Around the table a group of social workers, youth leaders, educators and project leaders are gathered. The attention is high, focus is sharp; people are keenly listening to the speaker of the moment. The discipline in attention, despite several days of learning, is impressive and quite unusual.
Looking out the window I can spot some of the children coming home from school, playing and chatting. The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue – both which are a welcome change from the torrential rains of a day ago.
I’m in SOS Children’s Village in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. “SOS Children’s Villages International is active in 134 countries and territories around the world, helping hundreds of thousands of children each year through family-based alternative care, schools, health centres, family strengthening programmes, and other community-based work” (from http://www.sos-childrensvillages.org/)
The reason I find myself here for the second time is that I am currently supporting a pilot initiative in Mozambique, sponsored by SOS in Sweden. The initiative is aimed at teaching and coaching the children to become active participants in their lives, where they can contribute and have input in their lives, and build empowering self-esteem to be able to create a good and happy future for themselves, with good relationships and work opportunities.
This is a great initiative and so very needed. The children who are living in SOS’s villages have it quite good, they are taken care of into a family environment when their own parents for whatever reason can no longer care for them. It goes without saying that it’s not easy to know that you are not with your biological family. The children are for example sometimes teased at school for this reason. It’s likely to impact a child emotionally and potentially also mentally (and the two are of course linked). What SOS as an organisation is doing through their initiative is going beyond just caring for a child through a home, food, and a “family” around them. They want to also proactively “feed” the child’s self-esteem, his/her mind and heart, to build them from the inside out, to believe in themselves so that they can become great leaders of themselves as a grown-up. It’s a brilliant initiative and so needed – this is what all children and adults need. And early indications from this initiative are very encouraging – it really seems to be working.
I have had the privilege of working with the subject of effective self-leadership (leading oneself effectively in all aspects of one’s life) for 20 years now and this is, without a doubt, a key contributing factor for success and happiness for all people, regardless of their situation, role, age, gender, location etc.
My role in supporting SOS is to help the village adults, particularly the Mums, to become good self-leaders themselves so that they can be role models who can coach the children and teenagers to high self-esteem and effective, respectful and responsible self-leadership.
Organisations can learn a lot from this initiative too.
Effective self-leadership is rarely taught in such a way that self awareness and social awareness becomes empowering and success-creating.
And there may be valid reasons for this, such as not realising the potential of it, dismissing the notion as something vague and “fluffy” or simply not knowing how to approach it. Yes, it may be easier to focus on what’s going on outside of people; adjusting actions and behaviours, adding or changing processes and procedures – to try to achieve better results. But given that we are human beings, our actions and behaviours are driven by what’s going on inside – how we think and feel, and how we see ourselves and others. And as such, to be able to know ourselves and lead and manage ourselves is a deciding factor in the results we get.
Yes, to lead ourselves effectively is the responsibility of each of us, and one worth taking seriously. It’s a life-long journey and one definitely worth taking. With it we can make better decisions and feel happier about the choices we make. We can communicate more effectively with others, collaborating better – which we all need as no-one is an islands – to get better, more sustainable results.
The best leaders are great self-leaders:
- They know what stresses and energises them (and manage those factors)
- They know and understand their impact on others (and manage that)
- They are not in any way perfect (no-one is) but they admit when things go wrong (as they are aware of what’s going on around them) and proactively look for new solutions
I am inspired by the spirit of the family and village leaders in Mozambique who so intuitively and open-heartedly understand the importance of self-leadership and self-esteem for the future of their children, and themselves. It brings much hope for the future.