tread. It was as if the passage of time had orchestrated a grand symphony of change, turning the familiar into the unknown. I felt disoriented and lost, unsure of which way to turn. I tried to remember the old paths, but my memory failed. I realized I needed to trust my instincts and forge a new path through the forest.
Just as the forest had changed, the world today is fast-paced, technology-driven, and frozen in the palm at the click of a button, and leaders must be watchful. The old paths that once worked may no longer be viable, and leaders must be willing to take risks and forge new paths. Kevin Kruse, author of “Great Leaders Have No Rules,” opined that leadership is a process of social influence that maximizes the efforts of others towards the achievement of a goal. W.C.H. Prentice, writing about “Understanding Leadership,” posited that an effective leader is one who takes a personal interest in the long-term development of others through the use of tact and other social skills to encourage them to achieve their best. It isn’t about being “nice” or “understanding”—it’s about tapping into individual motivations to further an organization-wide goal. So, leadership requires a certain level of creativity and courage to navigate through uncharted territories. Just as I had to rely on my instincts to find my way through the forest, leaders must rely on their intuition and take calculated risks to lead their teams to success.
Before I lose you, allow me to ask, “Are you a leader or a follower?” Obviously, there is no leader without at least one follower, and good leadership produces more leaders. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said that a leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done and his aim fulfilled, they will say, “We did it ourselves.” An article by the Harvard Business Review on “What Every Leader Needs to Know about Followers,” shared by Barbara Kellerman, says that good followers will actively support a leader and invest resources in making informed judgments about who their leaders are and what they espouse. Then they take the appropriate action. So, would you follow yourself as a leader? The former sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, thought of a leader as one whose actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.
On the contrary, if one is enslaved to the status quo, lacks vision, or doesn’t motivate anyone around them to be better, then they fit the confines of being a follower—a bad follower, I would add. Transformational leaders must seek ways to win the trust and synergy of their team. According to author William Arthur Ward’s measured remarks, a mediocre leader tells, a good leader explains, the superior leader demonstrates, and the great one inspires. So, to achieve greater team success, a leader effectively communicates edicts to followers, diligently monitors progress, and thoroughly reviews outcomes.
I bear witness to unparalleled satisfaction in the opportunity to work alongside transformational leaders and attest to their infectious influence that ignites vigour within team members and propels them to reach extraordinary heights of achievement. Leadership expert James MacGregor introduced the concept of transformational leadership in his 1978 book, “Leadership,” and defined it as a process where “leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.” Transformational leadership has been exemplified by many contemporary leaders. For instance, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, whose leadership style is characterised by, I believe, a combination of bold vision, innovative thinking, hands-on leadership, and a deep commitment to employees, among other admirable traits. It’s against this backdrop that his followers have drawn inspiration, and from there, he gets the motivation to create companies that are changing the world. He declared, even before completing his acquisition of the American social media company Twitter, Inc., that he wanted to transform Twitter into an all-inclusive app that people could use for payments, news, and food orders. ElonMusk said, “Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the Everything App.” He then proceeded to initiate disruptive changes in the company aimed at improving its profitability. As a visionary thinker, Musk is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible. He has founded several companies that are working on game-changing technologies such as electric cars, space travel, and renewable energy. In pursuing these ambitious goals, he inspires his followers to think bigger and pursue their own visions. Musk leads by example. I think he believes that a leader must be willing and ready to go first and fast at all times. He is a hands-on leader who is deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of his companies. Just days after his Twitter acquisition deal was announced, he tweeted, “Let’s make Twitter maximum fun.”
Come to think of it, are you a leader you would follow? I know too well that human beings always crave the best for themselves—personal well-being, happiness, and success. It is upon that jamb that great leaders hinge, since they have mastered the fact that their own success is intricately linked to their team’s success. Pushing them to constantly make considered decisions and ensure they taste the grapes before their followers, and always insisting on serving choice grapes to the followers—they do to their followers as they would want it done to them! Therefore, to be a leader others would willingly follow, one must lead by example by setting standards of behaviour and work ethic and craving for their actions to align with their words. Secondly, they should be clear and concise in their messages, actively listen to others, and provide constructive feedback. This will help foster an environment where open and honest communication is encouraged. Thirdly, they need to strive to understand their team members on a personal level by ascertaining their individual strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. In addition, they must treat them with respect, kindness, and empathy by showing genuine care for their well-being and providing prompt support. Fourthly, paint a compelling vision for the future and communicate it with passion and enthusiasm. A leader should inspire the team to work towards shared goals and help them see the bigger picture. Further, such a leader should recognize and celebrate all individual and team achievements. Fifthly, they need to remain curious and seek opportunities for personal and professional growth by embracing feedback, learning from their mistakes, and encouraging a culture of learning within the team. Finally, to be a leader one would follow in the current ever-changing world, a leader needs to be flexible and resilient by embracing change, navigating challenges, and guiding their teams through uncertainty.
In conclusion, transformational leadership is essential for achieving organizational success. Leaders must be willing to take calculated risks, forge new paths, and inspire their followers to reach higher levels of motivation and morality. Communicating effectively, monitoring progress, and reviewing outcomes are crucial to ensuring team success. Transformational leaders, such as Elon Musk, exemplify the traits of bold vision, innovative thinking, hands-on leadership, and a deep commitment to employees. They inspire their followers to think bigger and pursue their own visions, and in doing so, they achieve extraordinary heights of achievement. Aspiring leaders should strive to be the kind of leaders they would follow by investing in their personal development and seeking ways to win the trust and synergy of their teams. Are you a leader that you would want to follow? It’s a question that every leader should ask themselves, and the answer may be the key to unlocking the full potential of their team.
CPA Samwel Baraka Ochieng, ICPAK Member.
Email: [email protected]