imageWhen was the last time you felt inspired? The last time you felt the energy and commitment run through your body whilst undergoing a task at work? Who was the last person that protected, motivated and believed in you?

My question is when was the last time you came into contact with a real leader?

I’ve held back on writing a blog on this as I have so much invested in this topic. I love reading and learning about great leaders from the past and watching how they captured the imagination of their followers. I’m thinking this will not be last time I blog about leadership.

Respect for the role
I can’t understand how people accept leadership roles with little preparation. Just because you’re good at your job doesn’t make you a leader. Leadership is a profession all in itself and it worries me to take orders from a person who has spent little time in perfecting the art.  Effective leadership takes study, practice, subject mastery, reflection and most importantly emotional intelligence. Although companies can provide mandatory training, the desire to learn must come from within.

What’s the cause?
I think that for someone to follow a leader, the leader must believe in a project or cause. Whenever thinking about this, I think of the Italian football team during the 2006 FIFA World Cup. During the previous season the Italian league had been hit with explosive corruption scandals. Major teams were found guilty of match fixing and faced automatic relegation. They entered the World Cup as the ‘black sheep’ of world football but developed something important…a cause. Their cause was to give credit back to their name and to positively fight for their nation’s pride. The only way to do this was to win the World Cup. Can you imagine what it would have been like to motivate the players? You can imagine Lippi (the manager) saying “it’s us against the world” or “we owe this to our people!”  They created a siege mentality, fought together and yes, won the competition.

That’s just football; think about Gandhi during the struggle for the independence of India or Martin Luther King and his bravery during the Civil Rights movement. Think about education? Health care? Humanitarianism? Your relationships? Businesses? Products or services you believe in! You can find worthy causes everywhere so my question remains – where are all the good leaders?

What about me?
As of now I’ve never encountered a cause that I truly believe in where I can step into that position wholeheartedly. I don’t want to force the situation by taking up leadership positions at work (I’ve done so in the past) and lead people who are in a sense, working for themselves.

What’s wrong with being a follower?
I find that today, most people have individual aspirations to become the number 1 and see it as a sign of weakness to call themselves a follower.  I’m the opposite. I’d love to find someone I believe in and look up to. Someone to emulate, love and respect. I could come into work and look forward to receiving insightful and meaningful instructions that add value to my day.

Maybe I’m the problem?
Perhaps my expectations are too high because of my interest in leadership? It could be. It’s just that I find that the leaders I meet fail to show balance between inspiration and strength due to lack of study.
I have come across leaders with some elements of the two, but mostly an imbalance. The fear I have is that I’m reaching the prime of my life and am yet to be inspired by someone. I see the positive aspects of people and give them enough time to demonstrate themselves as leaders. I’m hopeful every year but I’m ultimately disappointed.

Stepping into the hot seat
Sometimes I think I’m ready to take on the role. But it’s led me to think about the conditions. To be effective leaders we need the correct conditions and if they’re not available, you have to create them. Consequently, I’ve developed 3 conditionals that must be satisfied for me to take on a leadership position.

Conditional 1
I have to believe in the cause. There’s no point being a leader for the sake of it or for money. The leaders that go down this route encounter the same problems. These include their teams not believing in their sincerity and them leaving for more money and abandoning the project.

Conditional 2
I have to share the same values as the staff. This is a tough one. That’s why I believe that choosing your staff or followers is crucial. If they don’t share your values, for example respect and selflessness, you’re asking for conflict. You’re bound to be left feeling depleted, angry and looking for the exit.

Conditional 3
There shouldn’t be a more suitable candidate available. If there is, then they should have it and if Conditionals 1 and 2 are satisfied, I’ll happily be a follower.

The Reluctant Leader
I came across this concept whilst reading Plato’s The Republic. The idea of taking on a leadership role out of fear of someone less qualified taking over and killing the cause. They demonstrate a commitment and selflessness for the cause. I’ve met some leaders (unconnected to me) who have excelled in leadership by taking this road. Their reluctance to lead demonstrates a chink in their confidence. They then study leadership to overcome this and ultimately become better leaders.

The Obama effect
Do you remember the feeling of hope and change that illuminated Obama’s first campaign in 2008? His speeches, presence and message used to electrify audiences across America. I don’t want to talk about his politics but I do want to highlight just how one person can come along, say things with passion and audacious positivity and then achieve the unthinkable…the first black President of the USA. Of course there were many other factors that helped, but without the ability to inspire audiences from different backgrounds, he would not be President. Perhaps it’s my age, but I don’t remember seeing a living person articulate themselves in such a way and illuminate an audience with such style.

The speech that made Obama President
If you have time, check out Obama’s first speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, MA. He was a Senator at the time, an unknown Democrat. But after this, he announced himself as the unthinkable at the time…the potential President. The video highlights the work that should go into making a speech if you’re aiming to connect and inspire.

Final thoughts
Feeling uninspired is sadder than you think. It kills motivation, creativity and peace. We end up losing great ideas and gaining bad ones to the cost of many. I ask on all potential and existing leaders to take time and study the subject. Use leadership as a tool to create positive change no matter the size of the project or the number of followers.

As always thanks for reading.

The Young Philosopher BCN