Monday, March 24, 2014

Light the Leadership Within

Leadership is a word commonly misunderstood by people. A manager might have some leadership skills, but not necessarily all managers are leaders. Many people believe that a leader is a person who controls and directs a group of people towards achieving a common goal. One can argue that such a definition feels correct, however the concept of leadership goes much further. 

A real leader should empower people to act on their own, to align for a common goal. To fight because they believe it is right. To persuade people to do their tasks with passion, to be emphatic, humble, to feel compassion. A good leader encourages a collaborative atmosphere where all the team works towards the same goal. 

Although many people believe that you are born as a leader, several authors argue that leadership skills can be acquired with experience [1]. These skills can not only help you to make positive changes in an organization, but also in a community, a group, and the society itself. Being a leader is not a matter of demanding others to complete a task on your behalf, but of doing it yourself with their support. 

Every individual has their own valuable skills that can contribute to a common goal. It is your task as a leader to identify the skills of your team and use them properly. There’s some leadership within all of us, therefore you should not underestimate anyone, including yourself. You have the potential to make things happen, and others have the skills that can make it so.

“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.”  —Nelson Mandela

[1] Mumford, Michael D., et al. "Leadership skills for a changing world: Solving complex social problems." The Leadership Quarterly 11.1 (2000): 11-35.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Philosophy of Ubuntu

Today I'll start by telling a story I read that gives me a lot of inspiration, and perhaps it will inspire you too. Several years ago, an explorer came to a tribe in Africa. When he arrived, he was welcomed by a large group of kids.  The explorer wanted to give them a bag of candy he brought, however the number or kids was too large. He decided to challenge them to race to closest tree so the winner would get the entire bag of candy. Surprisingly, they walked together to the tree holding their hands and singing. When they arrived and received the bag of candy, they sat down together and shared the prize. The man, amazed, asked them why didn't they run. One of the kid responded, "How can one of us be happy if all the others are not?" 

The Ubuntu Philosophy resembles a very interesting way of seeing life. Human kindness must be a shared value in order to make us care about others. We are not different from each other, but our ideas and values can make us believe that we are.

Several leaders in Africa support and follow this philosophy by standing and fighting against oppression and racism. Among these leaders, I highlight Nelson Mandela. He opposed apartheid and spent several years of his life in jail as a result. Only after he was released, he became President and saw his changes become a reality: "Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The power of an Idea

An idea can be defined as a possible cause of action, a message that holds a thought and inspire others to do good or bad. Our ideas are what define who we are and represent what we want to project to the world. An idea broadcast a vision that can be shared by others, and when it occurs monumental changes can be achieved. Mahatma Gandhi once said "anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding", an idea that clearly aligns with his vision of a free India. When I used to live in India, I was always surprised how so many people with different religions, ethnicities and even languages shared a strong feeling of patriotism for their fatherland. For example when movies are shown in India, the audience will stand and proudly unite in their national anthem. Just like when playing charades, before the first question a quick thumbs up or down will indicate whether the person in question is recognized through a role in a Bollywood production. They are one of the few countries not completely influenced by the Western culture. Their women proudly boast colorful sarees to go to work everyday. Despite this, there are many social problems in India when you live there for some time. You understand more how the legacy of this idea remains after more than fifty years. This initial idea of Gandhi shared by many others led a nation to the independence from the British Empire. 
We have the power to define our own ideas and inspire others. We can also follow the ideas of others, but be aware that you are as responsible as the creator of the idea and therefore of its consequences. Follow your own convictions and act as you think, follow ideas that support what you believe, but more importantly strive to create a positive change in this world.