Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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The Apron of Leadership!

First, if you are in the United States, Happy Memorial Day!
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those who did not return home because they died in military service. They served, and by so doing, they led.
Many desire to lead. And today, many rely on a title and attire to identify themselves as leaders. But what do leaders wear? What is the apron of leadership?

Let’s start by stating the obvious!
When you saw the title of this piece, I bet you were perplexed by the use of the words: apron and leadership in the same phrase. You might have thought: Aren’t aprons the garments worn by people who serve those at the top?? Aké seems to have gone off her rocker! Well, in the next four minutes, you can decide for yourself. 😊

Last week, when we explored the paths of emperors and servants, we had a revelation: Though servants appear to be the least, they are the greatest of all! Because serving is meeting the needs of others. And when one meets the needs of others, they take the lead. Therefore the worthwhile question is: What enables one to serve?
Does the ability to serve others reside in an herbal elixir? Or does one inherit the trait from their ancestors? Or better yet, can one acquire the gift by shutting their eyes and making a wish? Indeed, what enables one to serve can seem elusive! Also, given the abundance of self-serving and selfish actions we hear about in today’s news, it can seem like service is a lost art. Is it? Think not!

Service is not a lost art.

Every human has benefitted from service. From a baby who receives vital nourishment from her mother. To a man whose groceries are meticulously placed into a shopping bag by a bagger. Or one whose table is waited on by a waitress. Indeed, we have all been recipients of service. But sometimes, we struggle to receive from others graciously. Instead, intentionally or unknowingly, we minimize the giver or diminish the value of their deeds. How so? One might ask!

Well, let us step into the worlds of baggers and waitstaff!
Baggers and waitstaff often wear a uniform or an apron for the benefit of the patron or customer. Unfortunately, this leads many to reduce their worth to the apron they wear. And this is evidenced by the dismissive or commanding manner in which many treat baggers and waitstaff. I bet this is not surprising to most of us because much has been said and written about the poor treatment of waitstaff.
However, as we know, we are not what we do. And what we do is a choice we make. Also, people who serve: waitstaff and baggers, choose to serve. They choose to take the lead by meeting the needs of others.

The Leadership Trail.

Indeed, leadership is a choice. It is a way of life enabled by a lowly yet noble mindset. And it is anchored on stewardship and shepherding. Stewardship and shepherding are words we seldom use today, but their meanings are profound.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stewardship as the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. Also, stewardship is not domineering. And it is not looking out for selfish gain. Stewardship is the business of attending to others’ concerns. Essentially, stewards take charge and look after others. 

And what about shepherding?
To shepherd is to make a group of people move to where you want them to go, especially in a kind, helpful, and careful way. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/shepherding Shepherds function as overseers and set an example by going first or taking the lead. Effectivelyshepherding is guiding and showing others a way forward.
Amazingly, the art of leadership comes alive through stewarding and shepherding. i.e., choosing to take charge, look after others, and show others a way forward. 

The Choice to Lead!

I saw leadership in action while engaging with others during my sabbatical as they looked after me and guided me. They were invaluable to me, but they viewed themselves and their actions as ordinary. And whenever I expressed appreciation, they would smile and say: We are so glad you are here. What else would you like? Would you like us to cook anything for you? What a response! As I observed their actions and words laced with love and care, I felt overcome with gratitude!
Indubitably, sharing every experience would require more time and space than an entry allows. Therefore, here, I will focus on a couple of memorable experiences.

Earlier, in a write-up, I shared a unique experience in a village town. https://akesatia.com/birth-of-fresh-perspective-new-expectations/ As stated, during my stay, in the locale, water suddenly stopped flowing through the faucets! And a woman carried many buckets of water on her head across busy roads for my use. Well, there is more to the story!
As the woman fetched seemingly countless buckets of water, she was pregnant! – With more than one or two babies!! And though I objected, she remained undeterred. Instead, she chose to meet my needs and the needs of others. Essentially, she took the lead by choosing to steward and serve. Thankfully, she and her unborn babies remained safe. 

What is the Value of a Meal?

In addition, a charming delight that permeated my travels was food!
Growing up in West Africa and Italy, I distinctly recall that food was a big deal and a focal point on every significant occasion. The amount, quality, and variety of food at a wedding reception, birthday party, or birth celebration symbolized the gravitas of the event. Remarkably, this was still the case! 

Also, regularly eating square meals together where no one leaves hungry is the norm. Yep! Meals are a shared experience. One where people sit down and eat together! A novel concept! 😉 During my travels, I was in environments where mealtime is highly valued. And everywhere I set foot, kind and skilled people spent energy and time preparing delicious food. And I am not referring to microwave meals. Oh no! Each lunch and dinner meal were like a Thanksgiving meal comprising several dishes that required a lot of prep! An impressive feat!
However, I quickly learned that the ultimate value of shared mealtimes is connection. Mealtimes are an opportunity to be together, laugh, share, and enjoy each other. And the food is merely a facilitator. 

Would you wear an Apron?

Surprisingly, in the few days I spent in a small village town, I learned more about leadership than any training course could teach. Importantly, I realized that leading is serving, stewarding, and shepherding. And though these qualities are not glamorous, the impact of one who displays them is undeniable. It is leadership in action!
Yet many rely on their attire to identify themselves as leaders. i.e., a suit or the modern version: trendy jeans and a hip shirt. And some who have traded in their Elie Tahari and Hugo Boss suits for less imposing attire believe that by dressing casually, they can better relate to employees.
However, leading requires more! Leading requires one to wear an apron.

The Apron of Leadership is the mindset of a leader. And the threads in the apron are service, stewardship, and shepherding. 

And we revisit this question: What enables one to serve?
The ability to serve does not emerge from a magic elixir, rare gene, or granted wish. The ability to serve: to lead is available to those who choose to wear the apron of leadership and steward and shepherd others.

For you and to you,



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