- Written by Rowland Masi
‘A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader. A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.’
The essence of leadership is not in being served but being of service.
Whenever leaders get better, the people around them get better too. This is where we see true development and progress begin to take shape.
Leaders aren’t born, they are made, and in Malawi there is a need for the younger generation to begin exercising their leadership muscles. They are the ones with the capacity to build a new vision for the country – a vision built on social development, financial inclusion and environmental preservation; the three facets of a social enterprise.
Bringing Young Leaders Together
On the 21st of November, fifteen young people eager to learn to lead, came together at the United States Public Affairs Section at the invitation of the Social Enterprise Academy in Malawi. Among the participants were youth in the private sector and non-profit organizations - bringing them all together were the Academy's tutors, Barbara Banda and Jones Ntaukira.
“There is a time for management and then there is a time for leadership” says Jones who started off the day's event. Whilst some tasks and activities for leaders and managers do overlap, a leader is more than just a task-master who mass-delegates.
Learners were asked what factors stop them from being effective leaders. Among the different contributions, the main factor was age. However, ancient leaders like Alexander the Great come to mind, who, despite his young age, led the Greek nation to become an empire! Many feel that their community is reluctant to take them seriously because they are young. Being a certain age before you can lead has a lot to do with public misconceptions such as:
- Youth is synonymous with inconsistency
- The general public esteems married individuals and considers them as “more reliable and dependable”
- Society regards individuals with assets such as land and property as more capable
- Culturally, young people aren't entrusted with managing money until they are much older
Other factors included not being given the opportunity to lead by senior management in their organizations, whilst others felt that their personalities were just not “big” enough to lead.
Well-known “introverted” leaders include: Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein who, though gentle and quiet, are admired for their exploits in enterprise, diplomacy and science. Introverts tend to make good listeners and careful communicators; they are reflective people who sit and process information and ideas and come up with strong solutions. Humility is an important quality for a leader who looks to serve others, such individuals look to developing their team members as a means to improving the organization as a whole; and lastly introverts tend to make few but meaningful contacts which is always good for business.
Sharing Leadership Experiences
During the tea breaks, learners began to build each other up by exchanging experiences and reaffirming words. One learner encouraged another by telling her not to worry because leadership isn’t about official positions, it`s about responsibility. It is exchanges like this that the Social Enterprise Academy loves to support, change makers sharing their own personal journeys and learning from each other.
One learner explained “I have a strong personality which can sometimes come out as coercive, but I work with volunteers and so a coaching approach would be better as I am working with individuals who aren’t financially rewarded for their help”.
Over the course of the programme, learners became more self-aware of their own leadership styles and recognized how to adapt that style to suit their organization, their goals and their teams.
Nurturing Malawi's Future Leaders
Learners realized that many projects and initiatives fail, not for lack of resources, but because the vision may not be communicated clearly across their organizations. Slowly, Malawi is waking up to the fact that strong leadership is necessary to develop the country. Leaders who take responsibility, take the initiative, and take their roles seriously, need to be developed and supported, regardless of their age.
Get in touch to find out how the Social Enterprise Academy can support you to become a more effective and self-aware leader.