LEADING IS SERVING
“The high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule.”
In large groups, in spiritual or cultural communities, in society, perhaps the idea of a motivator or a person promoting positive change has always been understood as a force command. Yet history has also taught us a beautiful lesson appointing as true leaders those who have moved hearts, often facing difficult challenges.
In this regard, let us observe to the definition of leadership by the Argentine philosopher Hugo Landolfi: “We see leadership as the ability to lead others in the direction the leader wants. There is nothing further from the truth. Or perhaps the crisis of our world, of our country and our culture does not find its foundation in the activities of alleged “leaders” who, trying to lead others cannot even drive themselves? First off, leadership implies an ability to bring our own life to the aim of achieving plenitude and excellence. Then we can lead others to the proper aim of each, which is not necessarily identical to the leader’s.” And this aim, when it is in common, is based in the example, since the leadership is achieved by exemplary acting, by being what we expect of ourselves and others.
Having said all this, what does leading by example mean? Returning to the essence of the true leader, he who arises emotions that bring on transformation, we can refer and remind people like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, or Vicente Ferrer. They fought for a change in their steadfast belief. The defenders of human rights Luther King and Mandela, imprisoned for the last 27 years for promoting racial equality in the segregationist South African Apartheid regime, acknowledged that transforming their suffering into creative force had opened the way for his followers. Along with talent and effort, to identify with the hopes and desires of others are the real skills of a leader. The leader, above all, is a human being who seeks, faces restrictions and plows in adversity.
This inner search is one of the biggest challenges that await us as individuals, and needs critical conscience and integrity. To give the best of ourselves, we must turn to the analysis that allows us to pass judgment on something specific. When the problem occurs, running from it and trying to make the group we lead to solve it entails losing a great opportunity: to grow as individuals and, in turn, to achieve the common good. Therefore, the term ‘critical’ shares etymological root with ‘crisis’ and ‘criteria’: think, judge, and raise a useful decision is part of the useful leadership. It is about being aware of what we have in hand and acting accordingly, for ourselves and for those who accompany us.
From I to Us
So, we are saying that the leader with critical awareness shall shape a global conscience: he who manages to communicate all the solutions, needs and objectives to a common territory. The good critics improves integrity, the power to drag others in the same direction, with the passion and commitment to cross borders to fight together and create. Sharing, cooperating, joining hands.
Listening to be heard. For considering what others want to say, giving them their place in the human system in question is the starting point of a productive organization. Leadership in essence requires a shared vision born of integrity. The road from I to Us is based on solidarity, empathy, giving and receiving in one’s responsibility, which is everyone’s.
Only this way, leadership abandons the context of authority to enter the field of example. Just by knowing ourselves as the beginning of a human chain we can develop and deliver on our promises, because we recognize what we expect of ourselves and what others expect from us. In the words of Viktor Frankl, “Man is the being who always decides what they are” or what is the same, the leader conceives thoughts from himself to project the change. The change that changes to those around him.
Spreading emotions to learn
Actually, we have something clear: we cannot change anyone. So why offering them advice, guidance, example? Leading, is compelling or convincing? Is it not true to say that the transformation itself invites others to change? Yes and no. I must explain. I insist: we cannot change anyone, but we can inspire, provoke, accompany and be an important reference point in their evolution. A leader manages to transform a human system through commitment, trust, generosity and enhancing creativity of each of the people who make up that system. The effective change depends on each other, but finding and brighten the potential of each individual on that team, the leader appears as a sort of teacher, a Pygmalion.
Indeed, that known as The Mirror or Pygmalion effect (the process by which the beliefs and expectations we place on a personal level and the others condition us while just fulfilling these objectives) is excellent when it comes to lead by example. From its premises, if, as leaders, we treat people as they are, they will remain as they are; but if we treat them as we believe they can become, they can become what they are meant to be.
Leadership thrives by spreading emotions, by showing that love is power, by discovering, such as children and adults do when they learn that if someone can, they can also get their goals. A human system will require a finding of facts raised by the one who directs. It is the leader who has to start by dialing the guidelines and leapfrogging, so he drags their followers. Energy and alchemical emotions, always.
A deep human connection
A leader, then, should be aligned with their followers; and not only those followers must blindly trust him. The connection is strong and necessary. A deep human connection and full of motivation. Open and honest communication with our employees focused on values such as humility, humour and humanity.
Humility, a term of Greek origin –in that language means ‘small’– is what forces us to recognize our weaknesses, to accept that we are small and we can make mistakes, but in those mistakes is where we find the strength to bring on the transformative action. We are humble, we were wrong and we know that the others can also make mistakes. By not thinking we are beyond all good or evil, we feel calmer and more likely to connect to cooperate for common progress.
And also we do from humour, which is defined as the natural humility of each one of us: the ability to perceive the world with its contradictions. Humour gives us spontaneity, freedom and the desire to move forward and discover. When the stresses of modern life bring us to our limits, laughing at ourselves and not putting our ego above intelligence and putting aside the drama that isolates us from the rest is the most logical way to be successful.
The leader, of course, feeds on humanity, perhaps the most positive condition to guide people. Leading involves exposure without ego, realizing one’s own fragility and sensitivity that allow us to understand others.
The leader is human, humble and treasure humour. They are virtues or factors that will help approaching with their team, also human, that help us building a bridge to move and succeed.
Back to etymology, it is not surprising that these three terms share the root ‘hum’. In Latin, ‘hum’ takes us back to earth if we think of ‘humus’ which is the simplest, where the average life germinates and where it returns not to disappear, but to renew and give rise to another being. From ‘humus’ derives precisely ‘homo’, which refers to the birth of the earth, of Humanity.
In conclusion, the leader find his strength in his human side, in connection with his inner self, in search of his smallness, humility. From that, a connection with Us will be as natural as existing and, above all, it is reinforced by another value resulting from keeping in humility: gratitude.
Giving out and love, decisive
Leadership from humility, as we have discussed, only brings benefits. Being alert to what others need and how they strive, so to give the best of themselves and as a reflection of what we, as leaders, give, derives in a great gratitude. Others, their intelligence, their collaboration, their drive… are gifts that make leadership worthwhile.
The transformation takes place in an environment in which gratitude is evident and where people travelling in the same direction are characterized by authenticity and availability. Appreciation, love, valuing the human being who is trusting our instincts and our idea of leadership will be critical to reverse that love on us. This is the true example that we preach as leaders and people: love for what we do and those who make it all happen, to move on to Us. It is the qualitative leadership that, more than ever, serves as a support to the quantitative one.
By cooperating and showing integrity, we give confidence generated by the commitment of others and that is embodied in quality. Integrity, kindness, awareness and love are the true sources of prosperity and acting through them means leading by example.
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