“They are not born. They are made. They are made just like anything else … through hard work, through patience, and through courage. They lead with passion. They instil hope, and confidence. They stamp out the fears, and encourage determination. They create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and unremittingly drive it to completion. Yes, they are the leaders!” Sir Thomas Abbot stopped as the audience before him broke into vivacious clapping.
His eyes swept the bright, prolific auditorium before him, taking in the young, eager faces, all with their eyes set on him. These kids were from distinguished institutions across the country, and he was here to brief them on the virtues of a leader. He was here to tell them what leadership was, and he was doing it with a vigour that belied his age. He could see the light in their eyes, and the prospect of providing his country with the very-much-indispensable leaders made him all the more resolute.
He smiled, coughed, before continuing,
“A leader, in essence, is a dreamer. But a dreamer who struggles through every thick and thin, seeing the silver lining in every cloud, and rests only when he has achieved what he dreamt. To be able to lead others, a man must be prepared to go to the fore unaccompanied, because leaders don’t wait; they shape their own frontiers. The bigger the challenge is, the greater is the opportunity. And they see it. Fear stops you in your tracks. Self-assurance propels you forward. You have to believe in yourself, because it is hard to beat a person who never gives up. Strong-minded, resolutely-willed, you can create out of nothing an immense business, a gigantic empire, a New World!” his voice reverberated around the hall, as the promising youngsters sat there, their faces screwed up in concentration, clinging to every word that left his mouth, as if their life depended on it. Some had their camcorders out, others were moving their hands with such amazing speeds that their hands were a blur, writing down all that he said.
His eyes lit up with pride and emotions.
He stopped to catch his breath, before going on, slower this time, “Do you remember Martin Luther King Jr.? He had a dream. We all have dreams. But his dream, it was different. Why? Because he believed he could accomplish it, and he did. Do you remember Abraham Lincoln? Winston Churchill? Mahatma Gandhi? Mohammad Ali Jinnah? They all had one thing in common – determination, a determination that never faltered, a resolve that never wavered, and a will to attain what they sought. All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim; had fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes even seemed impossible. But they achieved it, simply by knowing that difference between the impossible and possible lies in a person’s determination.”
He had to stop, as the hall had once again burst into vigorous round of applause. It took them a moment to settle again. He sighed.
“Leaders need to have influence on their people. What makes leadership is the ability to get people to do what they don’t want to do, and like it. As a leader you should always start with where people are before you try to take them to where you want them to go. Just like a good manager is a man who isn’t worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him, a good leader is a man who rejoices the success of those who look up to him. A good leader is a man who brings people up – not down! A good leader is a man who seizes every opportunity to give encouragement, because encouragement is oxygen to the soul.”
Whole room was lit by glares of flashlights, and he was, for an instant, blinded by the sudden onslaught from every direction. He closed his eyes, removed his eyeglasses, and wiped his forehead with the back of his wrinkled hand. Putting his glasses back on, he took a swig from the glass of water on the dais before him. Age had its tolls. His feet already felt heavier, but he smiled softly.
“Leadership is not a one-day thing. It is a constant commitment to excellence, a habit . . . a daily practice. Challenge yourself all the days of your life. Plunge boldly into the thicket of life! Either find a way or make one. The will to win is worthless if you do not have the will to prepare. Lead by example! Exceed expectations! Move. Whatever it takes, just move! Don’t let anything stop you.
There will be times when you’ll be disappointed, but you can’t stop. Make yourself the very best that you can! The challenge may not be easy, but it is possible. What you need is boldness, more boldness, and always boldness!” and with that, he finished.
As he turned around to make his way to his seat, the auditorium rang with fervent clapping and cheering. There were many flashes of light, again. It made him smile, broadly. He sat on his seat, thinking. He had done his job, and hopefully, his effort would not be fruitless. At 71, he was too old to take the job anymore. It was time of the young ones. They needed to be prepared, because their country needed them, and he had done something to contribute to the cause.
When he exited the hall, an hour or so later, during which he had been asked for autographs quite a few times, he wore a satisfied grin on his face, which lit his face in a way that made him look ten years younger.
Before the sun rose on the next day, the newsstands and the hawkers began selling the papers, and with those, came the shocking news, on the front page of every paper, right beneath the benevolently smiling face of Sir Thomas Abbot from the day before, of his demise.
He had fallen asleep last night, content, satisfied, and hopeful, never to wake up again. That evening, the city’s graveyard witnessed the greatest service ever in the history, as hundreds of black-clad mourners gathered to see him to his very last abode, with eyes cast down, drenched in rain, which disguised the tears streaming down their faces. As the sun sat that day, the words, “Here lies Sir Thomas Abbot, the dreamer who left behind a legacy of true leadership” glowed blood-red in the departing rays.