Boston mayor Kevin White,1929-2012

While conceptions of leadership, especially in the developing world context, tend to conjure images of brutal, corrupt and compulsive leaders preoccupied with their own power-amassing ambitions and addressing the lowly masses from on high, true and effective leadership actually has very little to do with oppression, control and domination and a lot with empowering and motivating.To be an effective leader, one must turn all of his or her so called followers into leaders. Paradoxical much? Yet at the heart of this paradox lies a simple yet compelling concept that defines true leadership.

If leadership entails empowering and motivating, then an effective leader is one who uses power to transform his followers into individuals who are motivated, efficient and strong, rather than using power to control, undermine and dominate his followers. An effective leader is one who can then ultimately advance collective purpose, not through dogmatism or domination, but rather by being acclimatized to the aspirations and desires of his or her followers. Leaders have to satisfy the desires and hopes of their followers, they have to identify what the people truly need and then guide them to achieving those shared goals through a collective process. A true leader can induce his followers to act in accord with their shared values and motivations and elevate them from lower to higher levels of goals and purposes.

Leadership then becomes about sacrificing personal ambitions for the greater goal of satisfying the goals and aspirations of others. Through this process, leadership is then transformed from a tyrannical affair into a dynamic relationship characterized by a process of participation with leaders and followers both engaged in a collaborative process which includes exchanging of ideas and identification of common purposes and collective needs and interests without which leadership becomes meaningless. The implication is that this kind of leadership bears a moral aspect; driven not only by individual ambition but inevitably concerned with respect and justice for other individuals. Leadership in this case is no longer a thing but rather an interactive relationship.

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