The Missing Link- Personal Leadership

by Mr Peter Mohlala


In the second half of 1998, my journey to personal development began. I was a 15 years old lad, doing standard 8 (now Grade 10) at the time. I was having a conversation with a man that made so much impact in my life. He was a teacher in a neighbouring high school, and he later became a pastor, my pastor. He would ask me questions like “What do you want to study after matric? Where do you want to stay after university? What responsibilities are you having at your school apart from your academic work? What other non-academic aspirations do you have which you feel proud or excited each time you think about them? What type of church will you want to attend which will support those aspirations? And what will your parents do if you decided to change school or church- or you told them that you are leaving school completely? As a 15 year old, his questions made me to think from where I was into events of at least 2 to 5 years ahead. I thought we were making simple conversations but he was stretching my mental prowess and planting seeds of greatness in me.

Should we be led or should we lead others? What about leading oneself?

In many of his books, Dr. John C. Maxwell summarises leadership as “influence”. The Oxford online dictionary defines influence as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development and behaviour of someone or something.” The Merriam- Webster online dictionary describes influence as “the power to cause changes without forcing them to happen.” In both definitions, the suggested effect or the changes will have to happen on the third party- someone or something- and not so much on the self- our own selves. That is how leadership is generally viewed. It is construed as the leading of other people. We do not think of it in the light of personal leadership- the leading of self, which is the base for all forms of leadership that we have.

In this 21st century age, the potential level and type of influences- and by extension leadership- are generally high, and the sources are never curtailed. We speak of all sorts of books, google, academia, the main stream media, social media- twitter, facebook, Twoo, Mxit, instagram, linked-in, etc- political parties, government officials and celebrities. It is so huge. If someone has no intrinsic base for personal leadership, s/he may find himself or herself doing things that have no real resonance with his or her personal self. But is it bad to be influenced? Not at all. I am of the opinion that the kind of appropriate influence will have to be in line with one’s core values and personal sense of direction. But without such, many influences may be a guide to frustrating, unfulfilled, and sometimes, jealous lives.

What am I suggesting?

I am of the view that personal leadership is a critical but challenging function that we all have to embrace, and therefore exercise on daily basis in our personal lives. This calls for us to understand who we are (identity), where we come from (heritage) and where we are going (goals, visions, destinies), why we do exist in this time and generation (purpose), what we are able to do (potential) and how we can do what we do better, what milestones we should be reaching at different times and stages of our lives (evaluation or reflection), and understanding whom we do or should account to- now and tomorrow. The answers to some of these questions will enable many of us to move into our default settings and help us not to be distracted and moved by the busyness of the masses before us and in various media platforms. It is will guide us to that place of being comfortable in one’s skin, and being fulfilled by the affirmation that comes from doing what resonates with one’s inner core. That’s what personal leadership is about. And the type of influence derived from this is more impactful and effective that the one imposed on us by positions of power. And those with strong personal leadership but occupying a position of power become extremely influential to the masses of our people, regardless of race, gender, religion and creed.

What then from here?

I want to conclude with the following thoughts or suggestions:

  1. For each one of us to succeed in life, one has to lead himself or herself -effectively. We should be intentional and conscious of our own decisions and choices daily. And such should be guided by our core selves.
  2. One has to consciously and continuously improve and develop himself or herself to avoid being obsolete. Personal leadership calls for continuous personal development. Some people will need to immediately find mentors who will assist in this regard.
  3. One has to develop a habit of consistently making better decisions and choices. Ask yourself if the decision or choice you are making is the best available choice at that moment, or if it is the choice you are only seeing. Good decisions or choices start with the first one that you make. Unfortunately, bad decisions and choices come with hefty rewards and the consequences are generally regressive and repressive.

Let us lead ourselves effectively, so that we can lead others well. Ke tšwile!!!


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