I’m in the process of assisting a student where I studied a few years ago. The piece I’m doing forces me to recollect the work I did as a student leader. With time, and age, one often does much introspection on whether or not the contribution you make to society is worthwhile, let alone worth anything at all. Well, at least I think you should be wondering about it.
My aim as a student leader was to drive change. I never saw myself as a student leader though (these student leader creatures were known to be fame and power hungry mini-politicians). Rather, I saw myself as an individual wanting to challenge any injustice, or just save a fellow student from hardship or any discomfort. I wanted to be an enabler; enable the so-called underdogs to achieve and live the dream. To not only allow others to make a way for themselves but also to ensure that this new path became a standard for the next set of travelers. My passion did not begin and end with students at the University of Cape Town, it also included the minds of the people who have ever interacted with, because of and never had the chance or dare to dream of setting foot in the University of Cape Town.
A huge task for anyone I think. A big dream for any student to attain.
Was I successful? Nope, not entirely so. Did I receive recognition? Yes, definitely. Did I yearn recognition for it? No. And those who really know me, know this is God’s truth.
Success in leadership to me meant transforming the very conservative university to a wonderland for any deserving inquiring mind, for more than one semester. I wanted more than just the quick thrill of establishing a ‘ground-breaking’ new student- parent society; I wanted more than just making people think differently for a moment during debates; I wanted more than for people to just know my name.
I wanted more than just to cause waves.
I wanted my student-leader comrades to more than just cause tidal waves. Even if they were entertaining at student assembly.
I wanted and still want to be the force that created the waves themselves.
Then we, in term and in turn, do not have to fret about our successors and continuing the good work, the right work, the needed work.
But what my stint in leadership proved to me, was not only that patience is a virtue, but rather that when you’re afforded the privilege of leading, you need to lead proactively, thinking for the next few sets of leaders’ in mind, what issues they would grapple with, you attempt to solve or provide ways on how to solve them, now (not when they start their term).
It’s truly a draining role. And in student leadership, you’re balancing your studies, your own life and of course your passion to change the whole wide world.
Is it possible to do all of this, successfully?
Yup. I didn’t get it right, but yes, it sure is possible. I think of people like Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh; Erik de Ridder, Melvyn Lobega, Trevor Mcarthur to name but a few. They’re people we can look up to.
One day I hope that our leadership efforts would evolve sustainable winds of change, that the yearning to improve our fellow man’s current circumstance, to self sustainable hubs of ever-developing movements.
Sustainability, in every way, is a thought leadership we should invest in. And it starts at home, in our minds, in the mirror. This frame of thinking should accompany the audacity to challenge, challenge everything.
The status quo would just be a number and not a challenge that ever resembles our past, fueling our need to break the barrier; fighting ‘because of’, but rather ‘building on’.
Just because leadership requires hard work, and working with our hands, it doesn’t mean we need to get ‘dirty’.
Although this piece mentions student leadership specifically, I do need to point out that there are leaders and opportunities to lead across a broad spectrum ventures. This includes the business world. Be the best, fail, be the best at getting up again, smiling after every punch.
Be good at every opportunity to get up from every fall.
Thanks what I’m good at.
Sustaining many an injury, I keep getting up. I feel the pain with every punch, but I smile with every step forward.
And so I evolve, redefining my ideas and experience of leadership and people and opportunity.
So what’s my next step?
What’s your next, my leader?