1 Corinthians 14:1,3 NLT
Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy.  But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them.
Be the ‘gift’ to your followers
Are you gifted for leadership?’ follows the thoughts expressed in my last article, where I focused on the truth that leaders are intended as gifts to those they lead. They are essential gifts to the world actually. However, it was noted also that it is important for leaders to make that intention a reality. One way to confirm that a leader has been effective, therefore, is when they have proven themselves to be a gift indeed to those who follow them. Interestingly, much of that will lie with and be determined by those they lead. They are the ones who must consider the leader to be a real gift based on what they have experienced under his/her leadership.
A leader has failed wherever and whenever he/she does not live up to this intention in the followers’ experience of their leadership. It must be noted at this point also that the assessment of success or failure will not be left to the follower only since some followers can succumb to mischief in expressing their true experience under the leader. But for the leader’s sake, let us accept that it is easy for the average follower to appreciate the difference between when they were ‘blind’ and when they began to ‘see.’
Engage your gift
How does the leader deliver a ‘gift’ experience to followers? This is the other part of the concept of the leader intended to be a gift to followers.
The leader is expected to use his/her personal gift in the delivery of the intended leadership experience. After all, we all tend to agree that a person can only give what they have. Therefore, no leader can give what he or she does not have. If they are to be a gift to followers, they must possess the gift in the first place.
Let me express it a bit differently by saying that every leader is in possession of a gift that is expected to be used to deliver the gift experience to followers. We can also submit that every leader is expected to be in possession of the gift that will be the instrument for delivering a gift experience to followers.
The gift could be by way of some special skill, talents, knowledge, trait, personality attribute, or such other distinct source(s) of empowerment. Some elements of these will be natural while for others it has to be acquired. My personal belief though is that each one has a distinct natural endowment that is meant to be a starting point in our quest for personal development and goes ahead to acquire others in the course of time. Whatever the case and whichever gifts the leader now possesses, it must be understood that they are meant to be engaged to deliver on their leadership responsibility.
The challenge for the leader will be to look inwards and identify the specific gifts that they possess and understand that those are to be employed and engaged to deliver on their mandate of leadership. Leaders who leave out their gifts or special abilities (as the opening quote states) cannot be effective in their leadership assignment. They will fail to replicate themselves in their followers in a very critical dimension, that being what true leadership success represents.
In effect, we are saying that the ‘gift’ experience that a leader delivers is the replication of his/her special abilities in the followers. If you are a good leader, followers will surely acknowledge that you have been a gift sent to them when they see those special abilities they admire in you now also reflected in their lives.
If you are unable to locate and understand your ‘gifts’ as a leader, you cannot be relied upon to do a good job of leadership. Such a leader would not even understand what their real assignment is about let alone know when they have achieved their mandate. Leaders like that are dangerous to have, lacking in one major area.
So, are you gifted enough for leadership?
Develop the gift of counsel
Borrowing from the opening quote, the gift of prophecy is perhaps the most important gift that a leader should possess. Prophecy is simply is revealing what the future portends on a matter ahead of its occurrence. The gift, therefore, refers to having a special ability to speak accurately about what tomorrow will look like on a matter.
For our purpose, prophecy should be considered as ‘counsel’ while the gift of prophecy is really the possession of the ability to say something credible about tomorrow. Having a knowledge of the ‘tomorrow’ about any issue is akin to having access to accurate direction and guidance. It is being able to speak confidently on issues and providing much-needed guidance and direction to those involved.
Following from the foregoing paragraphs, it is clear that the most important gift that a leader should bring to the leadership function is the gift of counsel. Possession of the gift of counsel guarantees that followers will be guaranteed access to quality guidance and direction at all times. What can be more important for any follower?
The act of following is made easy when the follower has confidence in the leader’s ability to lead in the right direction. Access to counsel puts the follow at rest and elicits the much-needed faith in the leader. A follower knows that he/she is in safe hands submitting to the counsel of the leader.
To operate this gift, the leader must possess it. To possess this gift the leader must pursue it. It is accessible by being a person with a virtually insatiable quest for knowledge, understanding, and know-how (wisdom). In addition, the leader must also seek counsel from his/her own leader as well as from any other credible source.
For those who believe in Christ, counsel also comes from instructive sources such as the Holy Spirit.
