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So now you speak Swahili, now what?

Recently I found out that one of my friends is taking Swahili in college. I have to be honest and let you know that the first thought that came to my mind when I heard this was “WHY?”

I then decided try and find out some information about the language, after all, there could be a possibility that it can be used in a particular ocupation that I was unaware of.

Here is what I found out.

The Swahili language is the mother tongue of the Swahili people. It is spoken by various communities inhabiting the African Great Lakes region and other parts of Southeast Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

So this made me think about leadership. Don’t ask why just roll with me on this.

Imagine if I went to Uganda and started sharing passion while speaking the english language. Just imagine how those native to Uganda and familiar with the Swahili language would look at me as I expressed my vision and passion in a language that they did not understand.

My mother retired from her job int the medical field and it always frustrated me when she spoke in “hospital language.” I am sure you have heard some of that language. I have heard words like “bagging”, or the famous acronymns such as EKGs, MRIs, ALIs, and so on.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, Swahili, acronymns,hospital languages and code words, what does all of this have to do with leadership.

Well, I am glad you asked. During a recent meeting I had a tower of Babel moment. You might not be familiar with the Genesis 11 story so I will provide you a quick summary.

During this biblical story it states that everyone spoke a common language. This allowed everyone to work together and understand each other. In the bible it states that the Lord indicated that since they all spoke the same language, nothing would be impossible. Then God provided everyone with a quick Rosetta Stone lesson and everyone spoke another language.

It really does not matter if you believe the story or not, what does matter is a key phrase in that passage. “The people are one and they have one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do; now nothing that they propose to do will be impossible for them.”

The leadership lesson in that passage is priceless. If you want your team to succeed then you have to speak their language. It actually states that “nothing will be impossible.” It does not matter if you are fluent in Shahili or if you just read a dictionary for fun. Leaders need to speak the language of their team.

Back to the meeting that I was attending. After the meeting I noticed that the person beside me had a short list of words. I asked what the list was for and I was told that they were words spoken by the speaker that they did not know the definition. They were going to look them up.

If the speaker’s goal was to teach new words to the group, then they hit a home run. However, if they were trying to communicate a vision, or a method to accomplish the vision, Well…… Let’s just say that if your team has to use a dictionary after the meeting to find out what you were talking about, you were not communicating.

Today’s experiment is simple. Are you speaking the language of your team?

Je, wewe ni kuzungumza lugha ya timu yako?