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Great leadership is an elusive quality that we all think we recognise when we see. It takes hindsight and history to set a final seal of approval on an individual’s greatness as a leader. Among the many ways of looking at leadership, here are four classes or levels of leadership, in ascending order of quality. To which one do you belong?
I Did It: The most common type of leader belongs to the ‘I did it’ school and cements a reputation by constantly highlighting his/her own role and the positive accomplishments that result. This is probably the most common and the most rudimentary form of leadership. The vast majority of political leaders in the world today fall into this category.
S/He Did It: With more experience, maturity and personal growth, a few managers stop managing and become true leaders. In such cases, all members of a team have no hesitation in acknowledging that the group’s successes are a reflection of the values imbued by its head. After a task is successfully accomplished, the team gives the leader credit and says, “S/he did it.”
We Did It: There is a subtler form of leadership that stresses inclusivity, strives to bring out the best in people, and is cloaked in benevolence. The benevolence may be skin deep or may go deeper than that. In either case it is more effective than the first two levels. Anyone fortunate enough to work in an organization with this kind of leadership identifies completely with the tasks to be accomplished and takes ‘ownership’ in the best sense of the word.
I Did It: At the highest level, however, the world of leadership comes back to the ‘I,’ but in a completely non-egoistic sense. This is the spiritual I that embodies and identifies with the whole world. There is no need for the presence of a leader. Every single one of these exalted I’s is a member of a team; within an organisation, within a country, within the world. The I that reaches this state is truly a universal I. In order to reach this level, we need to take charge of ourselves, each one of us individually. And when we do, we will also become exemplary followers, of the kind that all visionary organisations and societies need. There is a ‘circle of life’ philosophy at work here, a spiritual component, to this level of leadership. This is a level worth aspiring to, and is the only kind of leadership that can change the course of the world.