Shafik Asante was a remarkable Afrikan American leader. This short piece outlines his thinking about leadership. As a mail carrier is known as being a person who carries mail, a leader must be seen as a person who carries “leading ideas.” Leading ideas are not the same as good ideas.
I want to concentrate this article on sharing my perspective on what leadership is. As a mail carrier is known as being a person who carries mail, a leader must be seen as a person who carries “leading ideas.” Leading ideas are not the same as good ideas. While good ideas are obviously helpful, leading ideas are more than helpful in that they determine whether the “problem” gets dealt with sufficiently (i.e. does it re-occur again or is it resolved?)
A leading idea is an idea which when empowered or enacted resolves the problem. A good idea is giving hungry people fish. A leading idea is teaching hungry people where and how to fish so that they can sustain themselves without you! Leaders hold leading ideas, not just good ideas.
Giving leadership means taking responsibility for changing what is into what ought to be,. Good leadership not only figures out WHAT needs to be done to resolve some concern, but also HOW — methods to go about resolving such a concern. People who want to give leadership must be guided by two realities: first a believable and doable vision and to a commitment to their own development (willingness to take time to study). If for instance we say we want to be leaders in the struggle for inclusion we must have a clear, believable vision of what an inclusive society will look like and secondly we must study and learn the knowledge, information, laws etc. that are already out there.
Good leadership prepares itself well. In the children’s story of the Three Little Pigs, the first two pigs were defeated because they had not studied the wolf. Had they studied the wolf they would have known that houses of sticks and straw are not anti wolf protection The first two pigs had not prepared themselves well. Good leadership prepares itself well. Holding office or some appointed position does not make you a leader. Only holding solutions and knowledge make one a leader.
Good leadership does not attempt to speak for those they are leading, rather their goal is to get people organized so that they can speak for themselves. Speaking for oneself is the first act of personal empowerment, whether by voice or any other means of communication. When leaders prevent their fellowship from acting out of their own concerns, the followers become spectators and the leadership becomes mis-leadership.
Good leadership also knows that if you plant something out of season that chances of it growing are doubtful. Leadership always consults with others to know when the best time is to do or not to do a particular act of planting. Good leadership then is collective leadership, is a leadership that recognizes that it is best to work with others when possible.
Perhaps the most important quality of productive leadership is the issue of accountability. Progressive leadership is accountable leadership. It is leadership that seeks and requires from its supporters consistent evaluations of how it is doing. After receiving feedback the leadership adjusts its actions. I conclude by saying leadership is a collective of leaders. Let’s all strive to join the collective and make inclusion a reality.