Leadership Mythbuster Series

Mythbuster 1: You don't have to be a CEO or Managing Director to be a leader

When thinking about leadership, perhaps the first point is to clearly define what makes a great leader.

A great leader is someone who is authentic – they ‘walk the talk’.  To be a great leader you must truly live what you stand for, and step up and take action.  Part visionary and part dreamer, but also accept that setbacks may come along (and not let that be the end of the world).

When we think of great leaders, we often think of the true revolutionaries, or those that are at the top of their game (i.e. CEO’s and Managing Director’s).  We often think it’s (older) people in a loftier sphere than where we are, but it’s not always the case.

Leadership can be shown anywhere – and we can all be leaders. You can start within your own family, or by taking action when you see something that needs to be done (for an issue you didn’t cause).  Changing your thoughts from ‘I can’t to ‘I can’ to ‘We can’ and taking the steps needing to be taken to make a change.

Our village mobilisers in The Hunger Project show us what a leader really is. Rising up and and not laying victim of their circumstances.  They step up and take action to make lasting changes.  They don’t let it stop them when setbacks come along.

In turn, they also encourage others to be the authors of their own lives, to acknowledge that conditions may be tough now – but that they don’t always need to be.

This story relates to all of us by showing us that everyone can be a leader…. within their communities. The question is will you be?

Mythbuster 2: If you keep on failing, it means you'll never succeed.

In our first of the Mythbuster series (You don’t have to be a CEO or Managing Director to be a leader) we said that to be a leader you needed to be part visionary and part dreamer. An important part of this was also to accept that setbacks (and failure) may come along -and how this is not the end of the world.

Now we take a closer look at setbacks – and failure.

When we have setbacks (or fail), we often feel anxious and like we have disappointed not just ourselves, but others.

During these times it’s important not to lose hope. It’s also important to keep open communication with others (especially if it also affects them), and to move on instead of dwelling on what’s happened.

When we have clear goals we can be future focussed. We can avoid spending our time thinking about the past, and can focus instead on now and the future. We can focus on what our goals are, and forge ahead to make them happen.

Sometimes we may look at others, and their successes, and think it has come easily to them. Or that it’s happened overnight. What we don’t always look for (or see) is all the effort that has come to get to that point. The many years of hard work and dedication that they’ve put in.

At the time of setbacks (or failure) it can be easy to stay in our comfort zone. To choose comfort over courage. Our village partners often remind us of what can happen when we choose courage.

Take Amri Bhai, from Udaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Amri sits on the local government council and has a burning and unwavering vision for her community. When Amri learned that elderly people and widows within her community were entitled to a government pension, she made it her priority to find out how to access these pensions. She collected the names of people who were eligible to receive this pension, then travelled by bus to the closest government office (almost a full day’s travel). The local bureaucrat refused to help her on more than twenty occasions. His reason? She couldn’t read or write, and therefore couldn’t complete the required forms.

Amri then went back to her village, enrolled in a literacy course, and over the next three months, learnt enough to complete the forms required to apply for the pension. She then returned to the government office, and handed the forms to the bureaucrat. He had no choice but to stamp the forms and enter them into the system. Soon, the people who needed it most in her village, were receiving small monthly payments that allowed them to survive.

Instead of giving in to her feelings of failure when she kept getting knocked back, Amri shows us that through persistence, resilience, and being focussed on a clear outcome, we are unable to be derailed by obstacles on the path to our goals.

Could you apply these lessons of persistence, resilience and focus to challenges you are facing in your own life?