Leadership By Example

Angelina Jolie. Just the mention of that name is probably enough to turn off those that are totally anti-Hollywood. I hope if you are one of those people you’ll bear with me long enough to find out why this past week, she turned from just another Hollywood star to an activist, a leader( for me at least.)

You may have read in the news that she went for a cancer screening test and on discovering that she had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer, she decided to have a double mastectomy. Both breasts removed. Not only that, she chose to let the whole world know about it. This is what I found absolutely amazing. You see, so many of us fight battles with unmentionable enemies day in and day out. Some of us win those battles, needless to say, some lose. But we’ve been socialized to think that our private battles are just that, private. That it’s not only a sign of weakness to publicize your private battles but its also a shameless plea for pity. And we know that self pity is considered a strong sign of weakness.

Back to Mrs Pitt, Angelina Jolie, I can tell you now that there are thousands of women who were wallowing in the self-pity that comes with having your breasts removed. Not out of choice but because they were faced with death. These women have now found out that even the most privileged in our society have issues over which they have no power. Those women, at least some of them, will now  go to bed knowing that they are not alone. Bravery in battle isn’t just dependant on how skilled you are at fighting, but also on knowing that there are other soldiers around you who know and understand your battle. Not because they’ve read about it, but because they are going through it in exactly the same way that you are.

We are often told that the best kind of leadership there is is by example. Leadership by example in our world is sorely lacking. More often than not, political figures are in the news because they’ve failed this simple adage, leading by example. Sounds easy enough, Tokyo Sexwale nearly pulled it off when he spent the night in a shack in Diepsloot, sadly, we’ve haven’t heard anything emanating from that stunt. I say stunt because it was planned, like a stunt in the movies. See, leading by example cannot be planned, it must come naturally. Angelina Jolie could never have planned to have an 87% chance of getting cancer, so it was such a bold move on her part to decide to fight her personal battle in public, and in the process, inspire so many women. And Men. She is leading by example.

So many men are fighting private battles against prostate cancer, AIDS and other incurable diseases. I cannot imagine the loneliness of such a battle in a world such as ours where being a man means suffering in silence. Admitting to an incurable disease is considered a sign of weakness. Embarrassing even. Hence the unnecessary stigma that’s still killing so many people in our country. We could have so many Angelina Jolie’s in our midst if only we understood what drove Mrs Pitt to share her private battle with the world. Leading by example.

Ive made a pact with myself. Because of her selfless act that has inspired so many people around the world, I will move heaven and earth to watch her next movie. Not because she needs my money, but as a way of saying thanking you for her leadership. No longer will I consider her an anomaly for adopting so many children, I will always consider her a hero, a leader above many. She’s such an inspiration.


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