Dear Parents, Guardians and Significant Others,
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. “ ~ Matthew 23:12
I love reading, watching or listening to the stories of great leaders throughout history, be they leaders in their community, or leaders on the world stage. I find their stories inspiring and rich with lessons that I can apply to my own life. My Netflix feed is a litany of biopics, documentaries and interviews of some of our most influential leaders.
I have grappled with the question: “What makes these leaders great?” For a long time, the answer eluded me. However, I am coming to recognise a common trait that characterises many of these leaders: It is a deep and genuine sense of humility.
There are always exceptions to the rule of course. There are and always will be, arrogant leaders. I do believe however, that the truly inspiring leader is deeply humble. For leaders like Nelson Mandela, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Steve Biko and Melinda Gates, it is humility that was and still is at the core of their success.
A humble leader does not live by titles or badges, but by the spirit of “Servant Leadership.” Humility empowers leaders to completely give of themselves to their people. Furthermore, humility ensures that the choices leaders make are in the best interests of their people and not for egotistical reasons or selfish gain. In doing so, leaders garner support and trust from their followers and are thus able to guide them to the aspirational vision that they chase.
The late President Nelson Mandela viewed the future prosperity of our country as being of prime importance and secondary to his personal feelings. Ms Ocasio-Cortez, a former waitress, consistently strips herself of her title and continues to be the voice of the marginalised and silenced. Mr Steve Biko refused to be silenced and gave of his life to the cause he believed in. Mrs Melinda Gates, with all her wealth, is still able to relate to the plight of the poor and work towards their economic emancipation. Each of these leaders, in their own unique way, have displayed extraordinary humility.
It is not difficult to take privilege for granted, and in turn allow a sense of entitlement to manifest itself as arrogance. This is something I constantly strive to guard against. I am sure there are many parents and boys who can identify with my struggle. At Hilton, we strive to produce young leaders who will shape our future, so it is crucial that we actively ward off entitlement and arrogance and rather try to embody humility.
I think that the best way to teach humility is to first foster a culture of gratitude. Once we can acknowledge our good fortune of being born into privileged families, we can express our gratitude for our many blessings. Gratitude builds a healthy attitude and instils a strong sense of humility.
For example, if we recognise how lucky we are to receive three meals a day when so many are starving and undernourished, then we would complain less when the vegetable lasagne at lunch isn’t to our liking.
As a leader, it is important to recognise that you did not get to your position alone. Your success and station are the culmination of the efforts of many. Be grateful to those who support you and understand that your success largely relies on their support. Without the support of his or her followers, a leader is but a madman barking orders to the wind. It is in this recognition and appreciation that one dispels of the arrogant notion of the “omnipotent leader.” Rather one is humbled into the state of the “Servant Leader” that we strive for here at Hilton.
To the Grade 11s, as you enter the beginning of the leadership allocation process, I ask that you remember to be humble. The process will be anxiety-ridden, it will be disappointing for some and gratifying for others. Nonetheless, I assure you, that regardless of the outcome, if you approach the experience with gratitude and humility, you will find it deeply rewarding.
Regardless of the “title” you receive, you are all still leaders in the school. The Fleur-de-Lys and the matric badge immediately thrust you into leadership. You now have the opportunity to emulate our great leaders and to approach that opportunity with passion and humility. It is in humility that you will find success.
Hlumelo Notshe, Thabiso Dlamini and the Leadership Team 2020