Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make you subject and your verb agree to serve… you only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It has recently come to my attention that a lot of young people aspire to be leaders, which is very ambitious and impressive. However, it is evident that many of them are reluctant to serve. In theory, the term service sounds great, but it isn’t as appealing in reality. It is fundamental to take into consideration the practicality of things before implementing and putting them into action. The key principle to effective leadership is to take into account what it entails and the responsibilities that comes with it. To serve is to commit yourself to make sacrifices and have the willingness and desire to do things beyond your comfort zone. It is required of us to learn to sacrifice our abilities for the betterment of others, and not just for ourselves to quench our selfish desires. Leadership comes with a lot of responsibilities as I mentioned before, one of which is to invest in others by utilising our talents, not for self-glorification, but to enable others to discover their talents to empower, motivate and inspire others – it’s a cycle. Most importantly we must be willing to sacrifice our time.
Service can be very difficult in the sense that, it can most often than not go unnoticed, but read these words and let them sink in; you are serving not for recognition or reward, but for self-improvement and self-development. You are serving to equip and prepare yourself to be the true leader you aspire to be. When you do something wholeheartedly, you do it without any expectation of a personal pay off, because you understand and accept that your service does not guarantee that the favour will be returned to you, or your efforts will be acknowledged and rewarded. The bottom line is that, true leaders must learn to serve and never stop learning, or feel as though their position gives them a license to look down on those that are following their footsteps. Service does not start when we have something to offer but, it flourishes when we have nothing to take. It’s a sacrifice and that’s the beauty of it. Roll up your sleeves and be ready to get your hands dirty while you put in the work. It is time to talk less and do more.
There are various traits and attributes that an aspiring leader must have and be willing to improve on it. I will touch briefly on 3 essential attributes an aspiring leader must have and they are as follows:
One of the hardest things to do is to admit our wrongdoings to ourselves and others, and accept our mistakes; true humility is shown when we are able to say “I’ve made a mistake”, and be optimistic and action-oriented about it by learning from it and developing new ways on how to do things better. Our constant need to prove ourselves to be strong and confident can get in the way of humility and turn our confidence into arrogance. The greatest strength is shown when we admit our weakness. When you humble yourself before people you gain respect without demanding it. Humility as a leader involves four attributes; 1) self-evaluation 2) openness to correction 3) seeking feedback 4) willingness to improve. When all these are taken into account, it is an indication that you are willing to learn more.
Leaders are called to be patient, but you must serve patiently to become a patient leader. We have all encountered frustrating and discouraging situations where we’ve found that, the best solution is to maintain patience. They tend to be situations that are beyond our control of which the outcome is usually unknown. We may not be able to control the situation, however we can control our behaviour and choose to react with patience towards the situation. An aspiring leader must be able to identify areas in which they lack patience and work on improving it. When you are tempted to lose patience with others, think about how patient people have been with you.
Teachability is a choice. It is entirely our choice to be open to new ideas, correction and new experiences. Every loss can be turned into a learning experience depending on how we perceive it. As an aspiring leader, in order to find the pathway to successful leadership, you must develop a conducive attitude to learning. You must have it at the back of your mind that there is always something new to learn from everyone regardless of their background, position or circumstance. A teachable individual possesses and maintains the mindset of a beginner. This individual is open to correction and constructive criticism, and uses it as a way to improve on themselves and develop new strategies to do things better in order to achieve the best possible results. You can only acquire more knowledge when you make yourself teachable. Remain teachable by openly evaluating yourself on a continual basis.
Word of advice: Leadership comes with a lot of responsibilities and if you are not willing to serve and acquire the knowledge and attributes you need to lead, you will lead people astray. Don’t let pride blind you to your faults, let humility remind you that no matter how much you think you know, there is always more to learn from the mistakes you make. Serve with humility and when the time comes to lead, lead with humility. Be patient during your service as an aspiring leader. Patience is not shown in the ability to wait but, it is shown in the attitude and behaviour you display while waiting. As the saying goes “education has no end” so if you want to learn more, be teachable. True leaders never stop learning. Aspire to be the kind of leader that inspires, motivates and empowers others. Be true to yourself!
By Mimi Hassan (@Miminspired)