Archive for August, 2013

Women and Men are Leaders: Redefining leadership

August 13, 2013

Perception is reality. Perception is shaped by a person’s socialization process. Leadership is by and large a subjective concept; a function of perception.

In most patriarchal societies like Kenya, most men and women associate  “leader” with “physical strength” and strength implies “man”. In my humble opinion,this has contributed immensely to the relative paucity of women in elective positions, and by extension in senior leadership positions in all other social spheres.

This perception of “leader” as implying “man” is chiefly a throwback to the traditional societal  life in which leaders were  people (usually  men) who had excelled in war. The war could be raids to other villages or defense of one’s  village when under attack.

In modern societies, leadership has since changed both as a concept and in it’s role in the society.However, we are yet to give up those age-old notions of the term leader being associated with physical strength, and hence man.We, therefore,still socialize our children the same way. Boys and girls grow up knowing that boys are, and will always be leaders. This usually has a negative impact on the young girls, and on the overall position of women in the society.  Your daughter will fail in maths and not because she is incapable: because we say maths is for boys. She will not work as hard as she would otherwise do.Truth be told,  Maths & sciences are hard for most boys too- trust me, I talk from experience! We just worked hard at it.

As I always tell my fellow men,we keep telling our daughters they are not as good as boys, they grow up believing it, they grow up acting below their ability,they fail in stuff they’d have otherwise excelled in,most leave school and get married/or end up with unwanted pregnancies. Most of the ones who got married get dumped and head home with children. And grandparents end up raising their grandchildren!

Paradoxically, most men value the women in their lives (their mom & their sweet daughters). They, however, look down upon other people’s mothers and daughters. The women join in this conclave and we all end up perpetuating patriarchy. Maybe the starting point should be for us, men, to deepen this selfishness: we elect women and give them leadership positions in the hope that ours will suffer the same fate. Incidentally,the more women leader role models out there, the better the chances that our daughters will work had and be like them or even better.

At the core of leadership is an implied “ability” or “capacity”. A leader is one who exhibits relative strength in a certain sphere. This has nothing to do with gender. As it’s often said, if we judge a fish by its ability to ride a bicycle,it will forever live believing it’s stupid. Unfortunately,leadership is mainly a subjective concept; a function of perception. If we keep on raising our daughters with the perception that their greatest ambition should only extend to having the grandest marriage ceremony in the village …
In the same vein, since our daughters can’t be leaders,they, therefore, can’t possibly be in control of their lives, or play a leading role in their own lives,so to speak. The young girl is expected to be responsible yet the word responsibility has the connotation of ability, which we’ve already concluded our young daughters know not of. It’s time we informed them that they are capable,then we give them responsibility first over their own lives and by extension to the society. Responsibility=response +ability.
One social sphere that has really suffered under this leadership perception is politics. Political leadership happens to be the most overt form of leadership, and as such has the greatest  potential of influence in the society,  Once we change the perception of women as leaders in the political sphere,it’s easy to cascade it down to all other social levels.My hypothesis is that gender parity in all other social spheres will always lag behind gender parity in politics. Next time I tell you to elect women,don’t give me this tired line that I was given by some people(both men and women) prior to 4th March elections: “we don’t need women leaders, we just need good leaders.” Most of them actually ended up voting for men, which means good leaders are…

Few women in leadership positions (especially in politics)  will lead to women rights being thrown under the bus, so to speak. We should move on up from quality to quantity, unless you are still stuck in the belief that women are not as capable as men.

My contention is that we do not have a shortage of women leaders,but rather, we suffer a severe shortage of voters who believe women are as good leaders as men, and, therefore, would vote for women. Wangari Maathai,a  Nobel laureate, lost her bid for reelection as an MP and also failed in her presidential bid. You cant possibly tell me that she lacked leadership qualifications.


MISSION: Redefining leadership by changing the social/cultural perceptions to create a different reality for our young daughters. I am aiming at having half the number of elected leaders being women.

VISION: Turning Kenya (and eventually the world) into a Rwanda or Sweden where men and women have equal opportunities in life, And more importantly where humanity  benefit from the skills and experiences of the often  disregarded half of the world(ie women).

I doubt people would be allergic to their countries and companies  being managed the way their homes have been managed by their mothers..

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