The Leaders Dilemma: Who am I and why would they follow me?

Leadership is a risk, a challenge, it’s hard and painful, but also an extremely rewarding endeavour. Effective and lasting change requires leaders who can overcome their own personal frailties and insecurities and keep stepping up for the greater good.

There are two things that every leader asks at some point:

–        Who am I to lead these people?

–        Why would they want to follow me anyway?

My favourite scene in the film Chicken Run is when the chicken-leader, Ginger, addresses the other chickens in the henhouse about the plan to escape the oppression of the evil Mr and Mrs Tweedy. Ginger gives a passionate oration, firing them up, casting a vision of life outside the Tweedy henhouse. She then goes outside, leaving the cheering hens and collapses into tears asking – who am I to lead these chickens and why would they follow me?

The story of Moses in the ancient Judeo-Christian scriptures is one of a leader who continuously struggled with the challenges of leadership. He also asked himself these two questions.

When we hear the name, Moses, many think of the baby in the bulrushes or his message to Pharaoh, ‘Let my people go’. However, in between these two events Moses received the assignment to lead his people out of the oppression, slavery and much suffering in Egypt, into the Promised Land. His encounter with God, who called to Moses from the burning bush, caught him somewhat unaware. Moses was charged by God to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery and oppression and he was given authority to represent the Hebrew people before Pharaoh

So he asked God:

–        Who am I to appear before the Pharaoh?

–        Who am I to lead the people out of Israel?

God answered Moses with these key points:

  1. Confidence – God’s presence will be with you
  2. Assignment – Moses was given a mission
  3. Vision – When you have brought the people out of Egypt…
  4. Authority – Tell them the God of your ancestors send you

We all know that from time to time self-doubt enters our mind and tries to disrupt the path we seek to take, to lead people to the preferred future. So if we have the responsibility of leadership the self-doubt needs to be replaced with self-talk along these lines:

  1. Confidence – I am in this role because I am equipped and able to lead these people
  2. Assignment – There is an important job to be done and right-here-right-now I’m the one who is required to do it.
  3. Vision – I have a clear picture of the preferred future that we are moving toward
  4. Authority – I am charged with this responsibility

There are frequent stories throughout history of reluctant leaders like Moses, who overcame their own insecurities to take up the responsibility of leadership. Great leaders choose to do this because their people deserve better and the responsibility to lead is so great they just can’t shake it off.

This story of Moses can be found in Exodus 3

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