Leaders are self-made through chosen responses, not born. Because of intense transformational experience, people make choices that enable them to become leaders. People make the choice to be taught or to teach themselves and to follow the teachings. In summary, leadership is a function of choice- Moses Auma
A decade ago, during our formative years, societal values on leadership were based on the most ephemeral and frail of things. The attributes hero-worshiped then have only remained a pale shadow of what we value nowadays.
Leadership, positions, privileges and favorable evaluations we got from those around us were, in their entirety, pegged on physical strength rather than the ability to perform. I mean the physically stronger carried the day – set the pace.
If you could physically beat all people around you, it automatically conferred on you cheerleader-ship. If you were a lady and could win arguments and quarrels with fellow ladies, you got conferred on a higher position and a revered status so that you became sort of a role model. I am talking from a perspective of rural life, you know.
It is impossible to talk about physical strength without talking about power. In local schools, those who were huge, tough and powerful were made prefects. The school of thought was; they were able to exercise control over other students – through beatings and caning. And that’s how leadership was designed and distributed locally.
Those who had the drive, the zeal and zest to lead but lacked in the physical strength and bulky bodies were tossed to the back. Never in those days did schools practice sensitization of prefects on their role in school governance.
We grew up with a misguided mentality on leadership – if you were able to flog without resentment or rebellion, you made a fine leader. And any time one was made a prefect, the crux of the matter was “am I able to cane everyone without any threat of being beaten back.”
Ladies were often gagged, relegated and adrift because they did not harbor as much physical strength as did their male counterparts and were conspicuously missing on positions and local debates and opinion talks. The explanation for the clear under-representation of girls in school management could go even beyond body size probably because they were neither capable nor interested or they were both capable and interested but unable to break the glass-ceiling: an invisible leadership barrier, based on prejudiced stereotypes, that prevents women from accessing the ranks of power.
What students knew was that leaders were prefects. That was a classical thought then and it stands in stark contrast with my current definition of leadership which simply is inspiring other people to find their voice by affirming and communicating their worth and potentials in ways they come to see it themselves. And that’s what I do in this blog.
The presumptive superiority of huge and tough pupils were, within such an environment, premised on corresponding assumptions about the inferiority of a whole range of other groups.
These societal agreements on leadership and power have since been debunked by time. Today, it is not the physically stronger who will lead, hold office or positions. It is the most knowledgeable, the most innovative, the most creative – and there are no hormones for those attributes. Small men with big brains are leading big corporations and multi-nationals. Women too are shattering glass ceiling and we have been told that the only difference between a woman and a man is the anatomy.
While disapproving these traditional ethos of leadership, we need also to conceive the idea that everybody is a leader. Leadership is about influence and more less about authority according to Ken Blanchard, management expert and bestselling author of The One minute Manager. He says, in an article exploring why you should think of yourself as a leader, that anytime you are influencing the thinking, beliefs or development of someone else, you are engaging in leadership. Everyone has the ability to influence other people whether it’s a younger sibling at home, a co-worker or spouse.
Leadership is therefore more of the intrinsic makeup of an individual.