The intended benefits of counsel
There are three key benefits that possession of the gift of counsel offers the followers:
- Encouragement, and
Every leader will appreciate that these are essential needs of followers in their leadership journey that must be met if they must emerge as true leaders also. With counsel, following our simple definition above, access to credible knowledge about tomorrow will provide the impetus to face it. Followers derive strength from having access to accurate guidance and direction on any issue.
The average follower is also strongly encouraged to forge ahead when they have access to counsel that he/she trusts. When challenges arise in the course of their pursuit, they do not get easily discouraged. They draw encouragement from the counsel they have been given and the credibility of the leader.
They also enjoy the comfort from the counsel that the leader gives when they are trumped by a challenge. On the other hand, because of the credibility of counsel that they receive, they are comforted in their conviction that things can always get better.
When these needs of strength, encouragement, and comfort are met, using the gift of counsel, the leader has succeeded in making himself/herself into a ‘gift’ indeed to the followers. They have been exposed to a bout of favour from the leader.
Love in practice by the leader
The greatest goal of a good leader should be to relate in love toward followers. Using “love” to describe one of the attributes that leaders must have to be effective has not been very fashionable in the literature. I guess it’s because it is often associated with religion than any other thing. What a shame that is.
I was, therefore, most intrigued when I saw the caption of a Harvard Business School article as ‘Ego is the enemy of good leadership.’ The article was written by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter in November 2018. Apparently, they had published an earlier audio piece titled ‘Leading with less ego.’ My reaction was informed by the fact that ego is a reflection of the presence of pride (another word for pride actually), and pride is the opposite of love. Love is not proud. Invariably they were sharing what they found out from their survey, that ego stood in the way of good leadership, and that leaders should lead with compassion. Compassion is another word for love.
Well, it should be noted that one of the most profound ways of leading with love or compassion is to use the leader’s gift of prophecy or counsel as the core instrument to affect and transform the lives of the followers. It is an act of compassion to help others by providing direction and guidance in their journey. I read in the Bible that the foolish man wearies himself on his journey because he does not know how to get to the city (Ecclesiastes 10:15). You can then imagine how appreciative such a man would be if he came in contact with anyone who could guide and direct him on how to make his journey fruitful.
When a leader engages his/her gift, albeit the gift of counsel, in the delivery of the leadership mandate, such is leading with love or compassion.
Evidence of a leader’s immaturity
A leader who does not place priority value on counsel is immature. A leader who does not appreciate the power of his words as the most potent instrument for accomplishing the transformation of followers into leaders is also immature. Further to this, the implication of all we have discussed in the foregoing is that the maturity of a leader can be measured by the quality of his/her gift of counsel. It can be measured by the quality of guidance and direction they offer to their followers. Mature leaders will offer high-quality counsel while relatively immature ones will offer lower quality of guidance and direction. And bad leaders will offer hurtful guidance at their very best.
Don’t try to dazzle your followers
Leadership is not about showing off what special abilities or skills you have to your followers. It is not about exhibiting special talents that you don’t want them to have or believe that they cannot have. If such talents are truly important, they must be on your agenda for use one your followers, and to be replicated in them. The truth, however, is that there are special abilities that you have as a leader that will be of limited benefit to your followers, at least as far as evolving into good and credible leaders themselves is concerned. Such talents should be reserved for your private use until you find a use for them perhaps with other sets of followers.
Every leader should bear in mind that the gifts that matter are those that can be used to positively and purposefully impact the lives of others. That is why it is so important to emphasize the core subject addressed in this article.
Leaders must be humble
I believe that one of the most humbling experiences of leaders is the possession of a gift or gifts that only find true value when they are deployed for the direct benefit of those they lead. Gifts are like assets intended for the benefit of others but kept in the custody of the leader. The leader is not expected to use the gifts for his/her own benefit. What a responsibility! And what a humbling experience.
The leader is only valuable not by the possession of the gift but through and based on utilization of the gift for the intended purpose. That is, leaders, derive value by ensuring that the gift(s) they carry actually benefit their followers.
Leadership remains a huge responsibility. It is interesting though. Its fulfillment is in seeing others enjoy and appreciate the gift that you have been to them.
We should be challenged at all times by that.
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