Citizen Leadership

Citizen Leaders are the men, women, young adults and teens who take stock of the kind of world they want to help shape for the people they care about and act to make it so. ~ Peter Alduino 

There are certain junctions around town where without a traffic police in sight, navigating through the frenzied interlocking of cars quickly turns frustrating for any driver in Addis. Many a day we may have encountered a road where the congestion is beyond the benevolence of a few drivers who may try to make way for others to pass. And in such an instance one can witness the complexity that can arise in any given system. 

Consider it a metaphor for many blockages within our system, which at times can be created by one individual and the many others that fall prey to follow. For example, a few weeks back a car pulls to a complete stop in the middle of the road so that the driver can buy sheep parts being sold on the other side of the road. The driver engrossed in his or her own needs completely oblivious to the bottleneck created as a result of that behavior. Or perhaps, not so oblivious but uncaring about the impact of his/her decision. Now consider the many times when each of us are engrossed in our own needs within various spaces and multiply that by the many that dwell our city and the effects of that nonchalance on our systems – our social system, national system, family system, etc.

Returning to the traffic jam as a metaphor, there have been a few times where in the middle of a gridlock, I have seen average citizens jump into action and take command stepping into the role of traffic police and guiding drivers through the maze. Some of these individuals have been bystanders on the side of the road who jump into action where their intervention is required and some others concerned enough to vacate their car and unlock a system. Each time I have seen such individuals take charge I think of the phrase,  “leader without a title.” Average citizens who step up and lead without any formal assignment to that role. Many such examples exist yet the power of stepping up and taking initiative has not had such immediate manifestations as that of citizen leaders who create order out of chaos in a matter of minutes.

Imagine citizenship leadership enabled and unleashed throughout our country. What would the consequences be at a systemic level? What are the enabling conditions for average citizens to take similar initiatives on a continuous basis?


Billene also blogs at www.africanfeminism.com