What leadership means to me | Jennifer Davis
Here’s the latest in our leadership series. We’re asking a range of entrepreneurs, business owners, experts, women and men from a range of industries: ‘What Does Leadership Mean to You?’ Jennifer Davis, Parliamentary Assistant, replies.
I used to be a boss
If asked this question a few years ago my answer would have been different. Have you watched the video from Bright side which differentiates a leader from a boss? Well, I acted like the boss, but I genuinely believed I acted like a leader.
Now, my whole perception of leadership has changed and it’s thanks to constructive criticisms. At the time I believed I was being attacked. However, when I thought about it deeply, I realised many people criticised the same thing. So they were obviously right. My mindset also started to change once I began taking my relationship with God seriously and digging into the Bible more.
What leadership means to me
What it now means to me is servanthood.
I think that being a good leader means you have to be a good servant. It’s about guiding those you’re leading and making sure they have received the right examples. This isn’t only by words, but by actions. I’m a firm believer that people follow your actions more than your words.
I’m sure when I mentioned servanthood, negative connotations came to mind. But, the type of servanthood I’m talking about is completely different. This is an act of selflessness where you put others before yourself.
In society, everyone tends to focus on themselves and their achievements, forgetting to help others around them. As a leader, your goal may be to get to the top but the only difference is, as you’re rising, you’re raising others with you. A quote that I believe sums this up is from motivational speaker, Simon Sinek who said: “A star wants to see herself rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around her become stars.”
Working in the political sector I’ve noticed that there are very few leaders. Most people are so used to playing “the game”, they forget being involved in politics requires them to take up a leadership position.
Many will say they want to see others succeed, but when asked, will turn back on their word. Others will help but when they’ve seen the individual’s growth, will become distant.
I know this because I was like that at one point. Everyone was a threat to me, so I worked alone to try to achieve certain goals. When asked for help, I would view the other person as a threat, particularly women and decide not to support. If I’m honest I didn’t understand or value the importance of sisterhood.
Being elected into a regional position provided me with the opportunity to rectify my old thought process and support those I was representing. As the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Officer for London Young Labour (LYL) I was able to organise events through the LYL BAME Network that I set up. This encouraged other young BAME members to take part within the Labour Party as well as external organisations.
Although I didn’t feel I’d done enough, I was praised. The result of my commitment showed when many BAME members stood for election at the LYL Annual General Meeting (AGM) and nine becoming elected. I couldn’t take all the praise as it was a collective effort, from the working group within the network and the LYL committee.
Role Model by default
When you’re a leader you become a role model by default. So what you do and say is open to scrutiny. Hence why it’s important to portray the right message. But, remember being a leader doesn’t mean you’re perfect, it’s ok to mess up, just have the courage to take accountability without making excuses.
Three women I look up to in politics are Dawn Butler MP for Brent Central; Florence Eshalomi, Lambeth & Southwark Assembly Member and Tonia Ashikodi, Councillor for Glyndon ward in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. They’re at different stages in their political career but they have one thing in common: they’ve helped me along my journey, without wanting anything in return.
With the support I’ve had from them, I’ve been able to help others. It’s important to have the right support system as this builds better relationships in a generation where there is so much isolation.
Learning whilst leading
Don’t get me wrong I’m not a perfect leader I don’t think anybody is but I’m learning whilst leading and I’m loving it. I’m learning new methods to help others, from other leaders and those that I’m leading. As I mentioned before being a leader doesn’t mean you’re perfect, always remember that.
Jenna Davis is a Parliamentary Assistant at the House of Commons.