Kicking their legs against the sand, they stared into each other’s fiery, amber eyes. Their pupils’ spelled rage and the incessant drool trickling from their gaping mouths painted raw aggression in the sands. The rest of the pack watched in bewilderment. Echoes of howls and growls peeked through the midnight sky. With swift celerity, the stronger wolf jumped and attacked the weaker one. With just one punch from a clawed paw, the weaker wolf was rendered unconscious, blood oozing from her jugular. “Ahooo!” the conqueror screamed. The full moon watched on intently as a new alpha was elected and a new leader born.
Wolves are lovely creatures. Their sense of family and community is unrivaled in the animal kingdom. Wolves rarely travel alone. They hunt, gather and feed together with members of their pack. Because wolves are highly organized mammals, they understand the need for leadership and hierarchy. The social hierarchy of a pack is what maintains order in the community. The strongest wolf is called an Alpha. This wolf is the leader of the pack. It makes the decisions and takes the most responsibilities in the community.
Alphas are natural leaders. An alpha is the wolf that went against the odds, turned his back against his community and dared to walk alone in the wilderness until he found a suitable place to establish a family or community of his own. The alpha commands authority and reeks of strength. This is very important because, when wolves in a pack sense weakness in an alpha, a stronger wolf will sometimes come out to fight the leader. If it wins, it takes the leader’s mantle and becomes the new alpha.
Beta wolves are next in command. They are submissive to the alpha but sometimes rival among themselves to see who is strongest. Their duty is simply to follow. They don’t make their own decisions without the consent of the alpha. A wolf who does not belong to a pack is a called a lone wolf. Because lone wolves are required to do everything on their own, they are stronger, more aggressive and far more dangerous than the average wolf. A true leader, I believe, is one who has first and foremost been a beta, dared to be a loner and risen to be an alpha.
A true leader must first of all be a follower. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle says “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” In the shoes of a follower, one can learn important skills that can make him/her a better leader. A good leader understands the power of his/her followers. They know that their followers have the power to make or break them. Followers learn the value of submission to their leaders, the courage to stand up for themselves if they feel maltreated and the importance of collaborative diplomacy and teamwork among colleagues. All these are important traits that any responsible leader should possess.
I am the last born in my nuclear family. Growing up, I looked up to my two big brothers. I modeled my life after them and I started doing the things I saw them do. From them, I learned good and bad habits alike and they weren’t even aware of the lessons they were teaching me. Now, I live with my aunt and she has two little kids. As the eldest child here, I have learnt how to relate with them on a very personal level. I get them and I understand why they do some of the things they do. I know when to scold them and when to simply sit them down and talk to them calmly. I am very careful when I am around them because I know that they look up to me. They listen to the songs I like to listen to, they support the football team I support, they want to attend the same high school I attended and do the same course that I did. Personally, I have learnt that when you understand what it means to follow, you will make a better leader; a leader that other people will want to follow.
Another hallmark of a true leader is his/her ability and willingness to stand alone. Beta wolves that always stay under their alphas rarely become alpha themselves. Sometimes, lone wolves are just old or weak wolves who are abandoned by their pack because they cannot keep up. On certain occasions, however, some wolves may desert their packs and fly solo. Good leaders are people who know when it is the right time to stand alone. They are the ones who are willing to go against the status quo and chase their dreams even if it means chasing it alone. Good leadership is bundled with risk taking. Good leaders are willing to leave the comfort zone and pursue their ambitions and goals. The lone wolf is prone to attacks but it makes up for this by learning to be more aggressive, strong, and fierce.
I learned this principle when I went to live with my aunt at Akuse in the Eastern region. In their house, I was the only son. This was a total game changer for me. I had learned how to follow when I was the last born in my own home. I had also learned how to be very responsible and lead my little cousins when I stayed with them for some time. Now, I had to learn to lead and follow myself. There was no older sibling for me to look up to and no one who was looking up to me. As a beta, you watch and learn.
As an alpha, you can delegate some of your responsibilities to your subordinates. This is not the same case for a loner. You learn to do every single thing on your own. You learn to make decisions for yourself and stand up for yourself when no one else would. Most of the changes that have happened in my life today are results of decisions I made at that stage of my life. Although I understand and value teamwork, I know when it is right for me to stand alone and do what I have to do and I do this comfortably. When you learn to lead and follow yourself, it becomes relatively easy to get others to follow the trail you are blazing.
A wolf who goes through the stage of having been a beta, experienced the life of a loner and risen to become an alpha is the most fierce and strongest of all alphas. They are called true alphas. True alphas understand responsibility and most importantly the delegation of power. Leaders understand that they cannot do everything on their own. They, therefore, assign responsibilities and some power to subordinates to ensure that their power as leaders is kept in check. True Alphas are leaders who are strict yet liberal. They are dominant but show some vulnerability when they need to. They are willing to defend their territories. They find ways when there is none. They take bold steps and convince others to follow in them. They are risk takers and they get things done. A beta is a follower. A loner is a survivor. An alpha, a true leader, is therefore a person who understands what it means to serve others, who appreciates the value of self-mentorship and control and has the experience and courage to cause others to believe in his course.
The duel in our opening paragraph is an election. It is a vague description of how leaders are sometimes replaced by new ones in the wolf society. Followers will continue to follow so long as leaders give them a reason to follow. In about five months from now, our country will host its elections. Several leaders will be vying for the highest seat of the land. Whatever the results may be and whoever may emerge with the most votes, we as followers must be willing to rally behind him and see beyond our political divides to ensure our motherland continues to thrive in peace and tranquillity.
Semi-Finalist Content from the 2016 #360WritersChallenge