If you had ten seconds to share one leadership quality that begins with the letter ‘B,’ what word would you choose? Best, brave or brilliant? You would be right with any choice of word. Your current position, posture and recent encounters with leaders often serve to filter how you determine what is important in leadership at a particular time. In the meantime, let’s think about ‘B’ for ‘being’ and not ‘doing.’ Being and doing are inseparable components of what makes a leader but being is our main focus here. Let us consider five ‘B’ qualities for better leadership.
‘B’ for BALANCE
Life is not all about work and work is not all that good life entails. The leadership of 'self' impacts wherever self is. To cultivate a lifestyle that enhances your overall well-being and maximizes your productivity, balance is the operative word. What about rest, healthy diet, flourishing relationships, engaging the mind, and a deepened spiritual life in the recipe for a balanced life? My model is Jesus – “And Jesus increased in wisdom (mentally) and in stature (physically) and in favor with God (spiritually) and man (socially) – Luke 2:52 (ESV).
Personal discipline and integrity are as pleasing to God as prayer and Bible studies. Not every challenge is a spiritual problem. Too many leaders in mother Africa find spiritual causes where failed leadership is actually the culprit. Responsible leaders know when common sense solutions are what God requires. Think balance: Balance of the personal and public; prudence and product, people and project. Divine activity and human responsibility are not mutually exclusive. Professional achievement is not success in itself, not when one is failing miserably as a parent, spouse or friend. Imagine carving a stool for yourself. Imagine each of your values representing the legs of the stool. Break two of the legs off. How does it look? Steady? Now sit on the stool and tell us why you want us to believe that you are so comfortable and secure on the stool. Why then do we try to pretend that the imbalanced life is working? Balance evinces integrity.
‘B’ for BEAUTY
When inner beauty manifests on the outside, the results are charming. An angry leader in fine apparel is like a venom in a golden flask standing on the dining table. Impressive personality and so-called ‘sexy’ outlook are not enough unless it is accompanied by a beautiful mental attitude, pleasant speech, and decency. Most people need no more than two minutes to smell the ugly stuff underneath polished words and rehearsed gestures. A leader needs to dress appropriately and be clean. Grooming is not a bad thing and so is a pleasant smell. Think beauty for attraction. Observe and commend them when you see them in your team. Many are they who scheme for attention but not all attention is noble. The 21st-century leader is a brand so dare to be a person of character and true beauty. A cluttered desk suggests a cluttered mind and comfort in chaos. Pursue beauty first on the inside and show it in your conduct and leadership.
‘B’ for BOUNDARIES
The near zero consciousness of space and rugged individualism has championed a boundary-less culture. Appropriate language and respect must not be confused with political correctness. Intrusion into private or social space of others can be awkward and uncomfortable. It is deception to think that social media warrants a license for abuse and violations. People who are not interested in knowing you personally are still curious to learn about your character and values from social media. This is the reason employers check a person’s social media platform before hiring into important positions. Laws governing abuse of all forms will soon catch up with boundary-less leaders. It all begins with respect. Respect others and you will get respect back. The tone of voice and proximity to the conversation partner tell a lot. Know your limits and when not to cross the line—in speech, conduct, etc. Too many leaders today do not know when to stop and when to start; these same are offended when those they embarrass retaliate. What would happen if all drivers decide to ignore traffic lights and do whatever they like in a city? If you live in Cairo, Accra or Lagos then you know that they often result in chaos on the roads. Expect chaos and look out for hurting people where leaders have no boundaries. The good news is that leaders can learn to be respectful.
‘B’ for BOOKS
A twenty-first-century leader can no longer complain about the lack of resources for growth. Books are everywhere. Cultural shifts require effective communication and delivery. Your core principles may remain unchanged but trends do impact how you deal with people. Read, read, and read more books. Learn about people and best practices. When I lived in London, I made a commitment one year to stop at a major bookstore in Fulham on my way home three times a week for thirty minutes. I soon discovered lots of things my curious mind wanted to learn. I later decided to spend some time to read a chapter or two about something I found interesting. It was an amazing experiment. I learned a lot. The books you read shape your values. So many great leaders have summarized their good and bad experiences in books. Make books the staircase on your match to the top. Born or made, every leader has the capacity to learn and areas to grow. Free videos and audio books of major authors are available for free on YouTube. Choose good books to read; read about your weakness; read about other leaders; read to work on who you want to be or how you want to lead.
‘B’ for BUILDER
As a builder sees an impressive edifice on a bare plot of land, even in water log areas, so do leaders. They see the end from the beginning. They do what is necessary to build a solid foundation and avoid structural compromises. Leaders may sometimes build on the foundation laid by others. They see with creative eyes and develop substructures for strong edifices. Strong structures are not enough, however, if the building is not functional. Internal properties, aesthetics, and functionality are inseparable in the leader’s mind. A leader builds lives, organizes, and produces real results. I have learned to excavate for talents in the process. I have grown to recycle discarded human or material resources. I have also discovered that more than one talent, one skill set and one equipment is necessary for construction. Effective leaders see the big picture and mobilize all resources to make things happen.
The ‘B’ leader dreams big, goes for the best, and makes brave moves. Africa and the rest need leaders who understand and exhibit ‘B’ qualities. ‘B’ not for bad, but ‘B’ to be the best. What other ‘B’ quality would you add as a necessity for a leader who wants to make a difference in the 21st century?