When I was in middle school, I made a presentation on leadership and explained to my colleagues the reason the world-class leaders are world-class. I used to believe that qualities such as charisma and self-confidence are what make great leaders. I thought I knew it all and tried to impress my friends and my teachers of how a good leader I am. But the truth is that none of this is valid. I realized that only when I attained my second year of high school. How did it happen? That’s what I’m going to talk about right away.
There has been a volunteering campaign named “Dir Iddik”, launched by the Moroccan telecommunications corporation INWI, which had a main purpose of renovating old public places and neighborhoods. It has been accommodated by many institutions and schools in Morocco, including my former high school. As a proactive person, I didn’t hesitate to take part of this noble cause. Randomly, I was designated as a coordinator and assigned a team composed of different high school students. We were given a block in the old, Moroccan city of Azemmour with the tasks of painting the walls and sidewalks, and planting bushes along the neighborhood. To our surprise, we found out that the budget for the supplies wasn’t not even close to the real cost. At this stage, any normal human would blame it on the organization and use this alibi to withdraw. On the contrary, I reminded myself and our team that this job had to be done anyways in that those low-income residents are the one who would feel the loss not the organization. So we borrowed money from friends, asked our parents for more and even bargained for the supplies so that we can get everything we need.
This team solidarity established a sense of harmony, in our work, that was disrupted temporarily by the behavior of one member. He was malingering around, pretending to do something while he was unproductive. I avoided showing any sign of authority over him and asked him gently: “what’s wrong?” He said he didn’t like the idea of receiving orders from me. I was appalled and I apologized right away for appearing authoritative to him and encouraged him to have a saying in every decision. In this way, I lessened his rebellious attitude and got him to cooperate with the team. He even thanked me at the end and told me he was happy for taking part in that experience. I realized that by telling somebody to do something, even if I’m well-meaning, can offend that person so I altered my behavior to make it less authoritative.
That paradigm shift experience changed my understanding about what it really takes to be a role model. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t really the charisma and self-confidence that a good leader needs but the willingness to sacrifice and to compromise and the genuine interest in people and their stories that foster leadership.