My First Giant, His Legacy and the Leadership Lessons He Taught Me
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” — Ps 145:4
Sometimes the seemingly simplest acts have the most profound impact on our lives. I will be honest. I experienced this first-hand when I was but a boy striving to be the best man he could be.
Replaying that fateful incident fills me with pride and great fondness. Thirty years ago, I would not have predicted where that special gesture would lead me in my journey. But now, I am sure it is what led me to the career I have, the businesses I have built, and it led me to you, my audience.
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Sir Isaac Newton.
My first giant was my primary (elementary) school headteacher — Mr Maurice Charlie Hinga. His exceptional teaching skills, doing it the “African way” when necessary, laid the foundation during my formative elementary years. And the slickness of his pen strokes scribbled the words of the first important letter I held in my hands.
Five years after leaving Mr Hinga’s tutelage, I completed high school with good enough grades to get to four or five years of university or two years of advanced level (senior high school) education. After deciding on the financially viable option of not attending university, I need some guidance on my advanced-level options. My parents and others advised me to speak with Mr Hinga. What if he says no? I queried mom. “If you do not ask, you will never know. Prepare for a no, and if you get an affirmative answer, you will.” No surprises there coming from my mama.
I was now grown and bold to face my headteacher. Wrong. Those 200 meters were the longest and most unnerving in my young life. I was reciting my lines as I walked from our house down the road to see Mr Hinga. Everything in my peripheral view was blurred out. My heart was racing as if I had just finished a sprint over that distance. I wish I could even make up a story of what I said when I came face to face with the great man. But what I said does not matter.
Mr Hinga handed me a handwritten note to the principal of one of the most prestigious schools in the country. I could have given Usain Bolt a run for his money down those 200 meters with the letter in my hand. Okay, okay, Usain Bolt? Nah.
Me: Mum, I got the letter!
Mum: I told you, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I found out about the closing lines of Mr Hinga’s letter when the principal read it to me with a piercing look over his glasses with his head tilted slightly upwards.
“Dunstan is a bright and hand working student. I am sure if you admit him to your school, he will make you proud.” Typing out these words feels as if I am hearing them again. And I am filled with emotions because 25 years to this day, Mr Maurice Charlie Hinga received his recommendation letter for admission into heaven. And he made his maker proud.
Mr Hinga was my first giant. He made me stand on his shoulders when I needed to see beyond the financial barrier to my education.
“A legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.” — John C Maxwell.
My former headteacher left a legacy that will outlive generations. Through his compelling vision, coaching and mentorship, he imbibes the passion for education and developing future leaders in his children. Today, the private elementary school run by his surviving children is graduating some of the best students in Sierra Leone. Their school has ranked consistently among the top three best schools in Sierra Leone by public exam results.
That is the legacy for which we should strive. A legacy that will outlive us, making a positive and lasting impact in nations worldwide.
Here are six ways I believe Mr Hinga used in building his legacy, which I think we can all learn:
1) Find your calling. What is the one thing that, if not done right, will unsettle and irritate you? Mr Hinga could not stand poor teaching habits.
2) Find your gift, talents and abilities. Do what comes naturally. My headteacher was a standout educator, a pacesetter.
3) Live your passion. Mr Hinga’s passion was so contagious that his children could not resist it. What is your passion?
4) Inspire others. A teacher’s job is the among, if not the least-paid jobs in the country. But, others became educators by watching Mr Hinga dispense his skills.
5) Work in the service of others. I was not the only beneficiary of Mr Hinga’s selfless service. Mr Hinga found joy in his students’ success. And he had plenty.
6) Be deliberate about leaving a legacy. You don’t leave a legacy by chance — you must purpose it.
If we could all be someone’s giant, lead others selflessly and apply the above six practices, we could make the world better.
Two (2) Book recommendations
Want to build a lasting legacy? These books would be a good place to start.
a) Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies — by Jim Collins and Jerry I Porras
I am reading this book because I want to build a thriving business that will survive well beyond my lifetime. Built To Last is my reference guide packed with specific and practical examples of what sets exceptional companies apart from the rest.
If you want to build a lasting business, I suggest you grab this book.
b) The Speed Of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything — by Stephen M R Covey
I have not read this book nor reviewed any summaries about it. So, let us flip the script here.
But I picked it because I believe trust is central to successful leadership. And this title nails it without turning a leaf.
I would love for you to tell me your key takeaways after reading it in comments to this newsletter, my Facebook page or my Instagram page.
Three (3) Citations
These quotes will help you think about how to build your legacy.
“What is your legacy? Are you intentional about the sort of influence you want to have on the world around you? Being aware of how you want to be remembered gives you a perspective on what is truly important. Leadership is influence, and relationships are the foundation of leadership. Nothing is more predictive of your legacy than the quality of people you surround yourself with.” — John C Maxwell
“The greatest act of leadership is mentoring. No matter how much you may learn, achieve, accumulate, or accomplish, if it all dies with you, then you are a generational failure.” — Myles Munroe
“The secret to greatness is in serving everyone else.” — Myles Munroe