Authentically facilitated programme. Thank you for the wisdom and insight with which you enabled meaningful engagement that is perspective-changing and action-oriented. Participant in African Leadership Workshop

Last month I had the honour of working with the UNDP in partnership with the Provincial Public Service Training Academy in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa on an African Leadership Development Programme. Over three weeks, I worked with a total of 82 senior public service leaders. The reported impact of the sessions for participants is shown in the attached graph with an overall average rating of 4+ (agree and strongly agree) on a 5-point agreement scale on all the evaluated indicators of program success. Of note is the 100% recommendation (4.7 out of 5 rating) of the program for others and that participants left the programme motivated to action. This was corroborated in the qualitative comments with recommendations from participants that the program be mandatory at all senior leader levels.

Mr. S’miso Magagula, Head of Department at KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Treasury said the programme left a message of hope.

It does this through teaching the fact that there is an alternative narrative to the one that is commonly spoken about in the media about African leadership – that African leaders are corrupt, lazy, insensitivity to the needs of the people, and so on. Leaders in the African context therefore need to internalise an alternative narrative of prosperity, care, kindness, [being] scrupulous, and ubuntu as this will become a self-fulling prophecy well into the future…Among others I have understood the importance of listening, the dangers of being judgmental, and how crucial shared and collective leadership is, which allows for full ownership of decisions taken.” Excerpt from UNDP article by Christina Shorai Nyambalo, Communications Officer

The KwaZulu Natal lead for the program said of the experience that it was:

an amazing 3 weeks with the phenomenal Dr. Yabome Gilpin-Jackson. Transforming leadership in KZN. There are still no words to capture what has happened here. From troikas to fishbowls, there was no escape being inspired to action. This is just the beginning!” Nirvana Simbhoo, Office of the Premier, KZN Provincial Public Service Training Academy, Deputy Director: Curriculum, Materials Development and Quality Assurance

The United Nations Development Programme Lead Bongani Matomela said simply in conversation with me that “the programme has transformed me.

But what was the difference that made the difference? Why does any of this matter? And what will make the difference going forward?

 The Difference: The programme is designed based on evidence of what actually works when individual leaders are doing work that makes a difference on the African continent. The six principles that form the foundation for the development experiences in the programme are not theoretical – they are practical and based on real examples in the literature and case studies of African leaders making a difference. See We Will Lead Africa: Vol 1 for more details.  As well, this programme was not about content. It was a deeply developmental experience designed to evoke personal leadership transformation and accountability in leaders. From the first activity to the last, people are challenged to think about their contribution to history-making and designing the leadership futures they want, in place of the narrative no longer serving them.

Why does this matter: Africa, and indeed the world, is at a crossroad where we need to re-examine and critically reflect on the leadership narratives and actions that assail us and strip us of hope. We need to restore faith, hope and trust in our own capacities to lead and change the things that do not serve us. We can no longer wait for others to do it for us. We must each take ownership for leading Africa into the future we want ourselves – each, and all of us.

Going Forward? The question that many kept asking in the programme in various forms was – Am I enough? Is what I am doing enough? How will my small actions in one corner of the African leadership mammoth make a difference? I cannot claim to know all the answers, but this I know. Every. Small. Action matters. Each one of us being the leaders we are capable of being such that we positively impact those around us matters! We have no know of knowing in the present moment what the collective impact of our individual leadership actions will be, but that’s what history and legacy are for. And allow yourself to imagine for a moment what it will look like in every sphere where you see opportunities for transformation if each of us were doing our part. At an individual level, that is our role.

At a collective level though, the other question that kept emerging is: what about the group context? How do I lead in severely broken group dynamics? How do I practice transformation in dire political contexts? In spaces where violence and fear abound? Again, I do not know all the answers but we had great dialogues about these during the African Leadership Programme and I contributed what I could from my knowledge of human and organizational dynamics and group life. I am now holding these questions with me as I head into a week of Process Consulting development with Dr. Stephen Schuitevoerder, where we will examine the deep psychological dynamics of group life and how to facilitate through that to get to the other side of transformation. Stay tuned for my lessons from that journey.