As a young teenager in High School, I was appointed to serve as the high school president (head boy). I, together with 19 other prefects, was to oversee over nine hundred students. Being a military boarding school, we had so much authority – we could use the rod, command compliance, slap, and order punishments of all kinds. We practically ruled and used intimidation as our strategy, except on some occasions where we actually influenced and inspired some few persons positively. You cannot however blame us, because this was what we had been exposed to about leadership. There was really no one to teach us, or train us on the path of true leadership.
Thinking back, I realized that I had all the potentials, passions and dreams I exhibit today-and I mean everything, but there was no one to aid my development. I remember when I looked back in retrospect at this experience as an undergraduate in my first year in university, after undergoing some level of training & exposure on what real leadership is, I really wished I could go back to be the head boy all over again, and of course engage in true leadership this time around.
Africa’s greatest need remains true leadership. Our continent, which has long been the headquarters of corruption, poverty, mal-nourishment, unemployment, and injustice cries for true leaders. Our failed economies, ailing educational systems poor health care systems, and vice-filled communities yearn for leaders that will deliver a change. This need for change is so vivid on the faces of our unproductive youths, the ‘kwashiorkor-ed’ kids, the teens hawking and hustling on the ‘dangerous’ streets, the multitudes of babies that die before the opportunity of a 5th year birthday celebration, the fathers who can’t feed their families, and of course the mothers who can only resort to filling the stomachs of their children when possible and with whatever is available rather than nourishing them with the right nutrients.
But what can bring this desired change? Who will facilitate the transformation of our nations? If only there was a wand that we could just wield, some incantations that we could just chant, a chemical solution we could just mix or a cheque we could just sign to deliver this change. Hmmm! I however doubt if there are any. Indeed our only resort and our ultimate hope lie in the hands of people. Yes, people. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak on some international platforms, where I aired a conviction that I now attempt to share with you. But before I do, it is crucial that I state at this point that my use of the word leadership or leaders by no means threads the normal sub-conscious preconception of the term. Therefore, I am not just referring to those that have been appointed to fill a position, neither am I referring particularly to our publicly-elected officials. Rather, I refer primarily to the regular individuals- the seemingly ordinary folks, the everyday middle class career person or business person, the student and youth, the teacher and lecturer, the Sunday school instructor, the corps member…People who have accepted responsibility for a cause or for a people.
Leaders are the most important variables in the equation for change and development. The statements below by two great thought leaders on the subject of leadership proffer a good summary to the point I hope you now further understand:
“Leadership determines everything”- Myles Munroe
“Everything rises and falls on Leadership”- John C Maxwell
So the rising unemployment figures, the dirty-gutters, the hungry kids, the climate change issues, the poor health care systems and all the problems that exist will change only because of Leaders.
Indeed, the emergence of leaders is the eviction of problems. The greatest asset of the developed world, are developed people. The human asset is actually the real asset. For from people come the innovations, the passions, the gifts, the actions, and the skills that bring about sustainable change, growth, and development.
But hold on! Where do leaders come from? Are they made or born? Are they from planet Krypton or from other planets? Can everyone be a leader, or is it just for an exclusive few?
I definitely will not attempt to bore you with the intellectual and philosophical confusion (debate) of whether Leaders are made or born. Rather, I would stand with the pragmatic view that leaders are made. As a result, we have to develop them. We can’t just wait and hope they would just emerge. “Hope is not a strategy”- John C Maxwell. Inside every individual is a leader, just as inside every seed is a tree. If leadership is contribution, service, accepting responsibility, delivering change, motivating participation, rallying people around a compelling vision, solving problems… Then can’t we raise people to think and act in that way. Indeed:
We can help individuals to discover and appreciate their uniqueness (gifts, talents, temperaments);
We can inspire them to define and develop their passions;
We can shape their perspective towards service, contribution, and accepting responsibility;
We can guide their orientation towards the discipline of leadership;
We can encourage and guide them to develop character;
We can coach them in the other techniques and fine details about leadership.
We can create the right environment and feed them with the right nutrients that would aid their development.
We can expose them strategically, and give them the space and platforms needed for exercise and deployment.
We indeed can turn the ‘liabilities’ in our societies into assets.
We can raise burden bearers, entrepreneurs (economic leaders), social entrepreneurs, and leaders in every sphere of life.
In essence we can develop leaders!
The Leadership Revival:
The leadership revival is all about making the quest for leadership development commonplace. It is activating leaders everywhere. It is helping people discover, develop and deploy the leader in them. It is making the platforms and resources for leadership development available for every teen and youth in Africa. The leadership revival is leaders activating and facilitating the development of other leaders. The leadership revival means bringing the trees out of the seeds. The leadership revival is planting libraries, activating clubs in schools, incorporating leadership/social-entrepreneurship into our school curricula, hosting trainings, camps and competitions, having after-school training centres, etc.
But how will this happen? Here is one way…
As Margaret Meade puts it, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” It is high time we moved from the realm of good intentions, for good intentions don’t change the world! The ‘R’ in Leadership is responsibility. We need people who will accept responsibility for a cause and for a people. We need you, yes you reading this note to accept responsibility and play your part by being a role model and hopefully a few will follow your footsteps and become leaders too. Accepting responsibility in this context could entail: you and a group of friends coming together, pooling your seemingly meagre resources together to start a scholarship scheme; launch an after school training program volunteer to teach at a youth correctional facility, teach teen’s church or youth Sunday school with purpose and excellence; support local charities; and generally accept responsibility for society.
I believe in change, I believe in development! I believe we can raise leaders that would in turn raise our society from the debris of decadence and the rot of irresponsibility.
As a trained computer scientist I know that every powerful software or web application’s strength is found in the back-end. It is the back-end that drives functionality and efficiency. If we want real, lasting and sustainable change in Africa, then we have to work on the back-end. The back-end in this context are the teenagers in high schools, the students in elementary schools and the youth in tertiary institutions and in the society at large. They indeed are the present and the future. If we inspire, develop, train and upgrade them, then we are indeed securing the future. God instructed that we should train up a child in the way he should go, and that when they grow they will abide in the path they have been trained in. So let us start training them on the path of leadership, entrepreneurship, and destiny-fulfilment.
This is exactly what my team and I are doing in the H.O.P.E (Helping Other People Excel) organization, and with our C.I.T.Y (Catch & Inspire Them Young) programs that is presently running in some high schools in Nigeria, and in some remand homes (correctional facilities).