What Does It Take To Become A True Leader?

I joke a lot with my friends that being an African child is a full time job in its self. But behind that joke is our reality, website like this one with few rewards and obsolete chances of promotion, for in their eyes I will always be a child.

I am a female, I am a Christian, and I am an African.

I am a student, but I am also depressed, I have eating disorders, I have a learning disability all of which I had no hand in selecting , I didn’t ask for any of this, I cannot pick and choose how these things affect my life. The catch 22 here is the knowledge that I am so much more than the things that afflict me it’s just, I can’t pick and choose where and when they are going to affect how I see and move through the world.


I remember sitting in a lecture introducing the concept of intersectionality to my class, and the pin finally dropped. The concept that you are made up of more than one thing but they are all interdependent in creating your identity, I finally realised why thoughts of my familial environment drenched me with dread… why every discussion about the lack of control over how I felt left me drained and consumed with feelings of betrayal.

They are supposed to protect me… They are supposed to know me better than I know myself… so why can’t they see that this is real? Why can’t they see I’m trying?

The first time I ever opened up to my dad about how I saw myself, funnily enough, I was punished. I was told I had too much that’s why I was not grateful, I had too much choice of food that’s why I was over weight (completely oblivious to what anorexia and binge eating disorder looks like), I had too many friends that I allow to “fill my head” with lies that’s why I hate my body and myself (when really these lies came from the mouths of my abusers who I had to see nearly every single day). I was told that the days I didn’t shower or the days I panicked at the thought of leaving my bed were because I was lazy rather than being crippled with anxiety. Because of all of that, my friends were banned from my house and I was banned from using weave and extensions… I had been sanctioned into a fast track course of gratitude and ‘self-love’ by my parents.

I had also been told I feel too much because I am a woman,  still have duties to perform in my house and if I am unable to do them then I am nothing but an “irresponsible child” and a possibly unfit mother and wife… an unfit contributor to a work force and a liability to my own growth…

What hurts is the fact that every single time I speak to my family about how my mind works as someone with anxiety and chronic depression I am told I am not prioritising, I’m told that I’m not trying, I’m told that I’m allowing my past to hold me back and not fighting for my future. When really I’m focusing my attention day in day out on silencing the voices in my head telling me that if I end it my life today, there will be no pain tomorrow.


I’ve made excuses for many years, saying that maybe my parents are in denial about the thought that their daughter wants to end her life when they’ve done all they can to make sure I have the best of the best. I told myself, frequently in fact, that I can’t expect them to understand. I can’t expect them to unlearn the talks of superstition and ‘juju’ that many Africans hold in their heads in regards to any misfortune let alone mental illness.

But at some point you have to remember that your parents are grown adults; we didn’t sign up for being born, but they did choose to have us.  In my case my parents have had 6 trial runs at this parenting thing before I came to this earth, so I’ve grown tired of making excuses for them when they refuse to appreciate my lived experience as a black female suffering with several mental illnesses.

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As young people of minority ethnic groups born and/or bread in the west, we have no choice but to educate your parents in appreciating our daily lived experience. Because, although the countless sit down talks and tears that I have shed trying to get them to hear me have been extremely exhausting, they have changed the environment I reside in. The work isn’t done but I am steps closer to feeling at home in my own home, feeling safe and feeling supported- they may not hear the first or second time but at some point they will. As we grow and time progresses the support we need from our parents does to, we are not ungrateful or disrespectful for asking our parents to care about EVERY Aspect of us, not just the parts they can boast about to their friends.

How do they expect our grades and careers and finances to flourish if we can barely make it through the day without panic attacks or a burning frustration that we have lived to see another day? They want ‘the best for us’ but sometimes it seems like they don’t want us to be happy.

Living with mental illness’ of varying degrees to me has felt like I have been dying day in day out without the privilege of ceasing the ability to feel.

We owe it to ourselves to live, we owe it to ourselves to feel like our voices and experiences are valued and there is no use in advocating for those rights in society when we don’t even feel valued in our own homes.


Nunya gemegah

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Leadership – what does it mean to you? What are the characteristics you believe makes a great leader?

The truth is, viagra we’re all leaders in someway. Whether you’re the leader fashion trends in your class, link or you’re the CEO of a multi national company, doctor or even simply being your own leader because let’s face it, it’s difficult enough to sometimes get ourselves to act right, so self maintenance might be the only responsibility we’re able to handle. For me, when I hear the world leader, I directly associate it with a person’s level of responsibility.

Leadership is a power and privilege that demands an equal amount of responsibility. It can be argued that the more responsibilities you have, the greater leader you are (that is of course subject to how great you are at managing those responsibilities). The more you prove yourself as a leader, the greater your capacity should become in order to endure the level of criticism, pain, problems and circumstances that comes with being the best.

There has always been a huge misconception when it comes to leadership and successful people, but especially, I believe, within my generation.


Growing up in a low socioeconomic environment, for a long time I believed that I was far too ordinary to be great, but then I began studying the habits and stories of the great leaders throughout history, in hopes to emulate the secrets of their success. There was a recurring pattern that really shocked me, but in turn, really motivated me. The beautiful reality is that some of the greatest leaders in world have come from the most ordinary of places, and that really gave me strength. These are people, just like me who have dealt with rejection, who have dealt with hardship, who have been bullied, and who have been let down and side-lined, however, they converted their pain into power and overcame all of those things. Now I have a completely different perspective on leadership, and great leaders. I know understand that if you want to be a great leader, you have to be prepared to set yourself up for a whole lot of trouble – and that is the clause that a lot of people are not willing to be endure.


In the corporate world for example, you get paid more money every time you get a promotion because you’re being compensated for dealing with more problems. If you do humanitarian work in a high security risk area, you get paid what’s called “danger money” – they pay you more because your life is potentially at risk. They’re not just paying you for your intellectual capabilities alone; they’re paying you for your ability to manage conflict and pressure.

So many of us don’t reach our full potential because we don’t really understand that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. If amounting to huge levels of success were an easy feet, everyone would be hugely successful, except now, there are more people living on mediocrity than there are fish in the sea. There is always another dimension of leadership waiting for you only if you’re willing to go through the motions of adversity and pain that comes with it. You will never be eligible for any promotion in life if you stay complaining about the level that you’re on right now. As long as you don’t quit and as long as you can maintain faith during a time of opposition, as long as you can learn the art of neutralising controversy, and take a beat down from time to time, your blessings and leverage as a leader will always grow.


My departing thought to you is this – you don’t always have to look at the front, or on the world stage to find a great leader. Sometimes, the greatest leaders are the people that are closest to you. It is your friend that is fighting against all odds to assert their freedom in history. It is your Mum, who works throughout for the whole day, and yet still has the time to make a family meal in the evening. Most importantly, it is the person in your mirror. The greatest leader you’ll ever meet is the one you unleash from within. Believe in you, and watch the doors of opportunity and adventure swing open. I encourage you to birth your inner leader today.

Written by Yara Shaikh


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