Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

Leadership Oxygen

October 6, 2017


Inspiring examples of leadership are vital oxygen for individuals, organizations and communities. Seretse Khama’s life is a compelling story.

In 1925, at age 4, Seretse was named successor to his father as chief of the Ngwato people who lived in Bechuanaland, a protectorate of Great Britain. By design, his childhood education was in South Africa which prepared him to later attend law school at Oxford University in England. As he was about to return to his homeland in 1948, to assume leadership of his tribe, Khama caused significant controversy. He married Ruth Williams, a British citizen.

Because South Africans and the British were deeply opposed to inter-racial marriage, Khama and his wife were continually harassed by powerful governments. They lived in turmoil and exile for nearly 8 years. In 1956, so he could return to his birth country, Khama made an anguished choice to relinquish his role as chief. Then, as a private citizen, he negotiated a parting with England that launched the new nation of Botswana. In turn, the citizens of that independent nation honored their native son and elected him their first president. He served successive terms until an early death at 59.

Khama’s extraordinary personal sacrifice and clear vision ensured human rights and a multi-racial democracy.  He also delivered significant economic gains for citizens of Botswana through natural resource stewardship and universal free education. Today, his eldest son, Ian, serves the people of this African nation as president.

Check out the movie of this amazing man’s life and love: A United Kingdom. Based on the book, The Colour Bar, it has met with wide praise. Khama’s example reminds us that effective leaders are often required to endure hardship to achieve justice for others. His commitment and endurance are worth  imitating.

-Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed.D., leads Wyatt Advisors, a resource for effective people and organizations. See: Lisa is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. She has cross-sector and international experience.







Behave Magnificently

November 5, 2013


Howard Zinn was an impressive person. He was an academic historian, author and social activist. He is well known for his best-selling  book: A People’s History of the United States. The People’s History is distinct because it offers a brilliant alternate perspective – from those oppressed.

Although his parents were Jewish immigrants and factory workers with limited education, Zinn earned a doctorate from Columbia. He authored more than 20 important books and was a professor at Boston University for decades. I recently discovered a tiny slice of Zinn’s life that’s instructive.

As a tenured professor At Spelman College, Zinn was fired in 1963 for siding with students in the struggle against segregation. More than 40 years later, that same College awarded him an honorary doctorate. Zinn gave Spelman’s commencement speech in 2005, titled “Against Discouragement.” In that speech, he shared: “The lesson of history is that you must not despair, that if you are right, and you persist, things will change. The government may try to deceive the people, and the newspapers and television may do the same, but the truth has a way of coming out. The truth has a power greater than a hundred lies.”

A reflective historian, Zinn provided a panoramic view of people and their actions. He also wrote: “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, and kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act.”

Undeterred by prevailing culture,  Zinn died in 2010. He was a leader who has made enduring contributions. He cultivated authenticity, resilience and meaningful work. Zinn once noted, “Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, slavery – have resulted not from disobedience but from obedience.” His example encourages us to intentionally challenge the status quo. Leadership has very little to do with maintaining it.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See:

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