Any significant progress in history occurred because someone decided to take the lead and influence others to pursue an agenda, resist an order or transform a process. The social nature of mankind is to always have a leader – one person that will take the lead and others would follow.  For any great success to occur, leadership is essential.

I believe there are so many issues in our lives, and societies many aren’t comfortable with and we’d very much want to see drastic improvements. But in our small corners and conservative worlds, we believe we are too insignificant to influence or drive a major change. We look at ourselves and feel too small and insignificant to make any significant impact.

You’ll agree with me there are some Nigerians the rest of us hold responsible for everything that goes wrong or right in this country. They are popularly referred to as our leaders. In counting, they are probably less than a hundred but every issue bothering on our nationhood, the remaining 190 million of us hold these less than 100 people responsible. We also popularly believe they are the most influential.

Think with me this morning, how many of these very influential national leaders were born with the positions and titles and powers they hold today? How many of them even come from influential or privilege backgrounds? How many of them were born famous, popular or prominent? How many of them inherited the power, authority, name and positions they hold today from their parents? Probably none, or extremely few.

To console ourselves and justify our insignificance, many of us choose to believe these powerful leaders must have indulged in very ominous and mean dealings to become powerful and influential, it is not always the case my friend, many of them worked very hard to earn their positions of leadership and great influence.

This is not to justify corruption or mismanagement, but I assure you even the very corrupt leaders being exposed and arrested today worked very hard to get to that position where they eventually had access to our common wealth to steal it. They didn’t just stroll in there.

Today, I’ll sincerely want to admonish the younger generation to quit complaining and judging and make up their minds to take over leadership through hard work so as to subsequently take on key positions and fix things.

Too many young people complain bitterly about things not working well, yet they lack the will to work very hard, take over as leaders and manage the country better. Many forty year olds in Nigeria today don’t even have a copy of the Nigerian constitution. Very few can correctly sing the second stanza of the national anthem and many hardly study the yearly appropriation and fiscal plan. They have no idea what governance is all about, they do not understand public service, citizenship or nation building; they have no idea about public leadership, or true knowledge of our history, they don’t understand governance or contemporary politics.

Many of the youth want the current leaders out of the way today yet have refused to develop their own capacities to effectively take over as leaders. Oh, it’s so easy to criticise but if you’re appointed the governor of your own state today, how will your first 100 days in office look like? What will be your dominant thought? How to develop the state or how to quickly enrich yourself too? Let your conscience judge.

Ladies and gentlemen, all over the world, public leadership is not just handed over to the next generation, it is earned by younger people who work hard, have the knowledge, have developed capacity and are deserving of these sensitive public leadership positions.

As a career coach I’m frequently exposed to young people in their thirties and forties who lack the capacity to lead a team of just six people in their place of employment. They lack the discipline, maturity, humility and capacity to achieve results through just six people, yet they are experts at criticizing, judging and condemning every leader in every nation all over the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, all the young people, I believe it is time for your shift. It is time you shift from being a critique to a builder. It is time you take the lead. It is time you also decide to do the work and earn the role of influence and power to make happen the change you desire to see.

How do you do this, how do you start; from where do you start?  Permit me to share with you today, six factors to consider and apply in order to become a great leader. I believe we all know leadership is not just occupying a position of power or authority, leadership is the ability to influence people. To successfully influence others and make them buy into your vision and support your ambition, diligently harken to, consider and apply the following traits:

1. Set your PRIORITIES – great leaders don’t live regular lives. They don’t live like everyday people. Great leaders set their priorities in life. They decide that one thing they want to do and commit at least 80% of their day to doing it. Great leaders give up pleasure for purpose and priorities. Their time is extremely valuable and they dedicate themselves to a course until they become distinguished as a master in that field of focus. To be a great leader, set your priorities.

2. CREATING IDENTITY. Great leaders don’t flock with the crowd. They create a different, unique and compelling identity for themselves using different but appealing instruments. Excellence in certain skills, capacities, abilities or achievements. Great leaders are known for being excellent at something. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Music, Wole Soyinka, Literature, Gani Fawhennmi Lawyer/ Human right activist, E.A. Adeboye Religion. Great leaders distinguish themselves and create compelling identity through excellent performance at something. By so doing, they earn the credentials for great influence.

3. INCLUDING OTHERS. Great leaders are fantastic salesmen. They do not keep their dreams or ambition to themselves. Their everyday task is to include others. They seek every avenue and opportunity to sell their idea, vision and ambition to everyone they meet. They are passionate about including others – getting them involved and securing buy in.

4. SEE BEYOUND YOUR MENTOR – Great leaders usually have more than one mentor. They hardly want to be like any of their mentors, they actually have dreams bigger than any achieved by their mentors. They pick the strength in every mentor they have, add it to theirs and build a dream much greater than that of the mentors. Great leaders don’t want to be a copy of a revealed glory, they want to reveal their own glory. Great leaders dream beyond their mentors.

5. HAVE DEEP CONVICTIONS – Great leaders are not superficial in life. They are deeply convinced about what they want and are willing to die for that which they believe. Opposition will come, challenges, betrayal, tough times, oppression, loneliness and even rejection. Great leaders never give up. They die there; they are not cowards, they don’t let go of their dreams.

6. HAVE ETERNAL VALUES – Great leaders see beyond this life. They see beyond earthly rewards, they are mostly driven by eternal values. They fear their maker, they know they are accountable on judgment day, they believe they are on assignment and they fear God more than they fear man. Great leaders do things more because of God than because of man. They have eternal values.

Ladies and gentlemen, all the young people in the house this morning, enough criticism, judging, complaining and lamenting about leadership. It’s time you shift your grounds, don’t just talk, become a great leader too, apply all you need, be a leader too, let’s fix these problems, let’s take responsibility.


By Muyiwa Afolabi

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