The last thing that Mauritius and Mauritians need is outside advice on leadership. Too many leadership models are fads and failures that are perceived as having added-value just because they come from abroad. What is the alternative model that springs from within Mauritius? What leadership model is faithful to the strengths of our people and could contribute to the rekindling of a struggling economy? I shall try and provides answers in a series of essays starting here.
Like all nationals, the Mauritian is largely unaware of how they stand-out from other nationals. Anyone coming into the island recognises at once something unusual about the people. The islanders have great strengths that can and should be at the heart of a home-produced model of Mauritian leadership. One of these strengths is what I call the heart of the Mauritian; this is the natural inclination that courses through the blood and culture of the island and manifests as high-quality, noble humanity. Mauritians are hospitable and quickly accommodate visitors, attending to their desires and needs, being genuinely interested, asking questions and taking care. Surprisingly, some of these core strengths are also key qualities of the best leaders on the planet!
Be honest, how many of us go to work, but leave our hearts at home? Mistakenly, many people think that to be a leader, you have to invent another persona. The typical work-persona is one of efficiency, cool, aloofness and logical thought that does not take into account the best interests of the people who work with and for us. By some definitions, this type of work-persona is good managing. But in my estimation, this type of alter ego is very poor leadership. So, why is work play-acting a mark of poor leaders?
Leadership is largely about the difference between pushing open a heavy door and an alternative – finding the door fully open. In the first scenario, the manager is pushing, controlling and mechanical. In the second scenario, the leader has evolved. People follow and support that leader because they like, admire and want to be like him or her. At the core of this second scenario is the humanity, or heart, that many managers leave at home. I cannot think of another national trait more ‘potentially’ aligned to successful leadership than the heart of a Mauritian.
How can you test such a hypothesis?
Try one of these tests and see what happens when you next come back into work:
Ask questions. Even when you are asked a question, reply using another question. Even if a colleague asks you a question, try and deflect it by asking another question that helps them to find an answer. For example, answer their question by saying: “Interesting question, what would be the first thing you would action if I was not here, and you had to act now?” Questioning releases the potential in everyone around you to be more independent, more creative and more proactive. The release of individual ‘will’ and responsibility improve both their performance and their confidence to achieve more. This is leadership in action.
When you take your heart to work, you are naturally interested in people. Try and find out something you do not know about every person you have 1-2-1 time with during a full day at work: What motivates them? What do they most like achieving in their private life? What are their hobbies? Franklin D. Roosevelt was revered as a leader, amazing people by remembering their names months after meeting them; he would also recall the names of junior staff. His genuine interest in people inspired many to follow him.
The work-persona in all of us becomes fearful of being too human. It believes that demonstrations of humanity make us weaker or less professional. But the reality is: leaders who are confident to exhibit their humanity at work are the most revered. It is they who inspire people like me to follow and support them.
We should all be more confident about the quality of the Mauritian heart and confident that the management skills we learned will not fail us; we will not forget to pay attention to the bottom-line or financial targets; our instincts to perform and do the right  thing will prevail. We can all be sure of that. The human/leader and the manager can co-exist beautifully at work. Indeed, the Mauritian is better placed to achieve as a leader than almost anyone else.