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The First Law of Human Nature and Leadership

Have you ever been in a crowded place like in a bus or mall and someone is talking so loudly, oblivious of the nuisance they are constituting? Sometimes, even when you call their attention to it, they either ignore you or give you that condescending look.

That’s the 1st Law of Human Nature – We are primarily selfish. We only think about ourselves and do not care about what others think. So when you find someone who genuinely considers others, respect and follow that person.

One way to know a great leader is by looking at his attitude to self vs attitude to others:
• Does he think only about himself or about the team or organisation?
• Can he subordinate his desires for the good of the team?

If it is all about him and his cronies, you don’t need an angel to tell you that he will make a bad leader.

So, what is the first law of leadership then? It is the opposite of the first law of human nature – Leadership is not all about you!

You can be successful being selfish, but you cannot truly become a great leader when self is on the throne. That is, until you can transcend self, you will not rise to the heights of great leadership.

Great leaders understand that leadership is all about people – the people they are supposed to lead.

When we fail in the first law of leadership, the two common behavioural manifestations are as follows:

1. Superstar Syndrome

Superstars feed on the steroid of attention. They want to be the center of the universe in their teams or organizations. They think they are superior to everyone else. Without them, the team or organization will not succeed. Because they think they are the most important people in their teams, they want to be treated with utmost respect, assigned the best accounts, granted all their wishes, and given the first choice in everything. Their needs take precedence over the organization’s needs.

Other manifestations include but are not limited to the following:
They do all the talking, and people respond only when asked because sovereigns speak and subjects listen and applaud.
They take all the credit as nobody else is good enough without them, and they shift all the blame as they are too perfect to either make a mistake or fail. They never say sorry or apologize. Messiahs are infallible.
They operate a caste system: Royalty does not mingle with ordinary folks. Nepotism is their stock in trade.

They develop a paranoid mindset that the enemy is within—everybody else inside the organization is either a potential competitor to take away a portion of their pie or a potential thief and should not be trusted. They live by the rule that putting out others’ candles enhances the brightness of theirs. Internal strife, low trust, feelings of suspicion, and excessive controls are common manifestations of the “enemy is within” mindset.

2. Messianic Complex

The messianic complex is the superstar syndrome taken to the extreme. Usually it happens when the superstar syndrome has been left unchecked. Such people now think that they are the “saviors” of their worlds; without them, the team, organization, or nation will disintegrate. And because they think they are the promised messiahs, they want to be worshipped. They expect and demand absolute loyalty because they are sovereign and develop an infallibility complex because they think they are above the law and above making mistakes, all symptoms of autocratic dictatorship. They do not tolerate dissenting views and will use everything at their disposal to put out the fires of opposition. They are impatient with people because messiahs don’t suffer fools gladly. Mobutu Sese Seko, Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe readily comes to mind.

Other manifestations include but are not limited to the following:
They do all the talking, and people respond only when asked because sovereigns speak and subjects listen and applaud.
They take all the credit as nobody else is good enough without them, and they shift all the blame as they are too perfect to either make a mistake or fail. They never say sorry or apologize. Messiahs are infallible.
They operate a caste system: Royalty does not mingle with ordinary folks. Nepotism is their stock in trade.

The first test of great leadership begins with attitude, not ambition or potential. And the attitude is first and foremost for the organization or Leadership : It’s Not about You!

The first test of great leadership begins with attitude, not ambition or potential. And the attitude is first and foremost for the organization or Leadership : It’s Not about You!
nation, and not for oneself. The willingness to make personal sacrifices for the good of the organization is the starting point of great leadership. Paradoxically, the more you put your organization or others first, the more you achieve greatness and are celebrated by society and called a leader.

Be careful of any individual who is highly ambitious about getting to the throne or a position. People who fight for positions have nothing else to offer. Great leaders are usually not ambitious for positions or power but are forced by situations and circumstances and the plight of the human condition to accept the responsibility of leading their people.

A great leader represents his constituents (people, organization, nation and their interests) effectively.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu noted that he is a leader by choice because nature abhors a vacuum. Great leaders accept the position because they have to—the vacuum has to be filled—and not primarily because they want to, but they accept the responsibility of leadership because they want to. Ordinary and mediocre leaders, on the other hand, take the position because they want to but fail to take up the responsibility that the position entails and are consequently voted out or removed by the board or shareholders.

© Dr Maxwell Ubah
Your Work Coach