28 Sep


The title of this post resonates, I believe. What does it remind you of? What does it get you thinking about? The picture of a cemetery? An inescapable moment in every organism’s life? Perhaps a hard reality? Yes, that’s what it is—an inescapable, tough reality!

This post is the last in the Characteristics of Living Leaders series. Living leaders are leaders who lead a life of positive influence when they’re available and desire to leave a good legacy after they’re gone. Leadership is a process that starts from where you are. A journey with no specific end. It is influence. And the influence of living leaders knows no bound. Even after death, it remains immortal. And that’s why they are living leaders.

I discovered this leadership principle after I studied the life of Jesus Christ in the ‘Four Gospels.’ My humble discoveries:

  • Jesus is the saviour of the world
  • Jesus is our greatest example—He’s modeled all we need to do to excel both in life and in leadership
  • Jesus is the pioneer of servant leadership
  • Jesus started out as a youngster!

He is a Living Leader…

Now death means different things to different people in different situations. For some, it is an end. For others, it is a brand new start—a beginning. But most times at least for leaders, it means both—an end and a beginning simultaneously. (Obviously, that’s what it meant for our perfect example, Jesus Christ, too.)

Let me tell you how by highlighting few areas you need to die for you to become an effective living leader.

1. Doubt

You remember Jeremiah? What was his greatest obstacle to becoming the leader that God predestined him to become? Yes, you know the answer: Doubt!

“Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child,” he responded to the call to leadership.

He doubted his Creator.

He doubted his destiny.

He doubted his potential.

But wait a moment…Jeremiah later became a living leader. He remains immortalized in Israel’s history. What happened?

He heard God’s reply: “Say not, ‘I am a child.’”

That was the death of his doubt. That was the beginning of his greatness. Because he believed and decided to lead God’s people—His creation.

Over to you. Do you believe that you’re too young for leadership? You have to decide.

2. Self

According to the leadership saying, “The toughest person to lead is yourself.” And just like Plato said, the greatest victory is over self. In all of us is a desire to become legitimate. Many poor leaders have allowed that selfish desire be their drive for leadership. And guess what…their subjects do not appreciate their leadership. Most are forgotten. Few are remembered—remembered for the evil they did.

I bet you don’t want to be that kind of leader or, at least, that kind of individual.

The question is: What do you want people to remember you for?

You see, self is a cruel enemy. No matter how smart you are, it can stop you from becoming the living leader you desire to become. It has a huge potential of limiting your impact, tainting your influence and eventually destroying your legacy as an individual.

And yes, there is also an end and a beginning to self. The end of self-centeredness should be the beginning of selflessness. And that’s the quality of a servant leader. That’s the pathway to becoming a living leader.

While I was drafting this post, I discussed the subject with my friend Peter Babawale via WhatsApp. At first, when I told him my thesis statement, he felt intrigued. After a few explanations, he got the picture and replied in affirmation that death could mean a beginning after an end:

Yes, it’s. You know, even after a tree is cut-down, especially a banana tree. It’s sometimes done by the farmers when (they discover) it’s no longer yielding fruits. It’s not necessary for the root to be in the soil. Yet, it finds a way of sprouting, even in a more efficient way than in the past … Sacrifice is needed to be an effective leader, why? in order to yield a better result. Forgetting oneself and lifting up others automatically will also lift you up one day…

Unfortunately, selflessness doesn’t come easily. It’s almost impossible to become absolutely selfless with sheer effort. However, there’s good news for you—I know a solution to this and I’m going to tell you. Just read on.

3. Faith-draining Relationships

The people you see, meet and chat with almost every day have a huge impact on who you will become. The people you make your models and mentors, the kind of books you read, the genre of music and tapes you listen to, and yes…the movies you see will shape you into who you will become.

In short, the influence you permit will reflect in and through your life. You get the picture?

I want to believe that you’ve come to the end of your doubt, and very soon—I hope after reading this post—you’ll begin a new life of selflessness. Yes, that’s a grand start for the leadership journey! I celebrate with you. And I want you to continue.

