I had to share this. It’s been a while since I came across a public official whose message resonated with me in such a powerful way and on so many levels. The public official in question is Namibian First Lady Monica Geingos; a qualified lawyer with extensive high-level executive experience in the financial sector.
She recently gave young people some advise on how to navigate power structures for allafrica.com. Advise gleaned from observing how people in power wield it and how those without it behave to those who do through her work at the Namibian Stock Exchange and as a Director and board executive of various companies in Namibia. Even though the ten tips were meant for young people with aspirations for political power or public office; I strongly believe that these tips can be applied to a number of life situations where power and the quest for it are involved.
1. Avoid taking sides in politics – Politicians have no permanent friends or enemies they have permanent interests
2. De-risk your political career with an economic vulnerability plan. Don’t leave your life at the discretion of politicians, have a tradable skill outside public service or politics
3. Learn to accept defeat – political positions are temporary
4. Create your own space: politicians are drawn to those who can articulate themselves properly, it doesn’t mean that they will like it. But they will respect it. Create your own spaces, write papers, be strategic, be smart
5. Decide how you want to participate
6. Pick your battles carefully: learning when and what to keep quiet about is a skill. You can learn. Conflict is part of life in public service, don’t take it personally, learn conflict resolution skills
7. The system can be changed but it will first try to eat you
8. Never become like those who fight you
9. Patriarchy never sleeps: politics are a mirror of our society, if our society is patriarchal then so will be our politics.Women are judged harshly and given a narrow margin of error; consensual sexual relationships are more likely to cost women more than men.
10. Watch how your political allies fight others, when they disagree with you they will use these tactics on you
11. Find a mentor to explain the unwritten rules within the power structures; advocate for you, support you when you’re not there, petition on your behalf.
Before Mrs Geingos married Namibian president Hage Gaingob, she gave a TedTalk on power and wounded leadership. It’s possibly the first time I have heard someone in her position speaking about intersectional politics (money, power, trauma or mental health) in such a vulnerable and salient way.
Do yourself a favour and watch it.