Being part of Senior Management Teams in national projects supporting digital health and design thinking for global and public health needs has been an interesting journey that allowed me to introspect about leadership, what it is and what it is not. One of the icons in my life when it comes to leadership has been my parents who taught me so much more about this subject in practice than any workshop I have ever attended. Working in the NGO space has helped me to practice, iterate and horn in and learn the following lessons:

1.      THE MASTER BEDROOM LEADERSHIP: There is what I call the ‘master bedroom’ type of leadership, which assumes that leadership is about withholding information from the team and that the more you know as a leader that is what makes you a better leader for the team. Well true leadership is about empowering team members with all the information they need timely to perform and drive the agenda towards set goals. Leadership is about intentional daily doses of effort that works towards building a culture that is anchored on objective transparency, fosters shared and collective responsibility in decision making and appreciates the true value of everyone on your team. To perform, teammates need to be empowered with all the information they need to make technically sound decisions that make business sense. A good leader is wise enough to know that in as much as you need to be transparent, there is some sensitive information that needs to be managed


2.      ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE: Leadership is about building a culture that makes the team win, that makes the team succeed both as individuals and collectively. As a leader you need to be intentional about the culture you help in creating within the team you lead because organizational culture is as important as the expertise you have on your team. In addition, beyond the bottom figure on the pay slip, an organizational culture that fosters productivity, efficiency, growth, and development of the team is key in talent acquisition, development, and retention.


3.      POSITIONS VS SERVICE: I remember in my younger years in high school and part of my university experiences when leadership was all about positions and the ‘power’ it comes with. For some reason I usually either serve as secretary or chairperson and in each instance, it was more about the fame, the opportunities it had for me and what I could benefit from it. my experience in student politics at institutional and national levels and now the experience in the NGO space made me realize that leadership may be about positions, but those positions are really an opportunity for service and decision making. The ‘power’ leadership comes with is about additional responsibilities, accountabilities and decision making that should be driven by the needs of the people or teams you lead. It’s no longer about the fame but more about the impact of the decisions you are ‘privileged’ to make as a leader and whether those have the best interest of the team and the intended beneficiaries. ‘


4.      TEAM DYNAMICS: Often as a leader you may fall in the trap of having favorites in a team and that may have negative impact on the team collectively. I have learnt that great teams are not about having people of the same character, background, profession, or skills sets, but they are about diverse individuals and professionals. As a leader you need to be intentional about how you get to learn more and more about your team members individually and collectively so that you can harness and leverage the diversity to meet your organizational goals. In as much as there may be people that are easy to work with on the team, remember that leadership is like parenting and you need to apply the principle of equity in certain instances to support, mentor and work with all your teammates. The true strength of the team is in the diversity and the true strength of the leader is the professional maturity it demands to harness that diversity to the benefit of the individuals and the organization.


5.      THE GRAPEVINE: every team will have the ‘grape vine’ where the team members feel free to express themselves, vent and really be themselves. It’s in the grape vine, that some real issues affecting the team may be raised by team members who may not have the ‘courage’ to raise them with you as the leaders. Most leaders work so hard to ‘kill’ the grapevine without realizing that as a leader you need the grapevine as a key cultural piece in your team. Instead of killing the grape vine, invest in it and leverage it as a governance structure of the team as it presents a more naturalistic leadership opportunity where you as a leader can be empowered with the real issues. I have been privileged to be part of both sides of the grape vine and in both instances, I have been very clear to use it to facilitate communication in the team … and when you can be a leader to have one member on the team who speaks out on behalf of the team, count it a blessing and invest in that opportunity. At the end of the day, leadership is about working with the team and the grapevine is such a platform.


Leadership is not about showing the way.

It’s about INVESTING in the team, leverage the diverse skills and competencies to MARSHAL effort towards co-creating a SHARED VISION and building systems that foster the inclusive innovation of strategies to actualize it.