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Explorations in Leadership

This week, [LinkedIn brag begins] I met the President of an African nation in transition to present a project on country branding.

We arrived an hour early, stepping around red carpets like nimble mountain goats, followed by an hour of intense decorum with diplomats and ministers.

At 5.55 pm, a door on the west side burst open and 12 troops, all masked rushed into the humongous conference room taking positions at doors and windows. Someone loudly shouted the official title of the President and a very large man walked in to easily take his seat. A soldier stood immediately behind him, like a barber offering a haircut – only instead of scissors, he had his Glock drawn.

At some point after lengthy introductions, I stood up to make my presentation. Safety latches went off to guide my super slow movement in 1,000 fps to the machine. I played a video and made my pitch – in all that time, not one of the 12 took their eyes off the team and me. The President listened carefully to my ideas, was impressed and legitimised my story for the next three years [LinkedIn brag ends]. A few minutes later, he walked towards the door – 6 of the troops led his exit, the rest stayed with us to neutralise any threat. We exhaled, not knowing if we were basking in the glory of a job well done, or just being alive.

Leadership comes in many forms – this is one I experienced for the first time. Each one of those soldiers would kill the moment they perceived a threat to their leader. They were all extensions of him – one body of humans led by one mind. Always moving together like a giant, organic yet beautifully structured unit.

What creates this commitment to die or live for a leader? Where is this inspiration coming from? As leaders of teams, how can we use this?

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