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We are all leaders and teachers


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We are all leaders and teachers

brown wooden desk table

Often you see a lot of people blame their political leaders for all manner of things. And it’s ok to do that, especially when the responsibility for them to be leaders comes with their election into leadership roles. But one thing we all mostly miss is the fact that almost all the time, true leadership is not given to anyone, but what they come into either based on their position in a family, community, or country. And here is what I mean. We have often seen leadership from a very myopic and limited lens that we really do not pay attention to how leadership comes to us and how within that leadership we find ourselves, is also our roles as teachers.

We all are teachers, irrespective of what our careers or jobs are. We all are teachers because we live in communities, streets, and towns where there are people who look at our actions, listen to our words and pick up lessons from them. So, we are always leading and teaching people something, even if we are not aware of it.

I read somewhere where someone said that how you know you are a leader, is when you have people following you. That may sound like it’s true, but I do not buy it. I do not think leadership is about followership, nor is leadership about who is at the front. I think leadership is about how our lives, decisions, choices, and actions create room for and also influence others to do what is right and also follow their paths. And that’s why I said that we are all leaders and teachers, whether we are aware of it or not. Our lives may be teaching and leading others in the wrong or right direction, depending on how we are living.

The school bus drive

On one of these evenings, I had gone out to get a few supplies from some of the kiosks in the neighborhood. The road I took was not so wide and also was not tarmacked, so it was very dusty for rain had not fallen for a while. From behind me came this big school bus that was moving very fast. Because of the speed at which the driver was moving, it left in its trail this nasty huge cloud of dust. I could see schoolchildren who were coming from school, walking on that same road. They were all trying to step aside into the bushes on the sides of the road just to avoid the huge cloud of dust that had blinded everyone at that moment when the school bus passed. I didn’t like the experience and I seriously wished I could run and ask the bus driver if something was wrong with him. Anyway, the idea to write this article came from that experience. The driver was supposedly going to drop school children at home.

Now, you may be wondering why I decided to write about leadership and teaching from the dusty road experience and what could be the connection. Here is what I think.

van on dusty road in mountainous valley
Photo by Dmitriy Ganin on

If the bus driver knew he was a leader and a teacher

As I continued my walk to get the stuff I wanted to get, I started thinking about what happened with the dusty road and the way the driver drove, then I concluded that the bus driver lack a basic understanding of what his role as a school bus driver is. The fact is that the school bus driver’s job was not just to drive the school children to school and back, but he is also a major part of the learning for the students. This is what I mean. That school bus driver, whether he is aware of it or not, is the first person from the school that the school child or children would meet in the morning and most likely the last person from school that the child or children will relate with in the evening. Imagine leaving in the psyche of a young school child that the best way to drive on a busy road or any road is to drive very fast, putting everyone else at risk of some accident. Or that it’s ok to create a large cloud of dust on the road irrespective of the other kids and parents walking on the same road, just because you are driving in a bus. Imagine how that small scenario can create an illusion of classism and a we-versus-them narrative in the mind of a child. Mind you, this might not be the intention of the driver, but the mind of a young child or children may think differently.

Whom are you leading and whom are you teaching?

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As I had mentioned already, there is no time that we are not leading or teaching someone. Our lives are just what they are, learning portals for others. And this applies greatly to our children or those very close to us. We cannot take for granted the effects that our lives have on others and thus our decisions and choices must be guarded by clear consciousness of this reality.

I remember a friend I was in Polytechnic with about fifteen years ago who got in touch a few years back. During our chat, he mentioned that while we were in school, I was one of his role models. Surprised was a small word for how I felt when he said that. I could not say which part of my life back then influenced him and I was just too surprised to even ask him while we had that chat. I could say it was from the angle of art or something related to singing or so. And that’s because while we were in school, I was the artistic director and songwriter of the theatre troupe that we both belonged to and I also was a singer in one of the major student fellowships. But if remember events clearly, we mostly argued about things back in school, since I always brought into every conversation a different perspective, and thus my being his role model was like a huge “how is that possible?” But that is how life is. We influence people now and then with everything we do or say irrespective of whether we are aware of it or not.

Now my question to everyone is this: if everyone you have influenced at some point decides to come to share their experiences with you, will it make you happy or sad?

delighted black man raising hands in fists in excitement
Photo by Lay Low on

With that in the back of your mind, never forget that you are both a leader and a teacher.

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