A couple of months ago I spent a week in Khajuraho, a town in Madhya Pradesh in the middle of India, facilitating an extraordinary leadership immersion programme created by The Hunger Project. Instead of attending executive education courses at Harvard or INSEAD, we took twenty leaders from a large financial services company to India to learn about leadership from women elected to serve on local village councils.
What could a group of sophisticated executives from the West possibly learn from a group of uneducated, Indian women?
A lot, as it turns out! From the very first day I was humbled how these elected women are ending hunger in their villages. They are some of the poorest and most marginalised people in the world, receiving little to no support (and sometimes opposition) from both their men and the government. Yet with training from The Hunger Project they are successfully tackling issues like child marriage, domestic violence, education for girls and the lack of basic services and infrastructure with passion and intelligence.
For me personally, I found out what the world needs most from me as a man.
I used to think it was all about my achievements, good ideas and opinions about the way things ought to be.
Instead, as a Western man I realise I need to alter my thinking and priorities. These amazing women taught me seven lessons in total:
1. Don’t waste time being offended by people who push my buttons
2. Acknowledge the system of white male privilege that makes my life so easy
3. Don’t do it alone
4. Courage is overrated
5. Here's how we can speak up for women
6. Lead by example
7. It’s not about me
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing with you more about these things I have learned and about the women I learnt them from. I hope you find them useful. Please let me know what you think of these lessons for men.
The Hunger Project is a global NGO committed to the end of hunger and poverty by pioneering sustainable, grassroots, women-centered strategies and advocating for their widespread adoption in countries throughout the world. In India they coordinate the training and development of the most marginalized elected women leaders for the entire five years of their tenure in office, enabling them to be effective in ending hunger and poverty in their villages.