6. Sep, 2021
If I could break down into a couple of sentences what I think leadership is, I would say this: it is the character of a man or woman to do the ‘right thing’ even when no one is watching. And it is not the bricks but the mortar that defines the leader.
Take a sudden recent lockdown that has occurred due to a global pandemic. In the panic of the start of the ordeal a lot of people went from looking after one another to just looking after themselves. The mateship deteriorated quickly and people started to just focus on one thing at hand, their own safety. Now that isn’t entirely a bad thing, because if you don’t watch out for yourself first, you cannot help others. Consider that you don’t have a platform to work from if the floor beneath you is falling away, you cannot hold someone else up if your slipping away from beneath.
One thing, however small though, was there was a requirement that in all apartment complexes that everyone was required to wear masks. A character test was this exact situation. When my wife and I had about 10 metres to walk from the car park to our front door and get inside, it was an easy decision to just walk up the stairs, run the gauntlet and get into the house. But I took this as a challenge of character. However small the possibility of running into another person in our quiet stairwell, and how easy it was to just quickly get into our place.
The show of character in this situation, this virus, very infection and transmittable. Just on the off chance of walking into someone else who actually has this virus and we could get it, or vice versa, we could pass it on. However small and unlikely the chance of this occurring (as it is a very quiet section of the building), it is still a possibility. This I believe is a critical factor of leadership, our character, how we do things when no one else is watching defines who we are, as leaders.
Leadership is about displaying the values and characteristics of the best version of yourself, so that others will look up to you, almost as being infallible. Now that is impossible to do, because we all at some stage or another slip up and forget the mask, or choose not to use it this time, because maybe your child is screaming and you just need to get into the house. If you stopped, took the hard line and did it the right way. Maybe one day someone will see you, and realise just how sturdy your character is. But on the off day that you didn’t do this, your character will shine through when you admit to others, and mainly yourself, that you made a mistake.
Because leadership is about the attributes of the best character that you can be, and being honest is a critical attribute. We all make mistakes, no one is perfect, but it is the admission, and accountability to own up to your mistakes that defines you even greater. But always, the most character building circumstances are when you do something, that you know in your heart is the right thing to do, but you still do it, even when no one is watching. Because it is important not to lie to yourself, and when with other people, to be able to hold your hand on your heart, and know that you did the right thing, even when the world wasn’t aware.
Another factor of leadership is the mortar, the bricks are the achievements that you have gained, but the mortar is what holds it all together. You could get one amazing thing in your life, but if the experiences, the hardship and learnings aren’t holding that together, the next time you want to achieve something, it will be impossible. The mortar is the platform to continue to thrive and build upon. To reach new heights, even when you had thought you couldn’t build any higher, you just went and added another story.