5 Lessons in Leadership

March 6, 2014
March 31, 2014

By Henry Muguluma

Day by day, I keep learning something about what it really means to lead. For me, these lessons largely come from three or four sources: what others have taught me, the books I have read, my own meandering experience, and the insights from my father. On that note, here are some five things I have learned about the art of leading people. 

ONE: I’ve learned that leadership is lonely. You can do your best to create a participative management or even bottom-up follower involvement but ultimately the essence of leadership is to make those tough choices and hard decisions (that no one wants to make). Thus, I’ve learned that even when you do your best to create a collaborative culture, you should still prepare to be lonely.

TWO: I’ve learned that everything rises and falls on leadership.John C Maxwell called it the law of the Lid. Your leadership is like a lid or a ceiling on your organization. Your church, business or group will not rise beyond the level your leadership allows. That’s why when a corporation or team needs to be fixed, they fire the leader.

THREE: I’ve learned that leadership is about influencing people.Nothing more, nothing less. The true test of a leader is to ask him to create positive change in an organization. If you cannot create change, you cannot lead. Being a leader is not about being first, or being an entrepreneur, or being the most knowledgeable, or being a manager, a pastor or a president. Being a leader is not just holding a leadership position. (“It’s not the position that makes a leader, but the leader who makes a position.”) Positional leadership especially does not work in volunteer organizations. The very essence of all power to influence lies in getting the other person to participate. “He, who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.”

FOUR: I’ve learned that you don’t know what you can get away with until you try.In leadership, the expression that “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission” is very true.  Good leaders don’t wait for official blessing to try things out.  They’re prudent, not reckless.  But they also realize a fact of life in most organizations: if you ask enough people for permission, you’ll inevitably come up against someone who believes his job is to say “no.” Less effective middle managers endorse the sentiment, “If I haven’t explicitly been told ‘yes,’ I can’t do it,” whereas the good ones believe, “If I haven’t explicitly been told ‘no,’ I can.”  Lately, I’ve learned that there’s a world of difference between these two points of view.

FIVE: I’ve learned that leadership is about sacrifice. A leader must give up to go up. Successful leaders must maintain an attitude of sacrifice to turn around an organization. One sacrifice seldom brings success. I have heard that as he worked to turn around the Chrysler Corporation, Lee Iacocca slashed his own salary to $1 per year. I guess that is why they say; “When you become a leader, you lose the right to think about yourself.”

About The Writer:

Henry Muguluma is the Leadership Development Manager of Africa Renewal Ministries.