Leadership: Significance in the insignificant

“I don’t understand how people can walk past trash and not pick it up! I can’t. I just have to pick it up and throw it away if it is in my path. It’s there! Just pick it up!”

That remark came from my training mentor almost a decade ago during a camp I was facilitating in. There I was listening to this man casually speak about what he thinks people should do with trash, but little did he know it was a significant leadership lesson I have held in my heart since then. Hold your horses, this leadership lesson isn’t cliche and just about discipline.

It was a lesson on how leaders needed to learn to take on and pick up skills that we weren’t comfortable with.

I’m a trainer. That’s my leadership role. So put me in front of a group of people and ask me to speak to them, listen to them, coach them. I can. Not a problem. But ask me to handle finances and accounting? Nah… You’re looking at the wrong person for the job. And that’s the reason why I have always hesitated to start my own company. I was desperately lazy to do the administrative work. My sophisticated justifying brain would have told you (as it always told me), that I had more important things that are worth my time. But I was so… wrong. I was afraid.

I was afraid of losing time if I couldn’t find fulfilment in administrative work.

I was afraid of feeling overwhelmed by details and losing control.

I was afraid of feeling irritated.

I didn’t want to feel bad, in any way.

But I started The Inside Space up anyway. I was immediately thrown into a world where task after task was piled up on me. It came in the form of bills, registration forms to fill, bank, social media accounts to set up. There was no turning back, I just had to keep moving with the things I wasn’t familiar with. I was determined to make these tasks my friends at some point. And I did. After 6 months, I had a new relationship with these tasks. I found them familiar and saw that they were crucial in supporting the running of my business. More than that, in these 6 months, I had grown in patience, humility and discipline, from administrative work.

So leaders,

Do the administrative work, draw up the forms, do the filing, run the scheduling. – It can grow you in sharpness, dependability and stability

Go out and market the business, enrol others and do the “sales” – It will grow you in resilience and possibilities

Go be the one to buy takeaway meals for your team. – It can grow you in humility and care

Have that one on one confrontation of a current conflict – It will grow you in courage, empathy and increase your listening

Pick up that trash, return that tray, greet your elders, wash your dishes, appreciate the waiters, thank your helper, hold your tongue at times, the list goes on.

Leaders, take heed. Pick up the tasks that are obviously in your path and do them. Even if it seems insignificant or “out of your scope”. Do it out of humility. The tasks that are seemingly insignificant/unimportant/irrelevant to you are the very tasks that will grow your character in different ways that you will never imagine.

And at the end of every task you take, you grow in honour as a person. For honour is in attention and respect to the smallest things even. And it is time to bring honour back into our culture.


Sheena (Head of Training and Curriculum Development)

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