I was fortunate to have gone to one of the best high schools on the African continent. In my last two years at the school I was chosen to be a school prefect. Being a school prefect at this school was no ordinary achievement. It came with several privileges, like having more food than other students, having designated juniors organize my school uniform, polish my shoes, make my bed, carry my bag to school and several other privileges too numerous to mention. I was looked upon as a leader in the school… and that is where the problem was.
Many of my fellow prefects saw this position not as an opportunity to serve the school but instead to enjoy the power and privileges bestowed upon us. We had little knowledge of what true leadership is. True leadership can be defined as: the natural feeling that one wants to serve people by enriching their lives, building better organizations and ultimately creating a more just and caring world. So this lack of knowledge of what true leadership is often led to abuse of power and privileges.
Many from my school have gone onto hold prominent positions all over the world. As I have interacted with them and many other leaders I see that, more than ever before in the world, in particular Africa, we are in dire need of true leaders. Many of those holding key positions believe their positions are for them to enjoy their huge salaries and perks. But the question is; how can anyone be a true leader if they have never been shown or taught how to lead? For too long there has been this erroneous belief that leadership is a skill you acquire only through your experiences as you grow older. I put it to you the reason why there is poor leadership in many private companies, the public sector, NGOs e.t.c. is because the so called leaders have never been taught how to lead. How many people were taught at school how to manage your time, how to be a positive influence, how to be a real team player and several other topics of this kind? The result is we have well educated, sometimes well intentioned leaders who have no real idea of how to lead.
I therefore would like to propose we seriously consider introducing leadership classes from an early age, perhaps as young as six. I am convinced that if we were to adopt this line of thinking we will go onto transforming our continent. It would see us raise a generation that knows what true leadership is.
It doesn’t matter what you are doing in your current circumstances, you can still be a leader. I always tell a story about Agnes who swept one of the warehouses in a company I worked for. Even after the floors had been swept, the warehouses always remained dusty. Except in Agnes`s warehouse. I took it upon myself to discover why and how. Over a period of one hour, Agnes showed me how she swept her warehouse. In that moment she was the leader. Needless to say the company adopted Agnes`s methods. We went on to save over $40,000 in fumigation and cleaning expenses that year because of Agnes`s efforts.
So if we adopt teaching leadership at an early age imagine what sort of MPs and captains of industry we will have . And so as I lay aside my pen I strongly urge you to join me in a movement that will push for leadership to be taught in all institutions of learning.
Thanks Stirling for the article, it’s a great reflection.