I met the dynamic ladies behind the vision of Campus Lounge at an executive training for entrepreneurs I taught last year. My workshop was focused on Leadership in industry. I guess I did a pretty good job, lol, cause afterwards they asked me to be a columnist for Campus Lounge’s monthly magazine for South African youth called Young Movers & Shakers. More of YMS Magazine on Lead SA
Here’s my second piece in my monthly column for YMS:
2012! this is a big year for all of us…well isn’t every year. In actuality, every moment is a significant moment in each of our lives, because in every moment we make choices that shape our lives. These choices and the way we make decisions about them is one way to think about what leadership is all about. What is leadership? In each decision that we make, we have the opportunity to display leadership, which in its simplest definition is just being able to make a decision that influences others in the decisions they make. So think of someone like Lira for instance, the decisions she makes about what to wear, how to do her hair, what lyrics to write in her music, these all have influence on many other youths as to what they want to wear, how they choose to look, and what they even say or believe. Can you think of someone else like that? Who’s words or actions influence they way someone else makes decisions. Think about folks like Dr. Mandela, Proverbs, Julius Malema, or even your gogo.
But just as with them, we as young people also have influence over each other. Sometimes your friend makes a decision about not pitchin’ up to school today, and they influence you to also skip. Or your girl decides to wear her hair in a ponytail and so you put yours in a ponytail too. So we can all exhibit leadership in different moments of our lives. Maybe it’s asking Mom & Dad for ice cream or its convincing your friends to see Fast Furious 5 instead of, um, Happy Feet 2. However, what I believe begins to elevate you to being a leader is your consistent ability to make choices that lead or influence others. So though we all have the ability to lead not all of us are yet leaders, or are considered leaders by others, because we don’t exercise that personal ability to make influential decisions/choices on a consistent basis.
One thing to remember though is that leadership in and of itself does not take a positive or negative value. Being a “good” leader then is not automatic. So what is good leadership? Good leadership is the aim of our work at African Leadership Academy, and what we understand is that it takes a conscious choice to make decisions that are both effective and ethical in order to truly be a good leader. Think about like a simple math equation Effective + Ethical = Good Leadership. So what does it mean to be effective? Think of a few other words that come to mind when you hear effective…You might have thought of things like getting things accomplished, results, productive, moves others to do things. Now can you think of person you know who or have heard of who might fit the description of being effective? But as you may have noticed, still at this point being effective does not have a negative or positive value judgment associated. So in fact you could consider individuals like George W. Bush, Thabo Mbeki, Zola, Idi Amin, Mumar Gaddafi, (need more SA examples, also of women) as being leaders who got things done, who motivated lots of people to do what they wanted. And for that it is right to consider them as effective leaders. However, they would not be yet equal to good leaders, because as our equation requires they must be effective and ethical.
So let’s take the word ethical, what similar words come to mind when you think of ethical. Typically my students will say things like: consistently does the right thing, respects people, values life, or moral. Who are some people you know or have heard of that you would quickly associate as being ethical type leaders. Maybe Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Dr. Mandela, Wangari Mathaai. Remember , this is a critical piece of the equation, the demonstration of a consistent character to do the right thing, to value the life and rights of others to do the right things. This is what defines the other element of good leadership. However, it’s important to note that you also wouldn’t be considered good leaders by definition of our equation if you are ethical but ineffective as a leader. Dr. Mandela was able to move people, to get things done, and to do it the right way. Thus he qualifies as a good leader.
Good Leadership is what we need in our families, our communities, our municipalities, and our countries. Look around you, who would fit this equation of good leadership? Why or why not? Does Julius Malema pass our equation? Does President Mbeki? Does Gaddafi? Does Obama? Do you?! We need good leaders for the future of this country and for the continent. Will you be the generation that does it? Will you be a good leader…hmm, I don’t know?!
Check back in with me next time to read why I have my doubts. As usual, if you have questions for me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Mr. O’s Questions.
Cheers from Jozi, Mr. O