Last week, I posted a ‘tweet’ that questioned: “Where are the great African Leaders?”
One response caught my attention. The person posed: “Can you really talk of great and African leaders in the same sentence?”
Today, I want to throw out a challenge.
Where does leadership start? As you ponder over that, think about the past presidents of America. There are names that will never be missed. Whenever I ask people to name past American presidents, no one fails to remember Abraham Lincoln.
Now, there were presidents before and after him, but isn’t it amazing that people may not remember many of those who were in office in the last 40 years?
The lesson from this is that being in office does not make your name great. The importance of any office will rise or fall to the level of the occupant.
Your ability to inspire people, verbalise their thoughts and turn them into actions and make an emotional connection with them are some of the attributes that will cause you to be remembered as a leader.
People are most remembered for two things: The problems they solved and the problems they created. You have a choice today to be a problem solver. This is where leadership starts.
Many of us see the problems and grumble about them, but we seem to forget that we can all become solutions to some of the problems.
We should not look at political leadership alone as the standard for leadership. We might be disappointed. We should not look at corporate leadership alone to determine the standards of leading. We could be frustrated.
By the same measure, we shouldn’t look at religious leadership to ascertain the yardstick of governance. We might be disillusioned.
We need the leaders in the closet. These are the people who take responsibility even if they will never be celebrated.
Leaders in the closet do good not for the sake of being recognised and given awards or offices, but simply because that is what their heart produces.
The performance that you deliver for recognition is a show and may not be the real you. The real you is the man in the closet. The person who does what is right even if he knew it would never be found out by anyone.
Those who can effectively lead in the closet will be true leaders in office. They are the ones who will elevate the status of the office no matter their role.
Leadership starts with the individual seeing themselves as a problem solver, irrespective of their stature.
It starts with you seeing yourself as a part of the solution and not a victim of the problem.
It starts with picking up a piece of litter from the floor and putting it in the bin even if no one sees you; being punctual even if no one will celebrate you for it; and serving people who will never be able to repay you for your service.
It starts with a mind-set that I once shared on this platform – to be trusting but not gullible, humble but not weak, confident but not arrogant, a team player but not team dependent, focused but not limited, insanely creative but not erratic.
If you can lead in the invisible part of your life, you will not need to act in the visible. If you can lead in the closet, you will be a natural leader in the office no matter how high it is. To wrap up, if you are good in the closet, you will be great in office.
Have a very thoughtful weekend.
You can also follow Dr Wale on twitter@waleakinyemi