After careful internalization of article by Warren Bennis, ‘Crucibles of Leadership,’ my mind clicked to an event that made me a better leader, changed my whole view on success and made me a better person. Occurrences in life define our futures and change our lives completely. All through in the stages of development from childhood, I always knew that I possessed the right leadership qualities and these made me a role model to my peers. Nevertheless, leading does not have to be triggered by a happening in your life, but rather, it has to be a drive from the inside that inspires you and gives you a reason to live each day.
What was the ‘crucible’ experience or event and how did it change or transform you?
My crucible occurred when I was twelve years old. I was in grade seven. I had a passion for education my parents and siblings were supportive and always very encouraging. This had an impact in my grades as I was a lead performer in my class and I got most presents on the price giving days. This motivated me to do better so as to accomplish the goals I had put in life. My passion was always to be an accountant or manager of a big company.
I remember it vividly. It was on a Tuesday. It was probably the first week of July. My parents were traveling to see our family friends in a neighboring state. This was to be a full weekend trip and I being the first born was tasked with the duty of taking concern of my siblings. This was not the first time they were going to be missing for a weekend and, therefore, I was not very much freaked out. I knew what my siblings loved eating. Before they left, my parents always ensured that they left all systems running and it was no exemption this time round. As it was norm, communication was paramount and my parents would always call me any in the morning and evenings to check on the status of the day and wish me and my siblings a safe night. This helped me feel close to them regardless of the distance between us.
This particular weekend, my parents left at their usual time, six in the morning, on Friday so that they would get to our family friends on tome. They were to attend a house opening occasion. After exchanging goodbyes, they were all set to travel and I was left to be in charge of my brother and sister. I did not know that this was the last time we were to exchange goodbyes. No sooner had they left the compound than I had waves of shock run through my body. All of a sudden, an emotion overwhelmed me and I discerned that something was amiss. Being a prayerful person, I went back to the house, locked myself in my room and said a prayer. Some instinct was telling me that all is not fine and so I called my parents mobile phone. I called my mum first and to my amazement, she did not answer her mobile phone. Panicking, I called my dad and still there was no answer. I was so confused, and for a moment, I sat on my bed, totally lost into space. I was conveyed back to my right mind by a phone call from my friend, ‘A’ who was inviting me over to their place to finish a school assignment. Being in my lowest moods, I declined the offer. I paced out of my bedroom straight to the sitting room where I found my siblings watching cartoon and I joined in. An anonymous caller is what caught my attention. On the phone, he sounded terrified and he instructed me to find my way to ‘C’ hospital. I and my siblings, terrified as we were, hurriedly changed and in a matter of minutes, we were running to the hospital. I called up a few friends and neighbors and informed them of the abrupt events and they accompanied us to the hospital. Upon arrival, the worst happened. We were informed that my parents had been involved in a fatal accident and they were in critical shape. Only family was allowed to go see them and my mum requested to see me, alone.
Shaky and scared stiff, I dragged in my feet into the ward that my mum laid. I had by no means witnessed her in such a situation and this moved me into tears. Will she be fine? Where is my dad? What does she want to tell me? These and many questions jammed in my brain and no definite answer would seem to make sense. I held her hand, looked deep in her eyes, tears dripping down my face; I could not help bursting out crying. “Take care of your siblings, ‘J,'’ she said while forcing a smile. “Be their guardian and God will watch you through all of it.’ Those were the very last words my mum had uttered before she died. As I felt ha body turn cold, and gaze fade off, I felt renewed strength and I recognized I had to be tough for my siblings. The demise of a road accident cost me and my siblings our parents and we had to survive without them for the rest of our lives without the love that every child yearns for. My dad had died on the spot as the impact was a huge one. This was even more heartbreaking as a later visit to the scene displayed agony and pain. I had to take full responsibility of my siblings being the first born, and though we moved in with our aunt, my siblings look up on me as their model. Every decision that I make now has to be all rounded and their opinion is important. Being the first born in an orphaned family does not come without its challenges. This has taught me be a responsible person. Responsibility is a positive trait in good leadership.
The effect of this experience on the values and/or beliefs
This crucible experience has taught me a lot more than any other crucible in my life. It still is an indelible event in my mind. By being responsible, and in my case being in charge of two innocent kids who are growing up and learning the values in life, is such a life changer to me. This experience has taught on the values of love and respect, which are essential in any parentage role. I used to believe that life without parents is hectic and unbearable, but luckily, I was able to get through it over time. I have gained experience of appreciating the value of friendship and family through this experience. It is my immediate family, who include my aunts and relatives, who welcomed me and my siblings to their homes with open arms after the tragedy. My friends were also my source of power. This time of hardship was when I learnt the true colors of my friends. I got to understand the genuine ones as well as ditch the plastic friends.
What assumptions about leadership were made/or challenged?
It was nowhere close to my mind how my crucible would mentor others in that despite my age, I was able to stand strong. Through my experience, assumption I made about leadership was that leadership is a choice that one makes and for effective leadership, one has to lead with example and never turn back. Had I not been strong for my siblings and led them efficiently, they would still be sulking and sad about the demise of our parents. On the contrary, I took up the position and led them to believe that everything will be ok and finally, we achieved it.
What impact did this experience have on your view and approach to leadership?
This experience had an overhaul change to the approach I have on leadership. I thought to be a leader needs preparation and coaching. This was proven wrong. Leadership involves assuming responsibilities and taking care of your subordinates or juniors no matter the situation. In equal measure, leadership should be an inward push and should not be imposed or forced.
What skills and/ or strengths did you discover you had/or did you develop as a result of the crucible/event/experience?
The strengths that I found I had because of my knowledge were infinite. The actuality that, at such a tender age, I was able to take up instructions and follow them up was a trait I had not discovered in myself. The power of comforting my siblings while I too was affected is a trait I had not found, being strong for someone else is such an attractive trait especially when you too are affected. As a result of my crucible, I developed the strength of resilience. Having undergone a lot of bad and sorrowful moments at such a tender age, it helped me in becoming resilient to shock and emotional matters. This was a good skill as it has helped me in dealing with hard situations. Every time I encounter hard conditions that may end up taking over control of my emotions, I always tend to stay in control and get a grip of myself.
Summarize by discussing what leadership means to you and your definition of leadership.
Leadership to me is a trait traceable in someone whom others look up to, follow and respect. It is the act of making others view things the same way you view them and by so doing, they develop an attachment which makes them want to be like you, thus follow you. Leadership is a drive from the inside of persons who think they possess what it takes to propel issues to a different level. They have a passion for doing what is right or what they feel is right without fear of blame. Leadership may not be notable from the outside by the judge of character or behavior, but with a little experience and coaching, the trait becomes out rightly notable as a natural gift.
Bennis, Warren G. and Robert J. Thomas. Crucibles of Leadership. 2002. <http://hbr.org/2002/09/crucibles-of-leadership/ar/1>.