The Heart of a Great Leader by Reinette Farajallah


The Heart of a Great Leader Part 1

In this article I would like to highlight what the heart of a true and great leader looks like. Now the heart of a person is very important, because from it flows the springs of life and his capacity to love. In this context, the heart can be referred to as the values that guide and drive you.

I want to make a bold statement by saying that values are more important than skills. Let me tell you why: A person in a leadership position may possess certain or all of the competencies needed, and yet still be more destructive than constructive, causes more pain than well-being, more damage than improvements. Adolph Hitler has been carved into history as such a leader.

How we use our skills, resources and time is a clear indication of the condition of our hearts, our capacity to love and the values that we serve. Some of the greatest leaders in history are not remembered for what they did for themselves, but what they did for a large group of people, a country or the world. To a lesser or greater extent, the leaders that had the most profound impact on the advancement of humanity and civilization as we know it today, all shared the following values:

  1. Integrity – The word ‘integrity’ is loosely used by many organizations in their value statements today, but when you examine their management practices, you rarely find integrity practiced and entrenched in the company culture. Before we explore the reason for this, let us first look at what integrity is. Integrity means that you are true to yourself, your values and beliefs. What people see is what they get – your words, actions and behavior are integrated and not loose standing. Where there is a lack of integrity, hypocritical conduct is almost inevitable. It is only when a man is true to himself, that he cannot be false to any man. Now, let us examine why business practices lack integrity: According to Peter Drucker personal integrity is a part of business integrity, and doing the right thing in business and professional life is immensely powerful for the individual and the organization.
  2. Humility – In essence humility means that you understand your position in context with God’s creation. Humility is a door that leads to honor. However, so many people in leadership positions choose arrogance over humility. One of the reasons for this is that they belief humble people think less of themselves. The truth in fact is that they just think of themselves less and in essence have a great self-awareness. This self-awareness allows them to be without pretense, i.e. to be honest about their own abilities and limitations as well as to understand an important principle – that none of us is as smart as all of us. They understand that greatness is achieved through the combination of a variety of talents and efforts, that one sound does not make a symphony. Humility also gives you an open mind, a thirst to learn from and experience other people. It gives you clarity of mind to observe and act on various challenges from a different perspective. One of the biggest stumbling blocks for people to go through the door of humility is their own egos. Ken Blanchard describes ego as “edging God out” – it is when you think you do not need God and that He has no relevancy in your life.
  3. Generosity – Generosity is the quality of being kind, respecting people, treating them right and giving without expecting anything in return. But how do you make this value work in a business model? To answer this, I turned to Ken Blanchard’s view on servant leadership, which I share: “The servant leader seeks to help people win through teaching and coaching individuals so that they can do their best. You need to listen to your people, praise them, support them and redirect them when they deviate from their goals. The servant leader is constantly trying to find out what his or her people need to be successful. Rather than wanting them to please him or her, they are interested in making a difference in the lives of their people and, in the process, impacting the organization. The role of the servant leader is to do anything that is necessary to help his or her people win and accomplish their goals. If, for any reason, a leader’s efforts don’t make a difference, for example, if the person is in a position that doesn’t match his or her skills, they, in a kind, humane way, try to redirect the person’s efforts where their talents may be better used.

What do managers need to become servant leaders?

The biggest thing they need is to get their ego out of the way. Managers who somehow have themselves as the center of the universe and think everything must rotate around them are really covering up “not okay” feelings about themselves. When you don’t feel good about yourself, you have two choices. You can either hide and hope nobody notices you, or you can overcompensate and go out and try to control your environment. Such people who need to control their environment are acting as if inside they are scared little kids.

Servant leadership is easy for people with high self-esteem. Such people have no problem giving credit to others. They have no problem listening to other people for ideas. They have no problem in building other people up. They don’t think that building other people up is going to be threatening in any way. People with high self-esteem can buy into the old Eastern philosophy of an effective leader that when the job is done, the people say they have done it themselves.

To me servant leadership is a good way to describe the coaching role that managers are expected to play today to help their people win. Judging and evaluating people erodes their self-esteem; servant leadership builds self-esteem and encourages individual growth while obtaining the organization’s objectives.

Servant leadership is something that people need. We need to support and help individuals in the organization to win. The days of the manager being judge, jury and critic rather than cheerleader, facilitator and listener are over. The concept of servant leadership is a wonderful way of symbolizing what the manager of today—and of the future—is going to have to be, in order to be successful.”

I would like to close with the following: When the heart of a person is connected to the love, mercy and compassion of the one and only true Living God, the Creator of heaven and earth, then he carries the capacity in him to do great and mighty exploits as a leader

The Heart of a Great Leader Part 2

In this follow-up article on The Heart of a Great Leader I would like to create a deeper level of understanding with regards to generosity as it pertains to leadership. A lot of people have the perception that when you are generous, you open yourself up for people to take advantage of you and you become a “push-over”. To avoid falling into this trap, it is important for a leader to apply discernment and wisdom in order to ensure that his generosity is not abused but actually has the desired positive influence on people’s lives and work behavior/performance.

A leader has to deal with a variety of people; People who might differ significantly in terms of the level of their intellectual understanding, knowledge, experience and emotional maturity. I have learned that it benefits me greatly to deal with a person from his perspective and not only from my perspective. This ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes, so to speak, in order to see what they see, holds the following benefits:

(1)  It allows one to understand the person’s perspective/point of view;

(2)  It empowers one to lead the person out of their point of view to see a different point of view, and

(3)  You might actually learn something else by looking at the situation from their point of view.

I would like to explain this with the following example: “A little boy was playing on the carpet and he had a mirror in front of him, big enough to see his entire body. He saw himself in a certain way and with excitement in his voice asked his mother if she sees what he sees. She was sitting close to him and told him that she sees him, but in order for her to see what he sees, she will have to get down and position herself alongside him in order to see what he sees.”

When you take the time to “look through the eyes of another person” you equip yourself with an understanding and knowledge with regards to the needs of that person. For me, generosity is not only giving what a person needs, but it is also to not give something (whatever it may be), even if they ask, when you see it will hurt them, other people or the organization. This is where discernment and wisdom need to be applied.

For example, if a parent gives a child something that he is not mature enough to handle, such as a sports car before he has learned how to drive properly, he places that child in danger, irrespective of how much he loves the child and/or how much the child might want such a car. However, if the parent gives the same car to the same child after he has obtained his driver’s license and shows responsibility in driving, then it is a total different situation. Being wise and generous has a lot to do with timing and knowing when to give what, and when not to give it.

Also, being generous is not about being a push-over; it is in actual fact quite the opposite. It is being bold and courageous to confront issues head-on, especially when you have to give of yourself (a good example is David and Goliath). However, always from a place of having respect for people, never from a place of disrespecting the individual.

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