Greatness in leaders begins with having a sense of purpose that spurs them to action and to taking the initiative. A sense of purpose is the driver that keeps leaders moving forward, regardless of their obstacles or their perceived inadequacies. Jon Foster-Pedley, dean and director of Henley Business School Africa, believes the road to leadership excellence involves both an inner journey of self-betterment and an outer journey of making a meaningful contribution to society.
Achieving an MBA is not about getting a badge for yourself. The whole point of attending a business school to accomplish something useful in the society you live in. Well run businesses create the value and innovation necessary to make our country prosperous. In the process of running a good business, jobs are generated, people are educated and society is uplifted in meaningful ways.
Greatness is the sum of a life's work, whether or not it ever achieves public recognition. It isn't just a status to be appropriated; rather it's a continual journey of inner challenge and outer achievement, as well as of stepping up and being courageous.
Even if you believe in something and know that you are the only person who can accomplish this particular vision, you're going to encounter many challenges. Your ego will rise and you'll have to challenge that. You may at times fear that you'll never be able to go the distance. There'll be sacrifices and deferred gratification, but along the journey, you'll stretch yourself beyond what you ever believed yourself capable of doing.
What goes into the model of a great person? Imperfection is a big part of it, because the whole point is that you are striving towards the ideal of being great. We achieve greatness in spite of our frailties and bad habits. This brings with it self-knowledge, not of how great we are, but of how great we're not. In spite of this, great leaders-in-training keep stepping up. Many of history's great leaders were quiet, dependable, slightly unassuming people who somehow accomplished amazing deeds. These people were exactly the same as everyone else, but they achieved greatness by doggedly focusing on their purpose through thick and thin.
However, trying to imitate people we think are great will not make us become like them. You have to model greatness in your own way and that can be a daunting journey. People are going to say, "You're odd, you're different" and you're going to make mistakes and fall flat on your face many times, but you've got to keep going at it.
It's my personal belief that it's the human condition to build greatness and to be heroic. Each of us has a service to perform and that service involves making a change in the real world and building a better country for future generations. Would-be leaders have to ask themselves, "Who's going to do this except me?"
According to research conducted on the roots of happiness, three key components are needed: a purpose that is bigger than you, the autonomy to fulfil this purpose and a sense that you're learning and progressing along the way. So this idea of seeking greatness is not an ego trip, it' the fulfilment of a life's quest.
Leading business schools understand that confidence is necessary to propel people along this journey. The idea is to bring them to a point where they develop a self-image of being capable — flawed, but capable. They begin to realise that the journey forward is one of trying, falling and picking yourself up, but in all that, insight and self-value is being formed, and they grow in stature.
In conclusion, how can we encourage people to aspire to greatness? Nelson Mandela is a great example. He left seeds in people that encouraged them to embark on new journeys and to believe that they too could be great. Mandela understood that nobody is better or worse than anyone else. His legacy is a mass of smaller heroes who will, with determination, grow to be great heroes.
Greatness is something we can all do and we all should all strive for it. Greatness is possible. Keep going at it. Nothing reduces the odds against you more than ignoring them altogether.
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