Leading Self is Harder Than Leading Others

By Francis Oboh
Leading self. Leading others.

This is my newfound mantra since awakening to the reality of leadership paradigms and approaches. Many do not realize, but for the most part, leading self is harder than leading others. I have realized this now, and some useful tools that I have begun to adapt are discipline (for self-leadership) and charisma (for leading others). Accomplishing goals either as a leader or follower requires a high level of self-push and endurance to move forward even when there is no motivation – especially when there is no motivation. It is then that these two concepts come into play.

Working hand-in-hand with the leadership-followership relationship, these two concepts of discipline and charisma are important for moving forward as a team. I have learnt that as a leader, self-discipline is paramount for being decisive and objective when trying to achieve a goal. And as for engaging others to share in my mission, charisma is essential for continuously sparking the motivation in my followers needed to keep their heads in the game. I always say: People will listen to an intelligent leader; they will follow a charismatic one.

Hence, I have adopted these as my approach to leadership and followership. Why? Well, because I believe that they are the right combination needed to foster any leader-follower relationship. Their most salient attributes being that discipline is like a teacher that, according to Abraham Lincoln, shows the difference between what one wants now and what one wants the most. And, charisma because of the way it visibly influences people’s attitudes/behaviors towards productivity.

I would say that so far, my leadership has been an impacting one (especially my journey through EL) where I have learnt about different leadership values and qualities and what they mean to different people and leaders. I have learnt to admire these paradigms and I have also learnt to realize what I possess, what I did not know I possessed and what I lack (and hope to possess). This has really helped me to be aware just how much I am ready to become a leader and I will say that I am almost halfway there.

I still believe, though, that in order for me to be fully prepared, I still must learn adaptability, decisiveness, strong communication skills, and a higher level of empathy. This being so, as these are leadership qualities I have but that I need to sharpen to become the model leader for others to emulate. I believe that they are part of the most important paradigms a leader must believe in to enable him act and coordinate him/herself and I plan to also use them to execute a unique style leadership of teaching my followers to view themselves as leaders as well. This will enable them to think big even as followers and think and execute independently and effectively in the absence of the common leader.

For three years now, I have been forming my life purpose around tackling economic instabilities that have been one of man’s major crises since the earliest days of the world. With enough research and grounded knowledge in the field at the time, I hope to achieve humane living standards for many who live in poverty. I, having had a personal experience of what it’s like to not be able to satisfy certain human needs and wants because of lack of sufficient funds, best understand these people and the hell they face when they are not able to attain even basic human needs like water, food, clothes, shelter etc. Every day, it is on the news about how many of the sick cannot afford healthcare or about how people die ‘mistakenly’ in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and all I can think of is: Why are they there in the first place? Why can’t the government invest in low-cost housing for its citizens? Can I change this? What do I have to do, then? It always leads back to that one question. What do I have to do?! And, of course, I knew I had to solve it. Some way. Somehow. Now, I take it as my personal cause to see that I, in some way, contribute beneficially to creating good living standards for others.

After school (or even within the next two to three years in school), the goal is to start laying the foundations of a small startup I hope to grow into a company soon. The plan is to monetize my skills, especially writing, to raise enough money that I will then use to fund research into the causes of the issues I aim to address. I will start by writing proposals to various institutions of interests sharing my views with them. I also plan to solicit for funds that will aid in launching my startup that will have tackling these issues at the forefront of its agenda.

To regularly test the plan I have set in place, I plan to continue rethinking it and opening new paths to new ideas for change (same goal; different ways to solve it). I will employ a team of like-minded thinkers and innovators and together with my unique style leadership, I will open avenues for them to express their own ideas and how they would have approached the issues if given the chance. Feedback from even those my solutions and methods are directed at will be a credible source of challenging the values and quality of reasoning that has been poured into any plan I create for the future. I will always revisit my Leadership Map because it serves as a reminder of what I aim to achieve and as encouragement to always focus on the goal. Asides from those, I will also revisit it to reshape it in any way I feel it is lacking, since I already know that this is not the perfect and final form but only the basic draft of all the plans I aim to fulfil through it. Finally, my accountability to my Leadership Map will be proven based on the values I have set down in it to live by.

And in any case where I see myself slacking in my duties, I will fall back to my number teachers: self-motivation and self-discipline.

This reflection was written by Francis Oboh, a student at Elizade University as part of the requirements for the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program delivered by The Afara Initiative.

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