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Reflections in leadership, work and transformation

Each year, as we host the annual Women of Excellence celebration, it is always important to stop and reflect on the inspiration and learning the lives of these women present. This year does not disappoint as it proves to be just as inspiring as the last, with the particular choices of this year’s women of excellence in leadership and social responsibility being of particular points of reflection on my end. The strength and fortitude of this year’s women of excellence resonates with each ounce they have spent in building their career and sharing their work. They are women who laugh in the face of adversity, letting their challenges be their inspiration as they battle insurmountable odds and succeed.

Their work as trailblazers in their field is the embodiment of responsible leadership. We are inspired by our Women of Excellences’ service as they demonstrate that public service is not relegated to just civil servants. This year’s women of excellence exemplify that it does not matter who you are, where you come from or what it is you do to be a woman of substance and impact while demonstrating excellence in action. And if you wonder what it takes to be a woman of substance, just read their stories. From my end, here are a few points of reflection on leadership, power.

As a leader, you have a unique privilege and responsibility to influence those we are leading, positively or negatively. It is a privilege because it is an opportunity that is provided for the few and a responsibility because of the lives and minds that are within our clasps, to do with as we please and it is best taken on with caution and a sense of duty. Responsible leadership takes that into consideration when influence people, the environment as much as the bottom line. The way power and authority is practiced can serve as an inhibitor or enabler for those we aim to lead.  Imagine if we practiced power and authority, not to attack, diminish or undermine but to build up, to relate and promote positively, where leaders are purposefully playing the roles of enablers of potential rather than inhibitors. What kind of world would we live in if we listened-to as much as we talked-at?

We talk quite a lot about listening, listening and shaping our workspaces, our homes and our communities based on the human needs of those that surround us and those we aim to lead. How we treat people matters. How we choose to value those that work for us or those that we represent, as human beings or objects to exploit determines the values that we stand for. That value is demonstrated in the way we treat the people we lead. It is important to ask if people will truly give their best when treated like objects that are engaged to perform and discard. What kind of resource are we cultivating when treating those we lead as objects to be exploited? Will they provide their best? How do we act when those we lead deliver, go above and beyond? The only thing that stands between those that deliver and those that do not is MOTIVATION. What is the role of a leader in enabling that motivation? People recognize when they are being instrumentalized versus when they are valued for their roles, and they give as good as they get.

Is leadership elitist?  Probably. Positional leadership is the privilege of the few, true. However, there are other ways to exercise leadership in informal and formal spheres. In the day and age of online trendsetters and thought leaders, the formality of leadership and the hierarchical position of leaders is coming into question. In the context of such fluidity in the social mobility within and outside the ‘elite’, leadership can no longer and should no longer be restricted to a small group of people. This also applies to intersecting identities regarding socio economic class, identity including gender, age, ethnicity, race etc. Inclusivity is no longer the prerogative of benevolent elite in leadership; it is a prerogative that can allow the best in all to thrive. Overall, it behooves us to inquire that perhaps leadership is a space best occupied by the dutiful that have taken on the responsibility to serve rather than the benevolent or the entitled. It takes a hearty dose in the generosity of spirit and the passion to serve in exercising power and leadership.