Teddie: The book advocates equal opportunities among leaders and leverages the idea that anyone can become a leader regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or religious. When you think of race, there are two things that come to my mind: (a) race as a competition and (b) race as a group of people united by a common ancestor or heredity. These two ideas have nothing to do with leadership, because leadership is about influencing followers. The book dives into the fundamental characteristics of becoming an effective leader.
Vera: You make the case that everyone can become a leader. What are the fundamentals of the process to becoming a leader?
Teddie: Great leaders are followers first. This is the core principle of becoming an effective leader. We hear a great deal about developing people to take on leadership roles, but little is discussed about followership. However, when you dive deeper into the characteristics of a leader, it is clear that true leaders are followers first. All good leaders know they developed their leadership styles by following someone else. This is a fundamental leadership process that starts from the home where children follow parents’ habits and reactions. As human beings, we have an inborn need to follow the lead of those who are dear to us.
Vera: What would you say really matters in leadership?
Teddie: Leadership is about influencing followers in positive ways. It is essential that a leader is inspiring, and stimulate their followers by their actions and language. A leader should be honest. Honesty supports the credibility of a leader. Also trust-if a leader creates a trusting environment, followers are open and get more involved in an organization. Trust fosters openness, which ensures free communication as everyone feels safe discussing any issues that come up. Furthermore, being visionary really matters in leadership to guide followers in reaching the intended goals, from the current state to working toward the vision state. Finally, celebration matters. A leader should encourage and celebrate both success and failures. By celebrating failures, leaders create opportunities to discuss mistakes openly and learn from what happened.
Vera: You also share some thoughts on how a leader can be made to become more competent. Who determines the competence of a leader and how can any gaps be subsequently addressed?
Teddie: This is a great question. A leader cannot determine their own competency. Leaders may believe that they are competent, but it is their followers and other people who determine their competence. Remember that competence is the leader’s ability to guide and direct others. This may at times, be demonstrated by the leader’s relevant experience in the subject matter. If followers determine lack of competency from their leader, it can be difficult for them to carry out leadership duties. Therefore, it is imperative for everyone to help leaders who show signs of incompetence to bridge the gaps.
Vera: Most people including leaders deliberately avoid conflict. What is required of leaders during conflict that’s not required in regular times?
Teddie: Conflict is a normal and natural part of our lives. Unfortunately, most people have a negative attitude towards conflict because they do not know a good way to deal with it. It is always important to look at the brighter side of conflict. For example, conflict is a source of innovation, creates room for dialogue, and it helps to prevent groupthinking. Leading during conflict requires the seven principles of (1) managing your thoughts, (2) providing a collaborative climate, (3) being honest, (4) leading with vision, (5) taking recess, (6) communicating effectively, and (7) inviting dialogue. I would like to elaborate on recess. At times, it is better to step away from a conflict situation, because it helps to focus on something else in order to reenergize the brain.
Vera: What are some of the ways to create diversity in leadership in the workplace especially in multicultural settings?
Teddie: This is very good question. There are a lot of variables to diversity in the workplace- ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, exceptionalities, language, religion etc. Generational diversity (age) is affecting many employers and employees in many areas. One of the best ways to create diversity in the workplace is to have a global mindset where one understands himself and others. A leader should first understand who he or she is in association with others. In addition, a leader needs to understand how the characteristics of people from other countries, cultures and backgrounds connect with the environment they are in. By adopting a global mindset, leaders and followers are able to identify their own stereotypes and biases, gain knowledge of cultural history and heritage, and help create the right environment. Leaders who embrace diversity attract and retain talent and engender harmony and mutual respect in the workplace.
Vera: How has your own leadership been influenced by multi-racial environments and what lessons can you share with others who may be holding back from leadership because of their race?
Teddie: Multi-racial environments have, certainly, influenced my leadership. One of the reasons I wrote the book Leadership Is Not About Race is because of personal experiences that I encountered in the United States and while growing up in Malawi. In fact, I wrote the book in the wake of the violence I have seen erupt in the United States in recent years–violence resulting from hate crimes, police brutality against African-Americans, and white supremacists trying to take back power. As an Immigrant to the United States, I have embraced the opportunities that exist within the United States, a country that promotes equality and diversity, but whose people often acts in ways not congruent with those beliefs. The lessons I share is that everyone has the opportunity to become a leader and make a difference in the world.
Teddie E. Malangwasira profile
Dr. Teddie E. Malangwasira is the President and CEO at Malangwasira Leadership Consulting. He has more than thirteen years of business experience working in the food industry and serves as an adjunct professor at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where he teaches in the school of Business. He received his Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from Regent University, Masters of Science from Marian University, and Bachelor of Arts degree from Lakeland University. His previous publications include An Empirical Comparative Examination of the Relationship Among School Leadership Behaviors and Teacher Commitment to Students in Malawi and Demographic differences between a leader and followers tend to inhibit leader-follower exchange levels and job satisfaction. He can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org Find the book at my personal website www.malangwasira.com
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