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Leadership Workshop: Highest hope for 2021

Published 23 July 2021

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The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship stood out for me right from the application phase. I have always been keen on taking up leadership positions but I sometimes felt inadequate. My hopes were high that finally I would undergo such a programme that promised to develop my leadership capacity. Going through the bios of other scholars, I was certain that I was going to meet an incredibly intelligent and intimidating group, and the only way to fit in would be to show my strengths all through. Imposter Syndrome had plagued me for the longest time and was once again rearing its ugly head . This was a wrong mentality, I was determined to overcome.

Throughout the sessions it was evident that our ultimate goal as leaders is to make the world a place where everyone can thrive by drawing from each other's strengths. We idealised the kind of space we would want to interact in as scholars. A space with; Integrity, confidentiality, patience, support, openness, collaboration and kindness.

I was inspired to identify challenges and opportunities that arise from my interaction with other scholars while creating an environment that fosters inclusion and a sense of belonging. I got a revelation of the unconscious biases that create a strain in interaction and in building trust and integrity. I became more aware of the beauty of diversity and the need to avoid inclination towards that which resonates with us; to find comfort and understanding in novelty. Upon self assessment, it was apparent that I exhibited affinity bias, where I would easily connect with people with similar interests, ageism which is the tendency to trust and approve of older people as well as halo bias where the subject is placed on a pedestal because of an impressive achievement. Learning about them was the first step to working towards overcoming such biases. I learnt to be more sensitive and aware to the needs of others and do my best to accommodate them and to speak up for what could be done better, all from a point of understanding.

What is the authentic me? What defines me? I had to seek the answers because I should be a leader for myself before leading others. To change the world, I need to transform myself and to do this I have to be authentic. Being authentic is embracing both my strengths and shortcomings. It entails being honest and open. This seemed a difficult concept to crack, but thanks to the Enneagram session, I was able to break down my motivations, strengths, concerns and weaknesses. Enneagram is a test that defines nine different personality types, with each representing a worldview that resonates with the way people think, feel and act in relation to the world, others and themselves. It is through such an understanding that we can work towards self development, conflict resolution, team building and strengthening of relations. Our vulnerabilities are strengths in a community where we all embrace inclusivity. And by being vulnerable we build trust and understanding that we are not alone, neither are we self sufficient.

It's still a marvel to me, how all the scholars, drawn from different African countries and with different backgrounds have similar views towards improving the state of Africa. We are a uniquely diverse group with aligning goals, and in every interaction ,my views are challenged for the better, I get support for my thoughts and the cohesion is invaluable.

My highest hope is to better understand myself and the people around me and beyond. To understand their stories and journeys, learn with them and be present for them as they work towards reconciling the past to the current and the future. I hope to develop a culture of listening to myself, embracing my heritage and resolving a past towards a positively empowered future. I hope to build and test my leadership capabilities and skills through constructive feedback on what to drop and what to emphasize. I hope to contribute my efforts to supporting my fellow scholars to realize their vision for Africa. My understanding of the pillars of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation; Reconciliation, Leadership, Education and Entrepreneurship is also getting reinforced. I look forward to nurturing voices that champion for ethical leadership and justice, that demand and uphold accountability, responsibility and transparency. I am optimistic for a continued growth of self within each and every scholar throughout this program, as each one takes up their place as a change leader for Africa.

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