In my view, leadership is a bit like wooing a woman. Boy meets girl. Boy tells girl sweet nothings, from the way her flawless skin looks, to the way her eyes sparkle, and it goes on. The more consistent boy is, the more she trusts him. The relationship progresses. One date leads to several others, phone conversations go late into the night. In this our digital times, there’s also the near mandatory selfie on WhatsApp with the emoji of hearts in the eyes, with boy declaring to girl how much he misses her. He paints a picture of a rosy future that leaves girl breathless.
After the first few heady months of the relationship, rubber meets the road. Girl waits to see if boy is walking the talk. Does he call when he says he will? Does he keep his word? Does he follow through on what he says he’ll do? At this crucial point, girl keenly observes whether or not boy is serious. Depending on whether boy delivers determines how the relationship will go.
Leadership is very much like that. Like in relationships, it’s not for the faint of heart. Leadership paints a vision of what possibilities lie yonder. Leadership tells a story. Leadership is matching the story with action. Just like in a relationship, leadership is not for everyone.
Every five years or so, politicians go to wax lyrical to the electorate in the hope of garnering votes. The ones who make it are the ones who have painted the rosiest picture. The most idyllic. The most romantic. Thereafter, the populace keenly observes their every move. Are they delivering what they said they would, in the manner that they said they would and in the time that they said they would?
The ones who do get re-elected. The ones who don’t get rejected. It’s as simple as that. It is not much different in companies and in organisations. The leaders who deliver on their promises are promoted or are retained. Those who don’t get fired. It’s as simple as that.
Storytelling forms an integral part of leadership. The story ties together the thoughts and the dreams of the leader. Stories inspire. Whether or not the story is negative or positive. Hitler’s speeches were one of the most prolific speeches ever written. With his compelling stories, he convinced an entire nation to go to war. By the way, that’s how propaganda as we now know it was born. In the same epoch, Winston Churchill’s speeches were equally compelling. He led the Britons through a most trying time during the war. Incidentally, Churchill was a brilliant war time leader but a poor peace time leader so to speak. He was also known for his unorthodox leadership style, but that’s a story for another day.
Coming back to boy and girl, the boy who walks the talk gets the girl. The one who doesn’t, because he doesn’t follow through, oh well he lives to fight another day.