Because it has been used as an oppressive means to promote self-gain and empowerment at the expense of others, leadership almost carries a negative connotation in Africa.
This has resulted in a lack of trust and commitment to authorities. This is increasingly evident in the rebellion and craze for freedom displayed in the young people living in South Africa. Instead, they look to peers for belonging, approval and leadership.
Effective leadership is all about relationships. When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that he was an ordinary man who walked the streets. He did not eat specially packaged foods, imported bottled water or wear a brand to effect his authority. He led people through his strength of character and compassion, genuinely showing interest in people. Society recognized his leadership purely because he positively influenced the lives of those around him. He inspired and encouraged his followers to find true meaning and fulfillment by pointing them to the Father. He was a friend and a role model to his disciples. Jesus clearly established a good example of being a peer role model.
Good peer role models are people who have developed effective habits of discipline and success in personal life. They are people who demonstrate leadership through selfless service. Leadership is not about positional authority; rather, it is about leading through influence and active engagement. People of influence are marked by compassion, commitment and courage. They are able to challenge, influence and inspire their peers.
There is a huge need for peer role models today. Sadly, many young people have looked up to the wrong examples due to the false sense of identity and safety they find. The encouraging truth is that everyone—whether a teacher, parent, friend or athlete—can become a peer role model. The question is, what kind of role model will they be?
We as young leaders need to feel challenged and face the reality that we can only be effective when we seek the best in others and allow the love of Jesus to inspire and transpire through our relationships. The outcome will be trust and respect from those who look up to us. We should ask ourselves the sincere and soul-searching question, “Why would any one want to be like me?” Let this be our guide.