There are few memories that would never leave me and one of them is the memory of following the family’s maid to the market, or to the church; or to anywhere.
My mom was infrequently around when I was younger so I was mostly left with our housemaid whose duty it was to ensure I was comfortable and safe – to the best of her ability. Well, in executing her job description, she would take me out everywhere she went.
Now, going out was not bad. I liked to go out. But going out with the maid was horrible because she made me so confused and nervous.
She would say, ‘Oya, walk in my front. I want to be seeing the back of your head and walk fast!‘ And if I turned back, she would shout, ‘Why are you turning back?! Be walking I’m looking at you’
Now, note that I was about 8/9 years old and I knew nothing about navigation especially through Lagos markets and roads. The housemaid knew this and yet she would ask me to walk in her front. I would walk in front of her shaking and looking back nervously. It was terrifying for me to be leading someone through the market. It was terrifying for me to think that I, Boro, was paving the way for another human being; that I was the one to say ‘Please excuse me‘. It was terrifying that I could turn around and not see her anymore; that that was a possibility. What would I then do?
But all these terrifying thoughts and speculations I had, in hindsight, were part of my process to being a leader. The housemaid taught me how to be a good leader whether or not she knew. How?
- A good leader leads by example. That is, the back of the head of a good leader is his most seen part of his body. He’s not bellowing and screaming from his high table somewhere, judging other people, but he is walking the talk.
- A good leader does not necessarily have to know what’s waiting ahead, but he must be prepared to face it. 100% certainty about work process and outcome, results and returns on investment, and so on, is impossible but a leader is one who knows this but still walks bravely towards uncertainty.
- A good leader paves the way for his followers. That’s one of the reasons why I absolutely love God. The Yorubas say that He’s not a God who sends a person on an errand and doesn’t provide a means for such a person to fulfil his tasks. That’s a true leader. The purpose of leadership is not to send dedicated humans to battles you are too scared to fight, but is to engage dedicated people in battles you can’t fight, ALONE.
- A good leader does not always have to turn back to check if he has followers. I can’t remember the wise man from who I heard that if a person isn’t leading anyone, then he’s just taking a walk. A leader is only a leader because he has followers, and a good leader does not have to check per second, if his followers have stopped following him.
Thank you, former housemaid.