As a massive advocate of freedom and equality, I believe any leader must respect these tenets first and foremost. For me a good leader absolutely has to be a good listener who is also compassionate. Self-interest is unattractive and defeats the purpose of leadership which is usually to create something positive for the masses.
I think the best leaders are inspirational. When I think of good leaders, people such as Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King immediately spring to mind. They led by example. They make others feel empowered. You have faith in them because they have passion and they cared. They have often struggled themselves. They have sacrificed themselves. These are people who have achieved so much globally. But of course, there is small-scale leadership too.
I have led many committees, both as a doctor and at university. In each setting I felt that I listened to the team well, yet I struggled with getting the balance right between leaving team members to get on with their delegated tasks, and also making sure things are happened on schedule.
I think leadership begins in the home. Parents have the scope to make a massive difference to family members’ lives. Leading by example is the best way. Goodbye to ‘do as I say but not as I do’! It is far more powerful to watch someone making positive decisions, than it is to hear them talking about it. In fact, I think that we each have a chance to be a leader in everything we do. Right down to the small things like putting our litter into a dustbin, instead of on the floor. It’s the small things that make all the difference and if your behaviour can inspire positive behaviour from another person, that can be transformative.
Spending 6 weeks surviving on a desert island was an incredible and life-changing experience. I was inspired by some of the stories I heard from the girls around our night-time fires. Hearing how one of the girls regularly takes a homeless person for dinner and how some of the others perform random kind acts such as baking cakes for their neighbours. It was incredibly heart-touching and made me think about all the things that I could do to make the world a happier place.
We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from women who have watched The Island. As survival novices we struggled, but 10 of us ploughed on and survived! For me, part of the appeal of doing the show was that people impose so many restrictions on what they think women are and what they think we can and can’t do. I think the Island showed the world that women can be self-sufficient and strong. Women can hunt. We don’t need to conform to ancient gender roles.
We had some teething issues and that’s to be expected but had we been left there at the end. we would have thrived. It will be great if one person watched the show and thought “actually why am I limiting myself in this way – I can do anything!”
I see women taking over territories that were previously thought to be the domain of men. There are more and more female scientists, doctors, lawyers, bankers. That inspires me. I think everyone who is making the world nicer and everyone who is following their passion, is a leader.
Dr. Belinda Fenty appeared on Channel 4’s ‘The Island With Bear Grylls’