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Mindset change: Leadership extraordinaire: Challenging oneself

The success equation is undergoing a robust transition, challenging leaders to embrace a new mode of driving entities they run. Regardless of the sector one is in, the bottom line remains that people can no longer be managed like sheep just to follow their leader blindly. The new generation of followers has a different mode of achieving success; it craves to be heard, to be appreciated and to have the power to challenge authorities whenever necessary without fear of retribution.

Circumstances are clear that the 21st century requires a leadership that challenges itself, that surrounds itself with minds that are ready to challenge it, that articulates its vision with an open mind that it could be challenged within. This is the leadership that strives to look forward and achieve no matter the surrounding circumstances. This is the leadership that could best be termed the Abraham Lincoln success leadership code.

In the article Leadership lessons from Abraham Lincoln, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin emphasizes that you have to surround yourself with people who can argue with you and question your assumptions and this particularly helps if you can bring in people whose temperaments differ from your own.

This leadership style does not entail that you bring every jim and jack into your leadership circle. It challenges that every leader looks at his or her rivals and choose the best and most able people among them to help in shaping a corporate or political ideology forward.

Pointing out to the philosophy, Abraham Lincoln brought Salmon Chase into his cabinet as treasury secretary knowing full well that Chase craved for the presidency. The rivalry was even more manifested through Chase’s undermining of Lincoln all the time with cabinet members, so too congress. To Lincoln what mattered was that Chase was doing his job. The more Chase considered himself a better leader deep in his mind the more he wanted to prove it through his position. In the very end all the credit went to Lincoln.

Theodore Roosevelt long saw it as he explains: “it is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end triumphs of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Over a century years later, Barack Obama saw the merit of using the Abraham Lincoln success code. He brought into his cabinet heavyweight politicians who were themselves past and future contenders into his cabinet. Obama was well convinced that the strategy would challenge his thinking all the times and there would be no time for complacency or hero worshipping. He had surrounded himself with lions that were not afraid to maul his ideologies thus at the very same time keeping him vigilant with his policies and strategies. Obama chose his chief rival, Hillary Clinton, to be the Secretary of State. He went on to pick Joe Biden to be his vice president. In his cabinet he included powerful republicans like Robert Gates and Ray LaHood.

It needs no emphasis that corporate bodies that are struggling to compete on the market and become profitable are in such a dire situation as a result of well entrenched culture that is awash with the followership that could not challenge the leader, the followership that takes comfort sitting in the backseat taking to initiative to steer their corporate bus towards the path of success. The end result is mediocrity and loss of corporate identity.

The political sector is no exception. Political parties have been crumbling as a result of entrenching a leadership that never challenges itself. People with dissenting views have great value as they offer the alternative that a leader may never have comprehended. In general sense, dissenting views are a reality check. It is not surprising, therefore, that when we fail in any sector, there will be those who say, ‘but we said it and we knew it would end like this’.

This is now the time for a leadership analysis and for leaders to embrace the Abraham Lincoln success code be it in a family, work place, political circles and corporate leadership positions. Leadership is changing and the 21st century demands a dissenting-views responsive leadership.

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