LEADERS worthy of emulation make any working environment a happy place to the extent that outsiders are “magnetized” to join him. Recruitment experts say the best talent magnet is not your Human Resources Manager or a skilled headhunter but the head of the organization. In US sports, most athletes join teams due to the financial package, while others, especially those who stay longer in their teams, join because of their attraction to the leader, who is either the owner, the manager, or the coach. In his leadership book, author and inspirational speaker John Maxwell believes that once the leader develops trust in terms of competence, connection and character, his admirers will follow him. Maxwell cited the example of prophets Elijah and Elisha, wherein both were magnetized to each other by mutual attraction and mutual commitment.
Christian blogger Kim Sullivan shared her insights in the lessons found in mentorship story of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Upon the proposition of Elijah, Elisha gave up his day job to follow Prophet Elijah as his assistant. In 1 Kings 19:21, the Bible narrates: “So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant”.
Sullivan says a protégé must focus on the mentor, observe his habits, and hopefully, learn from his faults. For six years, Elisha served Elijah and, despite being told three times to leave him, Elisha opted to stay behind to have a closer and more personal view of what his mentor was doing. Sullivan further narrated that a protégé must be “willing to stay close to a mentor even when remaining is difficult” and must wait patiently until the appointed time to take over.
In his Law of Buy-In, John Maxwell said people are attracted to their leader because of the leader’s Attraction Quotient (AQ), which is composed of seven traits, namely, Calling, Insight, Charisma, Talent, Ability, Communication Skills and Character. Let me focus on one of the more important ingredient in developing one’s AQ, which is calling. In his best-selling book, Ordering Your Private World, author Gordon MacDonald said “called” leaders, in the pursuit of making the company better in terms of profits, still manage to find time to discover the human being concealed under the employee uniform. Since called, persons move with a higher and unwavering purpose, they persevere and understand the true meaning of stewardship. They understand that they only “manage” and not “own” both the company they lead and the employees they give orders to. They are mentors, ready and willing to be replaced at the precise moment.
One “called” person close to our family is a departed friend, Kay Sham, whose business include the importation and distribution of athletic shoes and equipment. During his lifetime, Kay looked after the welfare of his employees that the employee retention rate after five years is close to a hundred percent. I remember “Magnet Man” Kay telling me that happy employees never leave their companies. They stick to you like glue, he said. Hardly anyone left Kay and his company, as Kay never took shortcuts or irregular transactions even though they will benefit the company. But more important, Kay understood that he never “owned” the company. He realized that time will come that he has to let go and let his successor take charge. Way before his death, more than a year ago due to a lingering illness, Kay has turned over the business to his children, particularly to my friend Anil Buxani. The mentorship story of Kay and Anil, similar to the Elijah and Elisha story, exemplified the attribute of being “called” as temporary shepherds of their flock in Sonak Inc. They might legally own the company but they still acted as managers and not owners.
Some might think that it is the job of the teacher to shadow the student, but the Bible reveals that Elisha’s success was found in the apprentice Elisha’s relentless pursuit of his mentor Elijah. Being coached by another can be difficult, especially under Kay Sham, whose dogged determination in life can have a negative impact on others. But not on Anil. Anil would sometimes tell me, but never complain, that his father Kay kept on asking him to do the harder things. But despite the hardships due to the demanding work ethic of his mentor, Anil kept on learning from Kay. And even in his deathbed, Kay taught Anil the value of looking after and loving your employees as a father would do to his children.
The reward is boundless for those protégés like Anil who have survived the struggles of learning from a tough loving mentor. Kay never left Sonak Inc. as Anil continues his father’s legacy. In the words of the poet Rumi, “Good-byes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with their heart and soul, there is no such thing as separation.” A servant leader like Kay never gets separated from his flock; his spirit is glued like magnet to the hearts of those he took care of.