On Legitimacy in Leadership

Although my mum was the only female in my family for almost three decades, she got and has always gotten more than 90% of family decisions go her way – thanks to her slippers throwing skills but also to something else. Being a mother of 5 boys, a career woman , a dedicated Christian and handling my father (who for some reason has become more playful as he ages) is not stuff of the faint hearted.

As I reflect on my childhood, I couldn’t help but notice how profoundly it has shaped my choices in life particularly in the career choice and trajectory but more so in how I try to lead and manage those in my charge. Growing up in a family of five siblings and particularly all men is not exactly a walk in the park in Africa. This was particularly challenging and fun at the same time during our teenage years.

But what is it that made these two legends run this sort of military camp with precision? What is it that these two lovebirds put in place that resulted in what I would consider by all standards a successful family? What has made this “Band of brothers” (This is our WhattsApp Group name) stay true to each other?

Three things that I would consider gave them and continues to give them legitimacy and that leaders and managers should embrace if we want to create and develop winning teams.

Give them a VOICE

My father has a strong voice. Those who know me can attest to this. I also have one. However, the voice I am talking about here is the ability of those in position of authority to allow those they have authority over to be heard. Those who are asked to obey must always feel like they do have a voice and that if they raise it, it will be listened to and heard.

Being heard in my view comprises of two critical aspects, one , Listening and second one Action. Ask yourself, how do I listen? Do my employees consider me a listener? Do I seek to first understand?

Consistency and Predictability

Picking up your plate from the dinning table and putting it back in the kitchen sink is one of the practices my father has ALWAYS done. This same practice has followed me and now I am passing it on very strictly to my son.

In ensuring team synergy, and leaders need to do this, consistency and predictability of actions either towards reward or reprimanding should be in place. People need to have an idea or know that the rules by which they play are largely the same. So if the team Webex meeting gets locked 5 minutes after start, then that should be the case no matter who is not into the meeting by then. These simple things ensure that the team is always aware of the rules of the game and work to give the leader the legitimacy she requires.

The next rule for my son Mich, making his bed no more than 15 minutes after wake up time.

Compassion and Gratitude

Being grateful and compassionate may not come out as related at first glace. But a closer look into these two shows how important they serve as a basis for building social capital for individuals and particularly leaders. When we are compassionate, we are able to appreciate the struggles that people within our teams go through and become more grateful for the space we are in in our own lives.

When we are grateful, we develop an abundance mentality, this in turn enables us to be more compassionate towards those we lead. Our teams need to feel that they can come to us without necessarily being victimized or judged , but rather appreciated and understood. At both personal and professional level, the spaces we create for the team in terms of culture gravely impact the outcome and the quality of work they produce.

Finally, practicing these two enables us to be even more fair in our dealings.

So for my parents, I believe that these have worked out well, by giving us a voice, they have made it possible for us to appreciate the fact that when we speak, we will be heard and not only that, that every action that results from the voice will always be consistent and predictable to a large extent. In addition, they will listen to us not in judgement, but with compassion each time and offer sometimes advise, other times just appreciation or gratitude for the effort we have put in life.

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