The ultimate goal of this weekly column is to domesticate leadership – that is, to remove the ambiguity and misconceptions which surround this topic and to empower all to recognize that within ourselves, dwells many of the leadership qualities necessary to change our world for the better.
Let’s face it, our world needs some major improvements but the responsibility for effecting these improvements cannot and does not lie entirely at the feet of those who hold high offices (politicians, business leaders, church leaders, etc.). If ordinary citizens like you and me do not accept our role in ushering in positive change within our various spheres of influence, then the impact of those holding titular leadership positions will be of low to no potency.
One of the principal concepts I believe that we must accept early on is that leadership is not about amassing great power and personal wealth. In fact, I dare say that those who seek the reins of leadership for such are ultimately not the kind of leaders that we should desire or emulate. Indeed, several official leadership roles are accompanied by great authority, power, financial and other resources designed to make the life of the leader more comfortable and enjoyable but with all of this also comes great responsibility – the responsibility to utilize these aspects of leadership for the care and betterment of those under one’s charge. I submit to you that true leadership must commence with a strong desire to serve for it is when we selflessly serve others, that effective and positive change takes place within our homes, our communities and our nation.
Let’s examine this from the foundation and work our way up. In Matthew 20:27-28, the Bible declares the following: “And whoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” I describe a verse like this as the foundation because almost all leadership ideologies have their roots founded within Biblical concepts and teachings. It is no wonder why, as the statement quoted above was made by the ultimate leader of the Christian faith and, through it, He described His own mission as one of service to all humanity. Please keep in mind that Christianity is the world’s largest religion with approximately 31 per cent (2.2 billion people) of the world adhering to its principals – this particular leader continues to represent a powerful case study for this concept of servant-leadership. So when we seek to serve others, we are ultimately depicting one of the most powerful and impactful leadership abilities and through this, we make our world even more a better place for all.
Thankfully, there are yet other great examples of the power of serving others. Surely, you have heard about Mother Teresa. She was at first a nun and teacher who felt a strong internal calling towards helping the most vulnerable with her society. With this, from 1946-1948 she sought and was granted permission to found the Order of the Missionaries of Charity under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church and she began the tremendous work of establishing leper colonies, hospices and centres for the blind, aged and disabled. So great and notable was her service to others, that she was granted the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work in 1979. Mother Teresa saw it as her life’s purpose to help those on whom society had largely turned its back. She assisted and met the needs of lepers, orphans and those infected with HIV/AIDS at a time and in a place where many erroneous beliefs denied these persons the kind of attention they needed. She embodied leadership through service and is reported to have said: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” She also reminded us: “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
And then there is Mahatma Gandhi, who was the primary leader of India’s independence movement and the chief protagonist and influencer of acts of non-violent protests against civil injustice. A lawyer by training, Gandhi initially had great difficulty actually practising law and at one time ran out of a court room after blanking out when it came time for him to cross-examine a witness. But after a personal instance of being a victim of racial discrimination, Gandhi determined that he would devote himself to fighting against the ‘disease of colour prejudice’. Gandhi spent most of his adult life sacrificing his own comfort through extended fasts and multiple prison terms in a continuous fight for the liberation of and equal rights for his people. His approach to serving others is most succinctly summed up in the following quote: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Barbados needs more servant-leaders. This is surely not about seeking or possessing titles but it is about each of us recognizing that we can serve one another. Look around at your village, your school, your workplace or even right within your home – where can you lift the weary hands of another? Where can you lend your assistance to make our country a more peaceful, equitable and beautiful place? I leave you with one final quote from one of the greatest servant-leaders of all and with it, I hope that you would recognize the leadership potential within yourself as you seek to serve others. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. said: “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”