Scroll to top
© Optimize Consulting Inc. | All Rights Reserved


Optimize Blog - May 28, 2012 - 0 comments

As leaders we are required to step up and be counted. When the music stops everyone is looking at you as the leader to step up and take control, provide direction and bring the best out of the team to deliver.
We know this is tough and at times we work with leaders who are under pressure and that just want to have a day off – to become just one of the team and even to hide. But as the leader you don’t have this luxury and you have to have your game face on day in and day out……you cannot be a part-time leader. It is easier to lead when times are good.
The next time you are finding your role as leader tough, remind yourself of Zarifa Qazizadah from Afghanistan, a fifty year old grandmother with 36 grandchildren. She has become the country’s only female village chief through force of personality and determination to get things done – even if that means cross-dressing, wearing a false moustache and driving around on a motorbike at night.
It is unusual for a woman to be a leader in Afghanistan and Zarif was married at ten and became a mother for the first time at fifteen. During Taliban rule, she moved to the regional capital, Mazar-e-Sharif where she had her first taste of community work, volunteering to help parents get their children vaccinated. Covertly, she helped teach young girls to learn to read.
When the mother of 15 first sought political office, and told local men she wanted to connect the village to the electricity grid, they laughed. That was in 2004. She lost the election, but she got the electricity anyway by travelling to the Afghan capital, Kabul, and going straight to the home of the Minister for Power demanding to speak to him.
He agreed to see her the following day in his office, and by the end of the meeting he had given his consent. The big problem was that the village itself had to pay for the posts and cables but undeterred Zarifa, who had already sold some of her jewellery to pay for the trip to Kabul, borrowed money wherever she could and remortgaged her house to raise the necessary capital. Now everyone in the village has electricity and Zarifa was subsequently elected to village chief – only the second woman ever to hold that position in Afghanistan.
Zarifa is not passive in her leadership. She deals with issues promptly and at the first sign of trouble she will jump on her motorcycle and go sort things out. Women in rural Afghanistan are rarely seen riding motorbikes alone and Zarifa disguises herself, with men’s clothes and a fake moustache, to avoid attracting too much attention.
She has also been known to come to the rescue of her villagers by wrestling Jeeps out of ditches with a tractor. “She does the type of work that even men are not capable of doing,” says one of her local supporters.
Whilst a village chief in Afghanistan might not be the first place you would look for inspiration in terms of leadership, the story brings sharply into focus the possibilities of what great leadership can achieve. Electricity, a new bridge and a new mosque form just a part of Zafira’s leadership legacy for Naw Abad in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province.
What will your leadership legacy be?

Related posts

Post a Comment