Nothing gives away the true nature of leadership like a good crisis. Many that we now know as great leaders emerged in a time of crisis. If there was no apartheid and inequality in South Africa, would we have had a Nelson Mandela? If there was no second world war, would Winston Churchill have attained his leadership status?
Of course we do know that there have been leaders who even without a crisis rose up to be counted. The late Bob Collymore put his stamp on an organisation that impacted millions of lives. This is why when he died, even the street vendor mourned his departure.
What then are the must-have traits of transformational leaders who leave a mark?
We first need to track the evolution of leadership from the very first stages. When you get your first job, your academic qualifications are mostly what count. So stage one in the evolution of leadership is marked by academic qualifications. The next stage is marked by technical know-how. Academic qualifications will be short lived especially in the world today. Your next promotion to stage two in your leadership journey is not going to be because you scored an A in Mathematics. It is going to be because of your ability to do the job you were hired to do better than others.
After you prove yourself at stage two, the next level is the ability to manage projects. This level is where you are able to take your technical know-how and apply it to practically solve problems. The ability to manage projects and achieve set goals is the bridge between the small and big league. The next stage is your ability to manage teams. You will have a team handling different projects, which means dealing with all sorts of temperaments.
Now you are not just dealing with technical issues or a project but you have to manage people who can choose not to like you and you still you have to ensure they perform. You also have to get them to work with one each other even if they do not like each other. Once you successfully manage things at this level, the next phase is the ability to lead teams of leaders. This is where your success is dependent on how well the people under you are able to manage the temperaments of the people under them. At this stage your greatest attribute will be the ability to manage egos. Once you have been able to do this successfully, then you are ready for the crown jewel of leadership. This applies whether you are running an organisation, stakeholders or even a nation.
So, stage one is characterised by papers. Stage two by technical know-how. Stage three by projects. Stage four by temperaments. Stage five by egos and stage six by stakeholders.
Leaders who excel and shine in a crisis are those that are experts at stakeholder management. They are pragmatic and not idealistic. They know how to lead with empathy in the face of hostilities. They lead with a heart even when making hard decisions. They lead for all and not for self. They lead for the greater good and in such a way that even those who do not like them respect them.
Leaders who do not go through these stages usually never grew through the ranks and are simply an office holder and not a leader.