By Kato Mpanga
Weeks before the world descended into lockdown, I attended a conference on Transformational Leadership by Dr John Calvin Maxwell at Bethel Convention Centre in West Bromwich, United Kingdom (UK). The conference was hosted by Lead UK, an organisation with a purpose of training, developing, and influencing leaders and emerging leaders.
John Maxwell is the author of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, one of New York Times’ bestsellers, among others. In addition, he is one of the world’s most respected authorities on leadership alive. Therefore, I thought it good to share 3 key lessons on leadership from this conference that might be useful to leaders in Uganda. The leadership lessons include enhancing personal growth and development, adding value to people, and consistency.
The lessons might be useful for whatever leadership level, in any field be it in government, media, religion, business, family, education, or the arts. In sharing these lessons, I will not provide specific examples or statistics, as the lessons cut across different areas and levels of leadership. In addition, each lesson will be accompanied by a few subpoints. To shift from trained to transformational leaders, we need to move from merely empowering people with skills, to changing their lives.
Lesson 1, enhancing personal growth and development. Leaders grow daily, not in a day. Growth is not automatic. There’s nothing such as accidental accomplishments. If you or your organisation want to get better, you need to be intentional about your personal growth and development. Is it reading a book, completing an extra course, or doing a certain training et cetera? What do you need to do to improve your personal growth?
To foster personal or organisational growth, John Maxwell outlined a simple cycle of 5 stages. First, test. Keep testing, never be satisfied. When was the last time you did something for the first time? No matter what you are doing, you can do it better.
Second, fail. If you start testing, failure will be automatic. People think that failure is the opposite of success. Success and failure are not opposites. They are twins. They travel together all the time. Show me a successful person, and I will show you a person who has failed many times. Failures and mistakes make us the people we are today.
Third, learn. The value of failure is learning from it. It is often said that experience is the best teacher. However, if it were so, the most experienced leaders would be the most successful. Experience is not the best teacher. Rather, evaluated experience is the best teacher.
To gain from your experience, it is important to prepare for, and reflect on it. This could be a work project or assignment, a personal or work relationship, etc. Reflection turns experience into insight. If you learn from your failure or experience, it becomes an asset. If you do not learn from it, it becomes a liability.
Also, in the process of learning, it is crucial to position oneself with people, or in an environment that challenges you to learn more. In most cases, big people make you bigger, average people want you to stay average, whilst small people make you smaller. With whom, or where do you hang out most of the time?
Fourth, improve. Learning is useless if you do not improve. Finally, re-enter the cycle. Keep on engaging in the process until you learn and improve. Otherwise, hope is not a strategy. The only guarantee you have that tomorrow is going to get better is by growing yourself and/or your organisation.
Lesson 2, add value. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Nothing more, nothing less. To increase your leadership and influence, add value to people. A good leader adds value to people. To grow an organisation, grow leaders, and leaders will grow the organisation.
There are four questions followers ask of their leaders. Do you care for me? Can you help me? Will my life be improved because I am on your team? Can I trust you? In addressing these questions, it is important for a leader to establish the facts by finding out what exactly the people need using research or available data, etc. Otherwise, it is unwise to lead by assumption. Leading by assumption is the mother of all leadership mess ups.
In order to add value to people, a leader needs to value people, think and look for ways of empowering them, and encourage others to add value people. You are either a plus or minus in people’s lives. If you are a minus, people are not going to be near you.
Lastly, lesson 3, consistency. Consistency compounds. The problem with consistency is that you do not get rewarded for it at the start. In the process of being consistent, here are five things you can focus on. First, know what you want to accomplish. If you do not know what you want to accomplish, any achievement might be good enough.
Second, identify the right tools to use. It is useless to use a hoe to cut down a tree. How about using a sharp axe? Third, take action. A little bit of action beats a lot of intention. Good intentions are worthless if they are not followed by effective actions. Fourth, stay focused, and finally, be consistent. Everything worthwhile is uphill. You cannot go uphill with downhill habits.
Mr Mpanga is a Law student at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK.