A Surprising Lesson in Leadership

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

In May 2018, I traveled as a faculty mentor with the Morehouse College Oprah Winfrey scholars to Zimbabwe.

While in Zimbabwe, one of my lifelong dreams came true…I went on an African safari. As a child growing up in the state of Alabama, the continent of Africa amazed me. A place of beautiful people, beautiful land and beautiful animals; known to me only through books and TV shows, and over 8,000 miles away. However, that did not stop the dream. And the dream was to see in person the majestic animals that roamed freely on the magnificent continent of Africa.

Our stay in Zimbabwe included a visit to the Hwange National Park, the largest natural reserve in Zimbabwe. And I did see the impressive animals…lions, zebras, elephants, rhinos, wild hogs and water buffalos. However, to my amazement, seeing the giraffes was the most awe inspiring of them all.

The walk of the giraffe was like a fashion model on the runways of Milan, Italy…slow, graceful, elegant and mesmerizing. I must admit, a tinge of envy creeped into my emotions. Draped in colors of golden brown and tan, each movement timed synchronously, seemingly to demonstrate confidence and courage. Could they be thinking, “I know you are watching, and I don’t care. I’m beautiful. I know it and you do too.” Yet there was an undeniable aura of humbleness that exuded from the giraffes. “I don’t have to be the loudest, the strongest, or the fastest to be great. I just have to be me…God’s creation of grace.”

That encounter with the giraffes of Zimbabwe quickly brought to my memory one of my favorite bible verses. “A gracious woman retains honor,” Proverbs 11:16. This bible verse is a cornerstone of mine in teaching and being leadership. When leadership is displayed through the traits of graciousness, relationships are built, win-win solutions are created, and people are made whole. These traits of graciousness include being kind, courteous, pleasant, polite, civil, well-mannered, tactful, benevolent, diplomatic, considerate, thoughtful, and friendly. The world may view these traits as weakness in a woman. Scripture presents the opposite view.

In a five-minute encounter with the giraffes of Zimbabwe, I took away a lesson in leadership, confirmed by scripture. Grace is power.

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