I have for the past three years served on the executive of an honorary organisation which prophesises three pillars: excellence, leadership and service. When asked to submit a quote on one of the pillars I thought about leadership and said:
“Leadership is most beneficial when it is inclusive and developmental in nature. The leader’s responsibility entails harnessing each team member’s potential ability for the benefit of the organisation”.
Arguably the world’s most renowned statesman Dr Nelson Mandela once said:
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
There is a quality in leadership that I am drawn towards that of being altruistic and aspiring towards the development of your followers (or rather co-leaders).
Enter two examples of this selfless and somewhat hard to believe kind of leadership that seems to be at the polar end of the now common philosophy of those in leadership positions who espouse ‘politics of the stomach, their own stomach’ or the ‘I did not struggle to be poor mentality’.
You may be familiar with the 2006 movie Catch a fire that tells a story of South African apartheid era political activism. The movie is a true story of the ANC stalwart and former Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK) cadre Patrick Chamusso’s role in the ‘successful’ bombing of Secunda Refinery. Of interest for this piece is that Patrick is not a member of parliament. Patrick and his wife are fostering 80 HIV/AIDS orphans in their home in Mpumalanga? Why is he not reaping the rewards of his work as a liberation struggle hero? This is a man who was tortured, exiled and then sentenced to 24 years in Robben Island (believe it or not Dr Mandela is not the only person to have been sent to Die Eiland). Why is Patrick still bothered with altruistic service expecting nothing in return? The answer is a simple. The man embodies leadership.
The next example is fourteen year old Malala Yousufzai, a truly inspirational young woman from Pakistan. When the Taliban owns up to having come to your school and shot you in the head because they are threatened by your ideas you are noteworthy. Malala’s ideas around education embody the ideals found in Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the oppressed.
Malala’s sin is encouraging young ladies in Pakistan to pursue education. According to the Mail & Guardian the Taliban are anti-Malala due to her promotion of education for girls that they perceive to be pro-Western and opposed to their ideas. Generally speaking the Youth of Azania tend to be accused of having a ‘malala’ attitude but in the Nguni sense of the word that refers to narcoleptic tendencies, phecelezi ukulala, or laziness at pandemic proportions. Malala Yousufzai has wisdom way beyond her years when confronted by the threats to her life she responded “I am satisfied. I am doing good work for my people so nobody can do anything to me”. This is a young yet psychologically matured girl with plans to have a Malala Education Foundation. Why is she not enjoying her childhood? Why is she bothered about the plight of other women? I mean she is getting an education so why bother about the other? I concur with Abdul Mehsud who responded to her attack and said “She is candle of peace that they have tried to blow out”. Just like Patrick Chamusa this young lady is a leader an inspirational trailblazer.
The lesson of leadership ought not to be in the person but be in the values that they embody. People die but values transcend time and space.