“You are the leaders of tomorrow.” We hear the older generation frequently say to today’s youth. While that statement is usually intended to serve as a call to action to for the need of preparation, its result has been a stark opposite.
“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” — Malcolm X
Using the word ‘tomorrow,’ in any context, has a way of inducing complacency and facilitating the evaporation of the importance of actions and decisions made today in shaping tomorrow.
In an earlier article, I argued about how we are the leaders of today; not tomorrow. However, in this article, I am changing the narrative a bit. I realised that amplifying the rhetoric which calls us the leaders of today puts way too much pressure on us to have it all figured out, to have all the answers, and to be ready now. Some may argue that pressure may be good, too much pressure is simply…too much.
Nevertheless, while we are the leaders of tomorrow, that would only hold true if we make the right strides today to prepare for the rigors of leadership. Leadership, in the context of this article, transcends to parochial limitations of politics. It is an attribute of those who excel at their craft to such a degree that their actions inspire others to achieve and become more.
Think about leaders like Aliko Dangote whose business success, even as someone without a university degree, has inspired generations of Africans to believe that if he could do it, they could too. Think about leaders like Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) who have shown women all over the world that it is possible to have a vagina and be leading a boardroom, not a bedroom; contrary to popular patriarchal constructs.
Fascinated by the accomplishments of such leaders, I began reading the biographies of similar leaders to explore what things they did in their youth yesterday which prepared them for the leadership they exercise today. While a lot of their stories are quite different from one another, a greater number of them taken similar actions which, without their knowledge, equipped them with the skills to lead effectively in today’s world.
The bells of tomorrow chime out the need for leaders who possess an even wider range of skills sets to be able to deal with the looming complexities of the future. So what are they doing today to prepare for the future?
“Until one is able to exercise full leadership over oneself, one cannot be ready to lead anyone else.” — Arinzé’s journal.
They are Learning
We are not born with skills or knowledge; rather, we are born with the potential and ability to develop skills and acquire knowledge. The leaders of tomorrow are exploring the depths of the congenital potential by committing to the arduous — but rewarding — journey of discovery and lifelong learning. By actively learning much deeper about themselves and the workings of the world, they are putting themselves at the frontier of the emerging knowledge economy which will completely subdue their non-learning counterparts. This emerging knowledge economy has shown that the most important thing to learn is not the what to learn, rather how to learn. This is something that tomorrow’s leaders are learning today. How do we think critically while objectively analysing contrasting opinions? How can we best understand problems and tackle them with creative solutions?
Bill Gates did not stumble upon the fortune he has today from Microsoft by mere chance. As a teenager, he took advantage of the power of computers right at the tipping point of the digital revolution. While his counterparts fought against the trickles of digitization that were taking place at the time, he learnt the ropes and through discipline and a stroke of genius, ended up leading it.
They are Earning
While knowledge is a fundamental attribute of a leader, it takes more than that to build a leader. One of such things is capital; all leaders need some form of capital. Business leaders will need financial capital. Political leaders will need social capital. Thought leaders will need intellectual capital. But all leaders will need to earn identity capital. Meg Jay, in her book ‘The Defining Decade’ defines identity capital as: “the currency we use to metaphorically purchase jobs and relationships.” The leaders of tomorrow are earning this currency as returns from their investment of time, effort, money, and emotions into themselves to become the leaders they will be tomorrow.
Toni Morrison did not win a Nobel Prize in Literature simply by the wave of a magic wand. She accrued skills (capital) over time which prepared her for the Nobel Prize. She studied English Language at Howard University, and earned her Masters in the same field from Cornell University. These, alongside other achievements, she had prepared herself for her senior editor role at Random House after which she wrote books which won her the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize. This has earned her a place as a leader in the field of fictional writing.
They are Abstaining
No this isn’t about sex. This is about habits; bad habits. It has become general knowledge that it is easier to acquire a bad habit than it is to develop a good one. Good habit have to be intentionally cultivated while bad habits have to be intentionally ignored. Our leaders of tomorrow will not exist then if the bad habits they cultivate today significantly harm them in between then and now. Alcoholism would have destroyed their livers. Drug abuse would have damaged their nervous systems. Promiscuity would have made them possess great wealths of STIs and other diseases. Excessive smoking would have sent their lungs to the dogs. Unhealthy eating would have left them mere victims of cancer. The list could go on. One thing all leaders must have for them to lead is life. A dead man cannot assume positions of leadership, he can only maintain it through posthumous memorials and the legacy of his achievements. Bad habits suck the life out of our future leaders leaving them hollow with resounding echoes of unfulfilled potential. Abstain, or moderate.
I haven’t yet read a biography of a leader who abstained from all the aforementioned bad habits. Also, they may say they do abstain, but in secret they indulge. So I guess, what you should take away from this is that while abstaining completely from bad habits may be a thing for the saints, indulging with moderation is possible for anyone with a will. You would need to be alive to lead anyone or anything.
They are Developing
Let’s face it: the people who are going to lead the world tomorrow are not ready today. It will take a whole lot of personal, intellectual, and professional growth for them to be well equipped to face the minefield of hurdles which lie ahead of them and the people they lead. This development happens today; now! Where a lot of us get it wrong is that we fail to see the big picture; thus we don’t think as strategically as we should. We fail to understand that the things we aspire for in the future are pulled closer towards us by the net impact of our thoughts, decisions, actions and inactions today. This is why the leaders of tomorrow are actively developing this long-term vision alongside an arsenal of skills to be better positioned to not only thrive in the future, but be at the vanguard of it.
Are you one of them? Am I?
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