Leadership Skills for Sierra Leone Women: Developing the Leader in You
Someone once suggested that great leaders were born, not made. Women today arguably have more opportunities for greatness than ever before. They bring to life their girlhood dreams. They can overcome barriers of sexism, racism, economic and social oppression, and the demons of childhood abuse and family dysfunction. They can soar with a beauty and majesty that their Creator intended when He first fashioned them in His own likeness. “[…] in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1.27). (Photo: Nanette Thomas)
While opportunities and inspirations have multiplied, so have the weights of responsibility, the pressures of others expectations, and the temptations of mediocrity. Like wildflowers straining to press through the cracks in a crumbling sidewalk, women strive to bloom within the confinements of this jumbled and segmented stretch of concrete called Life. Yes, numerous freedoms have brought numerous opportunities for many women. Still many barriers threaten a woman’s ability to answer the call of greatness upon her life.
SIERRA LEONEAN WOMEN, if you are no longer content with the misguided attempts to be every woman but yourself, then your time has come. SIERRA LEONEAN WOMEN, if you are no longer satisfied to compare yourself to the shortsighted expectations of others around you, then your time has come. SIERRA LEONEAN WOMEN, if you are no longer fulfilled by the remnants of your dreams being shoved to the back closet of your heart, then your time has come. The time has come for you, and you, and me to step out of the shadows of our life and into the spotlight. Every SIERRA LEONEAN WOMAN has a potential to be a leader, to move beyond the edges of the stage where they have watched life’s drama unfold before them, and to stride onto center stage and fulfill the role of their lifetime. Make no mistake, becoming a leader does not require playacting or pretending to be something you are not. On the contrary, becoming a true leader requires stripping away all the other roles and bit parts you may have settled for and acted out before. It means discovering who you are and what you are truly about.
Leaders who are admired and respected have earned that admiration and respect. Respect is given to others only when they are deemed worthy of receiving the honor. There is a vast difference between manipulating and influencing others. Manipulation deliberately uses and abuses other people to act out your intentions. Influence, on the other hand, requires buy-in taking place. People respect other people who have the power to positively influence others and get things done. Manipulation is the dark side of management. When you manipulate others, you give away any chance of gaining respect from others. A simple review of Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People expands on this topic. It does not matter whether the manipulation is overt or covert (243-249).
In today’s microwaveable, digitalized, hyper-tech world, it feels impossible to avoid the multiplicity of roles that we all face. True enough, we all have a variety of roles commanding our attention throughout each day as well as each season of our lives. But how you face them and go about living your life can provide an anchor to hold you secure and steady through the winds of change and the demands of each day. So how do you stabilize and ground your performance as a SIERRA LEONE WOMAN leader with an impassable grace constant throughout the myriad of changes in your life? As the demands of each season bring new roles and responsibilities, you must concentrate on the method by which you fulfill them rather than trying to measure your success by the world’s approval. You must extricate yourself from the trappings of success heaped upon women in our culture today – the right house in the right neighborhood, the charming husband the well-behaved kids, the successful career and the right image. Abandon comparing yourself to everyone around you and forcing yourself to do what they are doing, wear what they are wearing, and be who they are being. You must be a success in your own eyes – regardless of where you are in life right now – rather than comparing yourself to others.
When approached by someone on the street asking for money you think one of two things. If you think times are tough, you will probably give them money. If you think they should get a job, your money will stay in your pocket. Those were two different actions that were determined by two different thoughts. Your thoughts influence your actions and reactions. Thoughts are very powerful and they play a major role as a leader. John Maxwell explains that thinking has the greatest leverage on performance. Maxwell suggests that by opening your mind and changing the way you think will change your beliefs. In turn your beliefs will change your expectations, which change your attitude, behavior, performance, and ultimately your life (25-33).
Walk the talk or lead by example. The most carefully crafted messages rarely sink deeply into the consciousness after only one pronouncement. Our minds are too cluttered, and any communication has to fight hundreds of other ideas for attention. According to John Kotter, one of the most powerful ways to communicate is through behavior (99-100). Perhaps life will challenge you to do something you have never done before. Maybe you have been asked to sing the song, say the speech, or face a challenge that you would never have expected for yourself. SIERRA LEONE WOMEN you are the woman for the job, on a mission filled with wonderment and excitement, and destined for greatness beyond what your imagination can conjure. YOU ARE A LEADER.
Nanette Thomas, APC Dallas Chapter President
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