Sunday, March 3, 2019

Privilege and leadership

I have spent my weekend with some DAAD alumni and current scholars from accross Africa. The theme was 'Young Scholars in Africa-Challenges and Opportunities'. In the discussions we reflected on varied issues including the landscape for women in research, the future of universities and the digitalization of research. Two other areas focused on were on the internationalization of research and leadership.

As one deeply interested in the intesection between politics and science, I was particularly interested in two topics. The one on scholarship and leadership, and the one on future of univesities and scholarship in Africa. It was my expectation that we would delve into how can the brilliant scientists in the room are working to solve the problems that abound. How are they leading in their spaces? I was shocked and encouraged in equal measure.

I believe that leaderships core is to take people and situations from one level of growth to another. Leadership is about making things better. To do so a leader must look beyond his or her situation. The fact that one is a leader, by virtue of expertise and knowledge in a field is already privilege enough. What shocked me was that even though many of us in the room were well privileged we were still inward looking. We seemed more focused on what is in it for me and not what can I do with what I have for others good.

What encouraged me was to hear and interact with some among us who were tired on the ME focus. Those who were setting out to apply science in the practical world where such knowledge is of value. It was apparent that a realization that society was moving even without the input of scholars, is making many of us rethink our value add. I got challenged to think of how my position of privilege should be applied in leading others to become better of themselves.

I believe the call to lead is one that requires we apply all we have to make the world a better place. Will I lead better or just focus on myself?

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