Friday, September 2, 2011

Personal Leadership and Collective Responsibility

The leaders one elect, be it in a nation or any organization, are a reflection of the people that elected them - what they know, what they value, how they make choices, or how empowered they are to make the choices that are best for them.
The downside to electing leaders is the common tendency to imbue in these leaders all the capabilities one wishes they had which, more often than not, fall short of what they truly possess. Moreover, we tend to think that our responsibility in the process ends with the selection, rather than following that through with supporting the leader throughout the process of governance. Indeed, after an election, a leader becomes fair game to criticism and blame, as if all that is wrong in the system is his/her doing. To be fair, criticism is one way of supporting a leader, because through it the leader gains feedback and is able to adjust his leadership as he/she sees fit. But it's different when the griping is made irresponsibly, or is made only for its own sake.

The tendency to suddenly heap all blame and responsibility to a leader is a demonstration of our seeming belief that with the election of the leader, our own part has been accomplished. It is like saying: That's it, you're now in position, now make things happen for us. 

As a member of a society or organization, that makes us passive participants to governance. In that sense, election becomes a way for us to wash our hands off from further responsibility or burden. It's a cop out!

However, to make any organization work requires the dynamic interaction and cooperation of both the leader and the led. There is a school of thought that says when we elect others to positions of leadership, we also elect ourselves to our own positions -- we just simply call our own place citizenship (as to a nation) or membership (as to an organization). And as in the leadership position, citizenship or membership also carries an equal set of great responsibility.

A leader's worth is measured on his/her every action or inaction. As regular citizens or members of an organization, what we tend to forget is that while we are not visibly measured on the same standard as those in positions with titles, our own action and inaction has as much if not greater effect on the results that a leader will or will not achieve.
Leadership is a futile exercise where the majority has no intent to follow or themselves take initiative. But indeed, it is a great leader one who is able to galvanize his/her people into action.
When we think of ourselves in this way - as ordinary citizens/members of a nation/organization but whose actions actually and ultimately define what becomes of the nation/organization one belongs to - then that will have been true power - People Power - as we once called it, as in the Philippine experience in 1986.

Such power does not have to be displayed only on monumental challenges like of 1986. Such power must be practiced in everyday life, in ones tiniest duties as member or citizen, and in fact even in ones own personal goals. No great nation or organization did zoom to the top that did not have members who recognized the power of their little efforts and turned that into collective strength from which to make its ascent to the heights of success.

Taking responsibility for what you create in your life ultimately includes taking responsibility of what you can contribute in your nation/organization. Your own journey to the top cannot be incompatible with seeing your nation/organization through to the top. That is personal leadership.

See you at the top!

Book Recommendations:
The Tao of Personal Leadership
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
The 360 Degree Leader Workbook: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization
The Truth about Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know