There are many definitions of leadership, but in my mind you are a leader whenever you influence the attitudes, behaviour and development of other people. This can range from a father (who influences the attitudes, behaviour and development of his children), to a president (who has to influence the attitudes, behaviour and development of a nation). But before you can learn how to excel in leadership, you need to be honest with yourself.
1. Your desire for leadership
In 2 Kings 2, we read about Elisha taking over the role of prophet from Elijah. Both knew that it was time for Elijah to be taken into heaven, and when Elijah asked Elisha, “What shall I do for you, before I am taken from you?” he replied, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me”. Elisha was determined to have the anointing he needed to serve the nation of Israel – he was ambitious in his calling. So how hungry are you to excel in leadership?
2. Your underlying motivation
Do you have an overwhelming ambition to be seen, to be acknowledged? Are you motivated by a love of money? God’s Word is the ultimate standard of truth, and all your endeavours need to be calibrated against it. You need to understand that you have been placed in a specific position of authority by God, for His purposes. This is freeing, because it means you can be comfortable in your own skin and do not have to pretend to be someone you’re not.
3. Your character
Reputation is what people think about you, but character is who you really are. Who are you when no one is watching? The reality is that what happens in your ‘inner chamber’, will ultimately determine how your life will turn out. Therefore, you need to pay close attention to maturing in your character.
4. Your clarity of direction
To be an excellent leader, you need (or need to develop) clarity of direction, or ‘vision’. Excellent leaders do not simply cruise through life, hoping to fall into the right opportunities – you need to plan where you want to lead your organisation to in a year’s time, and in five years’ time.
5. Your competence
Then, you need to be competent in your field of responsibility, which closely relates to empowering yourself through continuous learning. An excellent leader is someone who can get the job done! You need to have the necessary skills, and continue to empower yourself. Keep abreast of new developments in any sphere that you are involved in.
6. Your ecosystem
Excellent leaders see the world through the lens of an ecosystem (not an ‘ego-system’). Connect with others in your field and learn from them – be honest and humble enough to know that you don’t know it all. There will be times when you will have to let your weaknesses be augmented by the strengths of others. And then there will be times when you will have to let your strengths compensate for the weaknesses of others. As an individual, you are limited in your own efforts, but in a collaboration, everyone achieves more.
7. Your communication skills
Developing your communication skills is key. Sometimes leaders can be so wrongfully right – saying the right things, in completely the wrong way. Excellent leaders have the rare ability to communicate their intentions in a persuasive and precise way, while also being graceful and inspiring.
8. Your courage
You need courage. Life is tough, and excellent leaders have the ability to move forward despite the obstacles. Where others see dead-ends, leaders see new possibilities, and their belief that ‘it can be done!’ motivates their people towards action.
9. Your consistency
Excellent leaders are consistent. It’s not what you do once in a while, it’s what you do every day that matters. Everything mentioned above, from maturing in character, growing in competence, developing communication skills, embracing collaboration – these all need to be built intentionally over long periods of time.
Life is defined by moments. We all have two significant moments in our lives – the day we are born, and the day we figure out why we were born. Take the time to discover God’s purpose for your life, and then take a firm hold of it. If you desire leadership, and you find yourself in a position of authority – good! Pursue it with intention and excellence, for the sake of everyone you have been called to serve.
Martin Kuscus distinguished himself in high-profile positions such as the MEC of Finance in the North West, as CEO of the SABS, and as Chairman of the Government Employee Pension Fund (overseeing a portfolio worth R870 billion). Over his long career, he served as Chairman of the Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund, on the Council for International Standards Organisation (ISO) based in Geneve, on the South African Finance and Fiscal Commission and the Office of Health Standards Compliance, as well as being President of the Afrikaanse Handels Instituut. He is currently a Director of the Netcare Group, Chairman of the Mineworker’s Provident Fund, and a Director of the JSE-listed Synergy Income Fund. His first book, Credibility Matters, was published in 2021.