I started developing my leadership skills when I was in Primary school. The “Bell Ringer” position meant a great deal to me. The entire school would look up to me on what time they can go for their lunch break, games etc. I remember one day I decided to delay ringing the lunch time bell by 10 minutes, you don’t want to know what happened to me.
I was later promoted to assistant school captain and later Captain of the school soccer team. My defining moment came when I was eventually elected for a position I was eyeing for “Head boy” or school captain. From my perspective I knew I had achieved so much, from the bottom of my heart there were other people who were better, and others who could do more. I was in position of “influence” but because of selfish interest I could not give others an opportunity. I would later realize that I was voted as the Head boy because I was popular among the students, but not because of the values I held as leader.
Carly Fiorina an American business woman and former Chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard defines Leadership as “Unlocking the potential of others” This to me is giving people an opportunity to lead, while you as the leader takes the back sit and leading from behind. It does not necessary mean not taking control or being in charge, but looking at the skills and talents everyone in your team has and giving them an opportunity to unlock those skills and talents.
I was recently conducting a leadership session with young people from Kibera slum. One of the common questions I ask them when I do this is “Which leaders do you admire the most?” ‘Which leader would best solve a conflict? Which leader communicates best?
A common trend I noticed among them was that they chose the most vocal people in the society, they would relate more with leaders who are in forefront during protests, those who came from their tribe and sometimes those who are wealthy.
When I asked them their definition of leadership, I again noticed some common words like “Being in charge” “Power” “Strict” etc. While these specific words are not necessarily wrong, I realized my definition of leadership or view of leadership affects the person I will vote for or the people I look up-to as leaders. If my definition is “leadership is being in charge’ I will most likely respond more to people who are always in charge, sometime even if they come out as dictators.
Our definition of leadership affects us as individuals and the society as large, this begs the question “Could the current leaders we have in Kenya be a reflection of our individual definition of leadership?”