By Kevina Power Njoroge, 9th March 2014
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” Henry Thoreau Walden
‘My ‘authentic’ leadership journey was encouraged first by my mother, who has inspired me the most in my life so far. As a young child, I was undeniably curious about different people and places and this curiosity has since blossomed into my career in international development today. My mother inspired this passion by always relating the truth concerning the world around me without judgment, and allowing me to take decisions myself from an early age. In explaining the troubles in life, my mother would explain that if we could read the secret history of those we wished to punish, we would find enough grief and suffering to make us stop wishing anything more upon them. She taught me to listen first; to reflect and ask questions; and to take decisions based on careful balance of opinions.
I studied Aristotle in a university philosophy course, where I was further inspired through his preposition that every human action and pursuit is thought to aim at some good. Many may argue that my ‘faith’ in Aristotle is based upon a blind faith in the humanity of others, but I believe that this assumption allows for me to remain positive and objective in dealing with the multitude of issues I face everyday. In my opinion, a leader must remain positive and objective in order to imagine possibilities in unlikely places and to make good decisions in difficult circumstances. Inevitably, some of those decisions may fail, but even in failure, a true leader can inspire other to learn something new whatever the outcome. Indeed, becoming increasingly resilient in the face of failure is an important part of becoming more and more authentic in general, whatever the position one holds in life
Authenticity to me means daring to be your best ‘self’ today, tomorrow, and always. It means starting each day new and balancing the aspects of life that need the most attention as they come, regardless of whether those aspects are parts of your personal or professional self. I’ve learned over the 15 years or so as I’ve progressed into leadership roles that being a leader is not about demonstrating certain traits and characteristics; it is about empowering others to make good decisions. Reminding THEM to be authentic and to reflect upon and use their own experiences in making those decisions.
At any given moment in time, I can recall dozens of memories of the things I’ve done, the people I’ve met, and the places I’ve been. These memories and experiences make up the pieces of me that make me who I am today. But what makes my actions more authentic in the future is to try and understand my experiences from different perspectives. For example, how did my involvement or actions affect outcomes? What role did other people play and how did relationships grow as a result?
Most importantly, I want to be able to take worthwhile journeys with people in all aspects of life and the only way this is possible is when people in my life are positively motivated. If I were to accept a more traditional model of leadership I would only want to create “value” for shareholders; but what I want to create is something more true, more enduring, more resonant: evoking in people values that matter, not merely “value” which is worthless.
My life so far has brought me so many lessons that at times I feel overwhelmed by them. While this can be stressful, it is something I would not trade since being overwhelmed by the experiences of life is far better than the opposite. Although my contribution to society may only have the smallest fraction of impact that other notable people have, I have nevertheless made a choice to live my life with a belief that even if my actions or decisions have a positive impact on one person, then I will consider myself happy and lucky. Authentic leadership is not so much about leading the greatest number of people to a greater place — but to a different kind of destination: to better, truer selves. Creating spaces for people to make good decisions, take risks, and thriving in the face of failure.
Walden so elegantly expresses “I wish to live deliberately… to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”. To provoke this aspiration in others is indeed the true measure of good leadership in my opinion and provocation of this scale demands a level of truthfulness. Because when you show who you really are to someone else, it often encourages them to be themselves as well. In authenticity scales, there is no greater gift you can give.’
We asked Kevina to also share what she’d like for her daughter, Isla…
‘ As for what I want for Isla… well so many things that its hard to put into words. I think the main thing I have noticed myself telling her over and over is to be brave. Being brave when things feel tough is a skill that will stand the test of time. I tell her that life has some really great moments and some not so great moments but it is our resilient spirit that will carry us through. The material things we acquire will not last, but our inner creativity will. I encourage her to make decisions by giving her options; I allow her space to think about her own consequences so that she learns from a young age that she has power to change outcomes, in good and bad ways. I want her to truly believe in herself so that no matter what, she will not only survive this life, but thrive in whatever she chooses to do. ‘
Kevina Powers is a well respected Canadian woman who has made significant changes in our world internationally. To find out more about her incredible journey click here now