A while ago, I was talking to a BBC producer about politics and leadership. We commiserated about the lack of truly strong yet empathetic leaders in the world arena today. He, the producer, then asked me a very surprising question: if I could choose a handful of children to rule the world, who would it be?
He was very surprised that none of my children was on my list. “You must pick one of yours,” he cajoled.
“Katerina, my older daughter,” I said, without hesitation.
Kat works as an interior designer and lives a quiet life in Fulham, London. She has always been quiet, in the background, and a wonderful older sister to her younger siblings. Yes, she would be my choice for a leader, amongst my children. I would choose her over my feisty ones without a doubt.
The reason is because right now, this angry and divided world needs leaders who are consensus-builders, nurturers and healers. For generations, we have had alpha males and alpha females pushing their own agenda and in thrall with their roles as rulers rather than genuine caring. We also have weak leaders from privileged backgrounds who have no concept of ordinary people and ordinary lives but who got to their leadership position because of the silver spoons in their mouths.
I believe good leadership starts from the home, long before the wannabes cut their teeth in debating forums and political arenas as young adults. It’s about what they believe in, namely their value system….and how they were raised plays a huge role in who they will become.
As parents we dream that our children will be somebody at the top of the tree: CEO, ruler, the big boss. But do we actually raise these children in the spirit of service, namely to genuinely care for others they lead? I often see and read about the grand things that children get up to, but what makes me optimistic about our future are photographs of children holding hands with grandparents, picking up injured lizards, raising butterflies, having fun in nature. Because wearing pretty dresses, eating in expensive restaurants, doing “great” things and achieving stellar grades do not maketh a leader who cares about small issues and small people in the world…. anyone wanting a leadership role should give serious consideration to that (ditto parents who dream big). Leadership is not just about big statements and a glamorous lifestyle whilst living in an ivory tower detached from the real world and real people.
And perhaps as a community, we should shift our mindset and celebrate this more: the little things that show up everyday, that make up life. Raise children to care about electrocuted lizards, looking after caterpillars to free the butterflies within, sharing fruits from the orchard and a thousand caring little things.
Below are photographs, reproduced with permission, illustrating the children who give me hope for a better future. I will always keep you in my prayers and I will follow your progress wherever I am in the world ❤
(Thanks to Michelle Mak, Foong Poh Wai and Michelle Soo for allowing me to share these heart-warming photos).