That’s why I must tell you this truth. As you decide to improve yourself, to become honest to your calling and begin to influence the right attitudes in the life of every single person you will have the privilege to meet, don’t be caught off guard if you lose some of your old friends. Only those who believe in your dream, hopes and conviction will want to stick with you. Others may be indifferent, and some may do everything to talk you out of your dream.

If you’re convinced enough that what you’ve set out to do is worthwhile, quickly remind yourself that there will be an end to your relationship with your unbelieving friends. Team up with those who you’re left with, accept the new people that will come into your life and make up your mind to never, never, never give up. That way, you’ll become unstoppable.

4. Pride

In the previous part of this series, I mentioned that re-productive leaders never stop learning. In fact, if you call them life-long learners, you will not be wrong. However, what limits the effectiveness of some leaders is because they are in a constant wrestle with their huge ego. Then, you find them wondering why they are not growing both in their life and in leadership.

If you know anybody in this category, maybe, after reading this post, you need to send him or her a text message that reads: I have the long-sought answer to your question. It is something you’ve always known: Swallow your ego and start learning to become humble. It will surprise you how far you can go if you do just that.

Pride is a huge red flag in life and leadership. If you desire to become a living leader, you need to come to a point where you have to beat pride up and let it go.


Pride will make you unteachable—but you grow by learning.

Pride won’t make you listen to others—but you serve others better when you know their needs.

And if you’ve discovered that your greatest obstacle is pride, maybe you need to reserve the text message and read it to yourself every day.

Now…let me fulfill my promise.

I am aware that the four things I have outlined in this post do not make a comprehensive list of all that an individual needs to die to for him or her become a leader. But I do know that if you can die to all of the four, you’ll be well on your way to leaving a good legacy for the generation of leaders that will come after you.

And about dying to self.

There is an initial truth I must tell you if you want to be free from self. Man, by nature, has a limited control over himself, his environment, the attitude of other people, what happens to him, the realities that the future holds…and I can go on and on. But the point is, in fact, man’s control over what he experiences within the few days of his life is absolutely limited.

And because God, the Creator, saw man’s hopeless situation and his helpless effort to tame self—the mess that his (man’s) enemy, the devil, got him (man) into—He sent His Son to die for the him (man). That death of the Perfect Master on the cross was the victory over self.

Now, there is a company of people who are under the leadership of the Saviour who have won the battle over self and sin, and they are constantly benefitting from His victory every single day.

That’s not all.

They also enjoy something rare—an eternal life. That means a life of victory here-and-now and an assurance of glory hereafter. They have a new life after death!

Are you yet in that number?

What I mean is: Are you born-again?

If not, are you ready to win the battle over self—starting from today?

Have you come to the end of your doubt?

How will you respond to the Master’s call of salvation? Remember Jeremiah?

Will you accept and receive Jesus, the Saviour of the entire world, right now?

Here’s how:

  • End the struggle
  • Accept the reality that man’s effort is limited
  • Call for help
  • Yield yourself
  • Allow Jesus captain your soul
  • Believe everyone is created by God and treat them so
  • Realize you don’t have a life of your own

And that’s the key to being dead to self and becoming a living leader!

Reflection: Do you ‘have’ all of the characteristics of living leaders—Movement, Respiration, Nutrition, Irritability, Growth, Excretion, Reproduction, Death—intact?


Is there any of them you consider as your strength zone?

Is there any of them you need to improve on?

Thanks for the time you’ve invested into reading this post. I will love to hear from you.






  1. Josiah September 29, 2013 at 14:52 #

    Pride! That has been my major problem towards so many things in life, and has also been a set back for me…I think I will have to take a step and follow the characteristics of living leaders.

  2. David O. Lawal September 29, 2013 at 17:23 #

    @Josiah —
    Whenever something appears to be holding us back, we’ve just got to free ourselves and let go.

    Maybe one thing you should do is learn to put others ahead of yourself. What I mean is this: Instead of asking, “How can I benefit from this?” switch over and ask, “Would this benefit anybody else?” That way, you can get a good start with silencing your pride.

    However, remember that Jesus has the ultimate solution.

    Good luck to you.

  3. chosensam September 30, 2013 at 20:09 #

    I proud of you Mr David, you are doing a great job. Grace and peace be multiplied unto you in Jesus name.

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