Since the beginning of time there have been leaders. Every country, business, organization has them. What is also true is that leaders come and go. As a leader myself, I know that at some time in my career I will be gone. Every leader comes to the point that they will need to decide what kind of legacy they want to have. When I talk about a legacy I don't necessarily mean after a leader has left. It can be a living legacy when they are still leading. The legacy we either leave or establish while still leading is really based on two particular characteristics. One is leading by consent and the other is leading by force. Leading by force is probably self explanatory. These leaders are the dictators of our world. You follow them not by choice, but by force. There are a several problems with this style of "Leadership by Force" and generally the length of leadership doesn't last very long. Let's name a few of these dictators – Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Julius Caesar, and Genghis Khan. Don't have any in recent times? What about Kim Jong Il or Saddam Hussein? The trend for most dictators is that there tenure is fairly short lived. Here are the lengths of each dictator's rule.
- Julius Caesar 5 years
- Adolph Hitler 12 years
- Kim Jong il 17 years
- Saddam Hussein 24 years
- Joseph Stalin 25 years
- Genghis Khan 25 years
Some of these reigns were very short. What is most devastating is the damage these leaders did in their short terms. Their legacy is filled with violence, force, the deaths of thousands or even millions of people. They killed those opposed them, in some cases people of their own country.
All leaders come to a crossroad. They must choose which way they want to lead – by force or consent.
Leaders of consent lead by the consensus of their followers. This type of leader shares certain commonalities with the group they lead. They have to become a part of the people they lead. The people have to accept what their leader is made of. Don't think this is true? Look at our own office of the President of the United States. One of the main reasons our country was founded was for religious freedom. What religion? Specifically Christianity. How many Presidents can you name that were not, at least by their claim, of the Christian religion? Zero. That's right, none. In over 200 years, no leader of our country has claimed not to be a Christian. That may change over time because of the changing religious diversity of our country, but since the beginning of the office the people of this country have wanted a Christian as their President. A leader’s influence, the impact they have during their lifetime, is determined by the consent of their followers.
One of the most recent popular presidents – Dwight D. Eisenhower – ranks #9 on the list of top ten most popular presidents. Eisenhower served as the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. (This is according to The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents which gives the results of the 1982 survey, a poll of 49 historians conducted by the Chicago Tribune. Source Wikipedia.) How popular "Ike" was in 1952? He won 39 of the 48 states. Hawaii and Alaska became states in 1959 during his second term so he never got a chance to win those two states. Why was he so popular? Most historians say he was very charismatic, engaging, almost a grandfatherly figure as a President. Who doesn't want to follow someone that is like their grandfather? You know your grandfather is for you. You are part of his legacy. And you follow for those very reasons.
Be a leader who gets people to follow you by their consent and you will leave a legacy that will have a positive impact in the world around you