This article was inspired by three dynamic, driven and successful African-American women that have collectively honed their leadership skills and share it in a book titled: The little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women.
Since being black in America is very much different from being black in another country, I have adapted my takeaway from this book and made it relevant to the readership of this blog, mainly African women.
We know that there are good managers and great ones. We certainly have encountered both of these types in our various work environments. How do we differentiate the good from the bad ones?
A specific set of characteristics:
- They support their employees;
- They work to help them develop strategic goals;
- And they know that when one person succeeds the entire team succeeds;
- They also embrace and encourage hard work for themselves and their teams and don’t look for shortcuts.
One must understand the difference between managing people and leading them effectively. Your degree of mastering of these skills will determine how quickly you move to the next level of your career.
For us living in the diaspora (and certainly outside Africa), we live in societies where there is a dominant culture completely different to our own. Each culture has its own sets of traditions and values. As Africans coming from diverse countries, we understand this very well. The dominant culture has its owns set of values, attitudes and ideologies different from ours. Rather than focus on assimilation, it is more important to understand your own behaviours and how they can work against or for you.
Cultural codes exist
What are they? The kind of things we tend to do from a cultural perspective to sabotage ourselves. We must find, prescribe methods to help us be successful in controlling them.
They said in the book that :
Women of color as executive leaders often face unique challenges
Well in my opinion:
Women as executive leaders face unique challenges
I am sure great African women like Divine Ndhlukula, Magatte Wade and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (pictured) would agree with me on this one.
That being said, here are my 20 Laws of Leadership for African Women (some are inspired by the book others are from my own experience):
- Confidence and self-esteem: Overcome feelings of inferiority despite regularly being referred to as a minority
- Stay positive, on course and expect to be successful: Develop a leader’s mentality
- Racism is not an excuse: Prejudice of all kinds exist, accept it, understand it and make it work for you
- Don’t be the office mama: Resist your tendency to take on the role of caregiver, it may not help in your pursuit of being an effective leader
- Use your duality to build strength: Use the lessons learned from the burden of racism and sexism to your advantage
- Accept that there is a game and that you must play: Don’t be blind to office culture and politics
- Speak up – what you have to say is as important as what others have to say : Utilize the communication culture of your organisation to your advantage
- Respect: It’s better to be respected than to be liked
- Don’t let your emotions get the best of you: Control and learn from them
- Listen up: Learn to be an effective listener
- Know your value: The talent you acquire elsewhere is easily transferable, take advantage of them!
- Step outside your comfort zone: Cross over into others’ cultures, it will help you more than you think
- Surround yourself with the right people: Network. Network. Network. In and outside your comfort zone
- Use conflict as an opportunity to solve problems: Conflict is sometimes necessary, don’t avoid it at all cost
- Learn to lead as visionary: What you see is what you create! Take risks!
- Take advantages of the opportunities: You don’t need to have all answers before you take action. Be bold!
- Know how to create and use power: Men do it all the time, it means we can do it as well
- Find coaches, supporters and role models: To be an effective leader, you will need support
- Motivate others by playing up their strength: The way forward is to build an efficient team
- Reaching back and helping others: when given a chance, offer a helping hand to others
Note that these laws are no ranked in any way. Some might apply to your particular situation, some not quite. To start the journey toward being a leader:
Here are your first steps:
- Strive for excellence
- Move past self-defeating behaviour
- Burst through what may seem like impenetrable barriers
What do you think? Do you have your own laws of leadership? If so, please share with us!