Are leaders born or made? This question has a special place in philosophy but only little practical relevance in leadership. It is borne of a misconception of what leadership is. Leadership is believed in some quarters to mean ability to: acquire wealth; create jobs; and occupy top positions in public or private sector. While leadership may lead to one or more of these, it is more appropriately defined as the willingness to serve, while influencing others to achieve a defined goal. Leadership can be as simple as taking initiative to change a blown out light bulb in a dorm room instead of waiting for one of the other roommates to do it. It was Martin Luther King Jnr. who said: “Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.” Good leaders emerge from doing what they love; great leaders emerge from serving a people they have chosen to love (quote by Olufemi Taiwo).
To those with a penchant for numbers, a leader may be viewed as an element in a matrix who carries friends or colleagues along to reach a determinant. A matrix more often represents a committed group rather than a big group. Margaret Mead was spot-on in these words: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. The leader’s objective is not to be the determinant or the shining star that is hailed ‘ranka dede’ at the city gate. A leader’s hallmark is the led; simply put, a true leader is an ensemble of leaders.
A potential is an unused ability, or the capacity to perform an action. A potential difference will exist between two people if their storage of unused ability is different, implying that they have the capacity to perform different amounts of the same work. A professor for example will ordinarily possess more knowledge that the students because of a potential that has been gathered over time. The professor does not know it all, and is not necessarily the smartest person in the class, but is a more advanced student and is therefore able to deliver voltage to the students. Of what use is a professor with the knowledge of a pupil? To what relevance is a leader who’s never willing to climb the ladder? The leader must operate from a position of strength which begins with the acquisition of relevant knowledge; otherwise called capacity building. As necessary as this period of knowledge acquisition is, it usually appears unnecessary because of its latency and apparent lack of immediate result.
This wilderness experience however forms arguably the most important part of capacity building. Jesus had his wilderness experience. Elijah ate, because the journey was far. This period of quietness and confidence is where an initial potential difference is built. The initial potential represents a foundation and must be continually built upon by consistent learning. No one can effectively lead a group of people who know better than the one who leads. Little wonder it is said that a flock of sheep led by a lion will defeat a pride of lions led by a sheep. An equal potential group means a zero potential difference and will never lead to a flow. Although there are several forms of potential, this literature focuses on potential difference via intellectual development.
The Authors: Akinleye Sowunmi, Chukwuka Madumelu and Oghare Ogidiama are friends and business partners who believe they are going to change the world someday.