February 14th, 2010… I cried.
I cried like a baby. I had had a lot bottled up inside of me for a long, long time. Stuffs that were painful but that I didn’t want to share with anyone. Stuffs that reached a bursting point that afternoon… I went to my room, locked the door, lay on my bed and just cried.
You see, and I say this with all sense of modesty, I have a lot of people- young and old- who look up to me. I have also come to understand that as leaders it is a responsibility that we take up, to try to help with lifting the burdens of people. Sometimes, you might have personal burdens that you want help in lifting, then someone comes along and pleads that you help lift theirs. What do you do? Point to yours and tell them you have your own cross to carry? No way. You help them. That’s what leaders do. But that doesn’t mean leaders do not have their own challenges too. As a matter of fact they do have huge challenges. That was the kind of scenario I found myself in during that period. While I gave advice and helped soothe fears, while I held hands to pray and tried to wipe tears, while I offered my already burdened shoulders to yet another person and smiled brightly outside… inside I was hurting. Deeply. Yet I had to smile and look strong- had to be strong. So it’s true…?
Even leaders cry.
Even as I remember that incidence, a deep sense of melancholy overwhelms me.
My name is AKPOVETA, Valentine ‘t. Both my parents are from Delta state and I’m from Nigeria. I am neither Clark Kent nor Kal-el and I’m not from planet Krypton. So in essence, what I’m trying to say is “I’m not Superman. I’m human. And I have realized it’s okay to cry.”
I think I understand that some leaders often don’t understand that. In point of fact, even I didn’t understand it then. I felt so overwhelmed, like I was in a crowd and screaming but no one heard me. You might have felt like that at some point or the other. Leaders do too. But they often don’t want to accept that they have a human side. They think it’s a weakness to cry, that’s it’s a weakness to have weaknesses. They’ve convinced themselves that they have to be Super-Human, have to be Superman. They strongly believe that it would take away from the force of their persona to ask for help. I call that the Superman Complex.
It is this same complex that makes it difficult for these leaders to admit mistakes or apologise for wrongs. It is this complex that makes them refuse to seek someone who they can be accountable to, someone who can tell them, “Hey, you want to know the truth? You want to know what I think? You messed up big time this time.” It is this complex that makes them go all up in arms and defensive when they are corrected. Did I say- and listen to this very closely- it is this complex that leads to the fall of a lot of leaders the world over? Ok, now I’ve said it.
My pastor says, “A man of God is, first, a man before the of God”. I totally agree.
Listen, it’s okay to cry. It’s alright to seek a shoulder. It’s perfectly normal to feel swamped. It doesn’t make you any less human to admit faults. If anyone leaves you because you owned up to mistakes or thinks less of you because you apologised, then they probably were never meant to be there anyway. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
As long as you don’t remain a blubbering cry-baby, as long as you don’t stay down after your break-down, as long as you ask for divine strength and grace to continue the race… it’s okay.
Now I try to avoid making the same mistakes i did back then. I have people who I hold myself accountable to. People who aren’t yes-men. People who won’t keep on singing my praise until i fall into a big ditch and then continue singing- but this time maybe singing my burial song. I have people who I can talk to, who know my weaknesses and yet don’t laugh at me. Who’ll hold me to higher standards than I normally would. It makes leading a lot easier for me. People with whom I can hold hands and cry… To GOD.
It’s human to fall. It’s human to fail. It’s human to cry. You’re human. Let go. Let God.
I close with what one great man, Akindamola Akinnola Daniel, said, “Where you are, the tears you’ve shed, what you have, the loss you’ve suffered, what you’ve seen, everywhere you’ve been, all sum up to ALL that God needs for his divine project in you.”
And yet another great man, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
In that place of truly beautiful, empathic leaders who are humans… I hope to see you.
AKPOVETA, Valentine ‘t