For our young people and also for Uncle David (current President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana) and Bharrat (former President and current Leader of the Opposition), the two most powerful leaders in our country at this time.
“Excessive egos can overwhelm even the most educated of individuals and many leaders have gained power with the most noble of ideals but, once it has been achieved, become carried away by it.” - Charles Wilkin QC, Breaking the Cycle.
The first time I said it, I told it to one of the most intelligent and charismatic political leaders of our time. I looked him steadily in the eyes and said:
“The most important thing I believe you can do is mentor the next generation of leaders…take all of what you've learnt and make them better.”
I was still a child when I began my journey as a young leader less than five years ago. My political consciousness was taking birth and I was alone, confused, angry and did not know how to process any of it. I needed a leader – who had not been carried away by power – to teach me.
Today, I am in the final year of my twenties and I can no longer, in good conscience, call myself a youth. I have evolved at a rapid rate since emerging as a “writer-activist” and now, I am one of the leaders responsible for securing Guyana’s future.
I am no longer defined by my youth. The years have made me old. I am one of the big people now and I know that growth comes at a heavy cost. These past years have been full of hard lessons. I have learnt to see both the strength and weaknesses of the people around me and in myself; especially the weaknesses. I have learnt that the world is not neatly separated into good and bad; this applies especially to people. I have learnt that it is all too easy to lose who we are if we are not very careful.
On November 30, 2013 I published the article which changed the direction of my life and marked the beginning of a series of events that molded me into the woman I am. I have spent a lot of time thinking about that period of my life, particularly about the lessons I learnt during the first eighteen months. I have often wished that I had managed to find that mentor – someone with experience, with no interest in owning me and without the bitterness that eventually plagues most of us.
In the absence of a mentor, I learnt to teach myself and I have recently accepted that I must now fill the role of mentor for the next generation of leaders who will take Guyana forward. Here are the three most important lessons I believe emerging leaders will learn:
1) Be wary of the people who will try to influence you.
When I emerged, several people came to me. They offered me friendship, support and a place to belong during my time of displacement. But they weren’t really interested in what was best for me. They weren’t really interested in my growth or how, if I realized my full potential, I could be part of what was good for Guyana. They each had their agenda and they were interested in influencing me only as a means of furthering their own interests. It’s a hard thing to learn but you will learn it and when you do, become your own voice of reason. Listen to what they have to say, accept their offers of friendship but watch carefully and be very measured in what you choose to let influence your beliefs and actions.
2) Loyalty is choosing what is best for the whole.
I grew up in a traditional Hindu home. Loyalty was one of the first values I was taught. But loyalty, like anything in the world, has two sides. It can be both a virtue and a vice. The type of loyalty I learnt first was a blind sort of loyalty. A loyalty which demanded that I be loyal because it was traditional or part of my duty and not because it was what I believed was right or best for everyone. Before you give your loyalty to anyone or anything, think carefully about whether it is what is best for the whole; for all and not just for some.
3) Honesty is about telling truth in a way that helps people.
I used to think that honesty was as simple as not telling a lie. It isn’t. The truth can be completely useless if it is not told in a way that helps people. So before you open your mouth to just tell the truth, think for a bit about how that truth should be told. If the way in which you’re about to tell that truth will not help the recipient to learn and evolve then you have wasted it. Make your honesty count.
These were the most important lessons I learnt during my first period of growth and I believe that these three things are at the heart of transforming leadership in Guyana. I also believe that most of our leaders have learnt these same lessons in different ways and we must share our knowledge with the people responsible for Guyana’s future; our young people.
We must not be afraid to grow stronger leaders than ourselves; leaders who will achieve the things that we can only dream of today. This is what leadership really means. It means having the courage to pour all your knowledge into the visionaries of tomorrow. It means having the strength to step aside to create space for those visionaries once you have given them the tools they need to act. It means using our power to secure the future.
Heal Guyana is a registered, not-for-profit organisation which functions as a civil society platform that focuses on empowering Guyanese and influencing citizens toward positive behavior change.
The views expressed herein are those of the Author; they do not necessarily reflect the views of Heal Guyana or its Executives.