Being a leader is never easy, therefore many people try to avoid that if they can. For some reason, more women than men avoid being leaders, that is why we see more men than women in all kinds of positions in our society. Given our inborn skills, women are better as leaders than men, but we many times lack the confidence. Still most of the world is coloured by the ancient patriachal system which is making it harder for women to be recognized as leaders. There is the keyword for this issue, really, to be recognized as a leader.
The traditional way of thinking is still chaining women at their homes, cooking, cleaning and bearing children. Not easy to influence anything outside the walls of the home, when a woman hardly has time to think an independent thought that doesn’t have to do with her family. Instead of asking why so few women are leaders, we should ask ourselves why we don’t give more women the opportunity to become leaders. Too many women don’t have a choice, even if they make brilliant results at school the society has doomed them to a traditional life. In the end this will end up in a life full of frustration and misery.
Why does anyone want to become a leader? There are just as many answers on that as there are leaders, but I want to go through at least some of the reasons. First of all we need to look at different leadership styles.
Let us begin with the formal and the informal leader. A formal leader is someone who is chosen to be the leader of a group, no matter the context or the size of the group. Most of the times this leader is payed for his/her job, but in rare cases the leader is also working on a voluntarily basis. Being a formal leader comes with certain responsibilities. The leader many times has a board to answer to, and also has financial responsibilities. If the leader does a good job, and is able to create a good working environment, the company has larger possibilities to succeed.
The informal leader is someone who has the ambitions to be the leader, but not the qualifications either educational or inborn skills. As you can see; there are two sides of the matter – the lack of proper education or the lack of skills. You can have the skills, without having the adequate education, but without the skills it doesn’t matter if you have the education required. Your ambition to be the leader is stronger than your self-awareness. You believe you have all the answers, you believe that if anyone would ask you, you could solve all the problems in an instant. The informal leader can be an asset to the company, but a frustrated informal leader that lacks self-awareness instead creates problems. This kind of informal leader is gossiping, talking behind the formal leader’s back, diminishes his or her authority and many times is doing this discretely so it can be very hard to find the source of the problem.
The informal leader is one in the group of employees, so it is hard for the others in the group to talk openly about the problem because they fear that they themselves might become a problem. It is hard for the other employees to decide where the loyalty should lay, even if they are aware of the problem and feel that it must be solved somehow. Solving these kinds of problems in a working place are never easy. It requires a mature formal leader who is prepared to listen to everyone and then making a decision – even if it has to be an uncomfortable decision. The easiest way out is by ”shooting the messenger ”, but that will always lead to additional problems when you find out that you sacked the wrong person.
Before I traveled to The Gambia, at the end of June this year, I prepared myself for the workshops in leadership I was going to hold during my stay. As a teacher, I am employed to be a formal leader, a role I enjoy but it is not always easy. The career opportunities for a teacher are few, so if I would have urged to climb the career ladder, I definitely chose the wrong profession. Working as a teacher is more like a longtime journey where you never know if you will reach your goal, but the way there is still so interesting so you keep on moving towards it. Being a teacher is the most important job anyone can have, because without us there will be no other professions. We build the foundation for every society in the world, so we must always ask ourselves what kind of society do we wish to have.
What kind of signals are we sending for the teachers of The Gambia when they are underpayed and over-worked? The salaries are so low, so the teachers have to take al lot of extra classes, and work double shifts to manage somehow. The Government is clearly showing the teachers, that they are not important. Most of the schools are under-equipped, too many pupils in too few classrooms, low quality blackboards which are making it hard to read from for the pupils at the back end of the classroom. Those parents who can afford paying for private schools will be able to give their children a good education, but what about everyone else? Where is the solidarity in The Gambia? Doesn’t every child have the same value? Isn’t it the Government’s obligation to provide for equal rights for every citizen when it comes to education?
Let us go back to where I began; the difference between formal and informal leaders. President Adama Barrow is a formal leader, but does he want to be that, or is he only interested in what he can gain from it? We all know the answers to that, but still I had to ask that question . The responsibilities coming with being an elected leader, seems to be easier to carry in The Gambia than elsewhere. Before President Barrow was inaugurated, in January 2017, he was promised to get help from several advisors. He was not an experienced politician before he became a president, he wasn’t even highly qualified in any kind of area, so why did the coalition pick him of all people? That is a question so many have been asking since then, and there might be many answers on that.
Considering the political play we have been watching since January 2017, the answer must be that the coalition thought Adama Barrow would be easy to control just because he was unexperienced and uneducated. He was placed on top as the formal leader, but the actual leaders are those who are pulling the strings that are controling Adama Barrow’s actions and decisions. It sounds a bit harsh to say this; but The Gambia has the leaders it deserves. As long as you are not aware of what kind of leaders you are growing, you will pay for it when you see them harvesting your investments. Education is an investment in the future, so ask yourself what kind of future do you wish for yourself, your children and your country? Invest your money and your votes wisely. Invest in the future, for the whole Gambia. Invest in the right kind of leaders, so they will invest in you.