After returning from my first trip to South Africa, I shared some pictures from my scrapbook with my late grandmother. As she flipped the pages, my grandmother’s eyes grew larger and with the deepest southern drawl she could muster, she said, “Are those Africans? They look like us!” “Yes, Grandma,” I answered, “They do look like us. They are us.” When my grandmother was born in 1917, it was possible to live one’s entire life without encountering a person from a different state, country, or continent, but this is not that day. Thanks to societal advancement, most recently the introduction of the internet, the lines dividing the world’s inhabitants are almost translucent. Communication is continuous and information is increasingly more accessible. We live in a global community that demands global leadership.
Global leadership recognizes the interconnectedness of all people, policies, and systems. I am reminded of a good friend who seemed alarmed for several years that honeybees in the United States were disappearing. My other friends and I laughed at her and dismissed her panic. Yet, 9 years later research has surfaced about the impacts of the declining bee population on the reduced pollination of fruit and vegetable crops. I stopped laughing altogether when I found watermelon in the supermarket priced at 8.99/pound.There is a collective responsibility in all disciplines to develop leaders who are aware of the world’s complex economic, political, religious, social, and cultural issues and how those issues impact the world’s citizens on a daily basis. Initiatives like the Akon Lighting Africa project demonstrate a practical solution to a complex problem.
Implementation of a responsible global leadership model builds leaders who listen carefully, think critically, strategize creatively, communicate clearly, serve compassionately, and live courageously- even amidst ambiguity and often in sensitive or unstable conditions. This model is adaptable to a variety of sectors- from public policy to health care, education to religion, athletics to arts. A religious leader who listens carefully to caregivers in Cestos City, Monrovia can communicate clearly with public health professionals in Germany who will strategize creatively with health policy makers in Mexico City. Each of our decisions has a trickle down effect that impacts lives along the continuum. As we think about equipping the next generation of leaders in our respective areas of influence, what steps can we take to ensure that we are implementing a responsible global leadership model?