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This post has been overdue for 4.5 months. Another victim of my procrastination. Anyway, as they say, better late than never.

I was returning home from the U.S. in March this year. While waiting in the immigration line at the local airport, I was witness to the display of leadership in real time. It was early morning (sometime between 5am and 6am) and passengers from multiple flights were waiting in long immigration lines at the airport. Somehow, there weren’t enough officers on duty, and the ones who were at their seats were not quick enough. To make matters worse, some porters and other officials were getting the documents of people they knew, or were bribed by, processed while the rest of the passengers waited endlessly. As is common in this part of the world, people were complaining among each other but not creating any visible ruckus to stop this injustice against themselves. I was also one of these passengers. Without doubt, there were over 100 people in those lines. There was one gentleman who was standing in front of me. Finally, he had had enough. He started talking loudly, demanding that the officers be posted to their assigned slots and that the people breaking the line be not entertained by the officers. That was a big risk that he took. He could’ve been taught a lesson by the officials by not processing his documents and making him suffer for speaking up. But, he took the risk. Not only that, he also asked the people standing in the line why they weren’t speaking up (for their right). Gradually, other passengers joined him in voicing their concerns and, soon enough, an official was posted to the empty slot and the line started moving quickly.

While being a witness of the unfolding event I couldn’t help but think this is leadership. I had just returned after attending a leadership development program where we had various sessions on leadership. But this single incident showed me what true leadership is. To stand for what’s right, to speak up when you are at a risk of losing everything, to have the courage to say something everybody wants to say but doesn’t, to be the first one who stands up for what they believe in, and to use the power of people to achieve something that benefits everyone. This is true leadership. I could not be that leader but that gentleman, without even realizing, became the leader everyone wants to be.

..leaders do the right thing.

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