Leadership and the Paradox of Power - RegInsights

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As we near the elections here in South Africa, the sudden improvement in service delivery is hard to miss. Load shedding has been absent for over a month, and when outages do occur, municipalities work swiftly to resolve them. It’s almost as if the power cuts were just a bad dream! This type of efficiency raises questions about the timing and sustainability of these improvements. It also prompts a deeper reflection on leadership and its inherent challenges.

The Journey to Power

power in leadership

The path to leadership is often paved with humility, hard work, and a genuine connection to the people. Leaders start as ordinary individuals with aspirations to make a difference. During these initial stages, they remain grounded, approachable, and empathetic, understanding the struggles of those they aim to lead. This phase is characterised by a close bond with the community, a willingness to listen, and a commitment to serve. Think of them as the friendly neighbour who always had time for a chat and genuinely cared about your well-being.

Power Changes Everything

However, once individuals ascend to positions of power, a noticeable shift often occurs. The very qualities that made them relatable and trustworthy begin to fade. Success and authority can breed a sense of superiority, leading to arrogance and a disconnect from the grassroots. This change can be stark and troubling, transforming once humble leaders into distant and unapproachable figures. As the saying goes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

When Leaders Lose Touch

power in leadership

Arrogance in leadership manifests in various ways: a reluctance to accept feedback, a propensity to make unilateral decisions, and a general disregard for the needs and opinions of others. This attitude not only alienates the leaders from their base but also undermines the trust and respect that got them to their positions in the first place. The initial drive to serve is replaced by a desire to maintain control and power at all costs. Suddenly, the friendly neighbour becomes the aloof executive, too busy to remember your name.

Staying Grounded

paradox of power in leadership

True leadership requires maintaining the humility and empathy that characterised the leader’s early days. It involves continuous self-reflection and a conscious effort to stay connected with the community. Effective leaders remember their roots and strive to serve with the same passion and commitment that fuelled their journey to the top. They remain open to criticism, value diverse perspectives, and prioritise the well-being of their constituents over personal gain. A great example is Nelson Mandela, who remained humble and focused on unity and service even after achieving global recognition.

Lessons in Leadership

lessons in leadership

As we observe the pre-election surge in service delivery in South Africa, it serves as a reminder of the potential for leaders to effect positive change. However, it also underscores the importance of humility and consistency in leadership. Great leaders do not forget the path they walked; they remain grounded, humble, and dedicated to serving others, regardless of their position. It is this unwavering commitment to humility and service that defines true leadership.

Remember, leadership isn’t about the title or the power. It’s about the impact you make and the lives you touch along the way. So, whether you’re leading a country or just your local book club, stay humble, stay connected, and never forget where you came from. And always, before you speak, THINK!

  • T – Is it true?
  • H – Is it helpful?
  • I – Is it inspiring?
  • N – Is it necessary?
  • K – Is it kind?


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Neo Webb

Dip Media Practices Content Writer | Regenesys Business School


Dip Media Practices Content Writer | Regenesys Business School

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