Inside the Programme
Leadership workshop: Finding a safe space
Electrical Engineering Masters scholar, Reginald Nyakonda shares how the week of the leadership workshop gave him the courage and comfort to break out of his shell.
As a Enneagram Type 5 (Quiet Specialist) who hasn’t been around so many people in a "formal" setting since early 2020, I was excited but also very nervous as to what the workshop week had in store. My anxiety was slightly put at ease by Mandela Rhodes Foundation CEO Judy Sikuza’s words - she said "the MRF is not just about building leaders - it's about being part of a family". I remember looking in the room as this was said - "this is my family?" I thought. I barely knew these peoples dislikes, thoughts, emotions and even their names but nevertheless, I was open to the idea of being part of this family.
The first day went by so quickly and I had the opportunity to interact with a few of the scholars too. The designed team/coach alliance was drafted and we started to explore the Enneagram. It had been mentioned throughout the day that reflection would be vital to workshop process so when I went back to my room at the end of day 1, I reflected on how I had done and something I picked up is although I wasn't as quiet as I usually am, I also wasn't engaging in the bigger group discussions. I vowed to do better the next day – which proved easier said than done.
Day 2 was similar the first in terms of my contribution to the group discussions but it struck me that everyone's uniqueness was being appreciated and valued in this space. Although I didn't contribute as much as I would have hoped to, those small contributions I made were received with a willingness to hear more about my thoughts and experiences. I learned a lot from the other scholars and it really started to feel like we all knew each other longer than we had. Everyone was being vulnerable - sharing their fears, weaknesses and aspirations to a group of strangers. The "Creative Jam" or as i like to call it - the MRF talent show for nerds, was happening at night on the third day and signing up was happening on the second day. I didn't have any talents to put on display but I was looking forward to seeing what my fellow nerds had in store.
The third day was a highlight for me. One of the scholars I had grown close me to co-host the creative jam with them. In my head, I felt this would be a total disaster but I agreed because I was starting to feel a bit more comfortable around everyone. Throughout the workshop so far, we had been unpacking the Enneagram with the ultimate goal being self-mastery. I felt like everyone else knew me and I knew them on such a personal level that we truly were a family and I could loosen up a bit. I am glad I did - the night was filled with amazing talent displays - people were singing, playing the guitar and the whole family had to endure my terrible jokes on stage. I was particularly impressed by Judys' dancing skills! Having seen myself break out of my shell like that, I knew this was a direct consequence of the work we had done with coaches in the sessions and I look forward to working with them again in the upcoming modules.
The fourth day offered a deeper dive into the socio-economic landscape of South Africa and Africa as a whole, given the effect that apartheid/colonisation had on the African people. Most importantly, we explored at how we can be the change we want to see. We were fortunate, to get a free afternoon on day 4. I decided to use that time to charge my social batteries - I had been interacting with people for the past 4 days straight and social exhaustion had begun to set in. I also had to run a games night I had organised on that same night (Yeah, I know. Me? organizing games? Another stretch). Nevertheless, game night was a success and everyone's competitive side came to light. I'm sure those in the other team still harbour a grudge against my team and I for winning!
The fifth and final day felt like that family braai. We headed to Madiba's beautiful home for the day and we were joined by Professor Njabulo Ndebele - who happens to share personality traits similar to me and other Enneagram type 5's. I felt validated as he beautifully told us his own journey with leadership and I could see that leadership really doesn't have to look a particular way. The day and the workshop ended with us enjoying a delicious braai together as a family - and i could really start seeing what Judy meant by the MRF being a family. I was left feeling excited to see how rest of the year plays out.