“Looking back, joining ELF was the wisest decision that I have made in life”

Gladys Maina was not always going to be a STEM professional. She had initially pursued a medical laboratory certificate but realized rather quickly that a career in medicine was not meant for her. She quit and travelled 250Kms to Nairobi where her passion for technology started.

She never looked back and has gone ahead to excel in her career and studies. She recognizes the role technology continues to play in transforming lives and societies. Despite Kenya being a resource-constrained developing country, she believes that it offers her the opportunity to use technology to solve social-economic issues. It is for this reason that Gladys continues to seek international experiences that guide her in achieving these goals. In November 2019, she was named a 2020 finalist of the Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship in line with Adobe vision of creating the best products by bringing gender diversity into the technology industry. In 2018, she was one of the four finalists and the only Kenyan nominated in the category of IT Project Management for the 2018 Afrika Kommt! Initiative.

Gladys attributes her continuous success to the training she got at Emerging Leaders Foundation, an organization she came across as she was casually browsing the Internet. ELF helped her rediscover who she really was and her capabilities. She learnt how to align her passions with a successful living. As an aspiring leader, the session on leadership gave her lessons that she carries with her to date. She was taught that leaders have clarity, leaders take care of the company they keep, and leaders give back to the community.

It is for this reason that Gladys has continued to champion for gender diversity and inclusion in the STEM field. In June 2020, she was selected for the 2020-2021 TechWomen program from an incredibly competitive cycle with only 108 women selected to participate. TechWomen brings emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East together with their professional counterparts in the United States for a mentorship and exchange program in the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, DC.

ELF taught her three crucial lessons which she has carries and shares with those around her:

  1. Never settle for less.

You should keep pursuing your goals and increasing your knowledge no matter what position or title you hold in life.

Steve Jobs said that we should never settle and we should never arrive.

  1. Be brave and take risks.

“We need to be brave and take risks to achieve our ambitions. We need to lose sight of the shores to discover new oceans. Taking risks means hurdling into the unknown and believing that we will make it to the other side, despite not yet knowing what the other side is going to look like. It is taking bold actions and forcing ourselves into unfamiliar territories.”

  1. Run your own race

“Sometimes we are tempted to look at others and compare ourselves. We evaluate ourselves by how much our colleagues, teammates, friends, and family members have accomplished forgetting that they are their own unique individual. One thing ELF taught me is that it does not matter when you start the race, what matters is that you eventually finish. Learn as much as you can as there is room at the finish line for all of us.”

Gladys hopes to continue inspiring the next generation of leaders. She believes that she stands on the sacrifices of a million women before her and is always thinking what she can do to make the mountain taller so the women after her can go even further.

“Looking back, joining ELF was the wisest decision that I have made in life.”

 

 

By: Gladys Maina, LDP Cohort 5

 

Two packets of Biscuits; the lifeline!

I will tell the story of a teen girl who was told that she was not enough. She is an average girl in most aspects; neither tall nor short, slim- but not too slim 😊 and her heart might not be big enough to accommodate everyone and everything that the world throws at her. She is just a girl who was never enough for anything. All she ever went through her teenage life was questions on her thoughts, on God’s timing- was it really the best, slight sense of humour and sarcasm, and just how boring and dull life could be.

She grew sorry and confused. She was sorry for breathing fresh air in a space she should have called home and sorry for taking up space that probably would have been meaningful to someone else. She grew tired of how meaningless life had become, she decided the only way out was taking her own life, but just before she did, she decided to talk to her brother about it.

Siz, mind telling me why you are tired?”

“I am just tired”

“Do you know the lord’s prayer” (stupid question, she thought)

“Who doesn’t and just where has God been the entire time?”

“Okay just say it, sleep and I will call you at tomorrow at 6 am”

She never said amen to that prayer. She must have snoozed off like Adam did before his rib was taken. When she woke up, my suicidal plan was off, it had just failed. This was a reminder that God had not taken his time giving her life just to watch her take it unjustly.  When she woke up, her journey to dealing with pain begun, thanks to her brother who offered a leaning shoulder.

If her memory serves her right, those are the exact details of that story. By not closing her chapter, she started taking in lessons. Lesson 1; the strength of a woman is known through her grace to dance even when chaos show up at her doorstep. Later, she set out to join the male-dominated IT field where she recently started an initiative set out to advocate for safe and thoughtful cyber practices. It was around the same period that I came across an ELF ad of the next intake. She never knew of ELF’s existence, but she decided to give it a chance. To date, she has no regrets.

At ELF, she was welcomed with warm smiles, given affirming words by the team that she met and given two packets of biscuits as headed home. At that point she knew this journey, the people in it and everything about it was sacred. True to her expectations, the journey has been amazing.

The greatest lesson from ELF was that sometimes people tend to take away what we hold dearly, we may hit rock bottom in life, but it is such moments that help us realize on what’s important in life.

Since her graduation from ELF, she has refined a few things at in her CyberMakini initiative and she is about to launch the first program that will educate and create awareness to people on cyber offences and crimes.

In July this year, which happens to be her birthday month, she kept thinking to herself what she could do to meaningfully influence her small community of young people that hasn’t grown weary of trying, amidst the pandemic and poor governance in the country. After juggling various ideas, she settled on telling stories of the Millennial generation. Having experienced the cruelty and negative vibes that exist around the generation, she felt it was time to put out stories and clarify on various issues. The program dubbed #31Days31Millennials was to consistently share stories of their works, roles in impacting the society and building enterprises, and passions of different millennials for the 31 days of July. The feedback was amazing at first, this pushed her into doing more and further extending the program. To this end, the program runs every Sunday and Wednesday of the week.

The stories are mind blowing and inspiring. Most of the millennials who have been featured on the platform have been met with unkind words, discouragements, and ridicule. Despite this, they have persistently challenged the status quo and are trying their best to shake things up and stand up to be counted as heroes in this century. All she wants is to tell stories, stories that will change perspectives, stories that will encourage and motivate a generation, stories that will brighten up days and influence change.

You may be wondering, who is she. I am Ann Mercy Wairimu and I am more than enough.

For the longest time, I have tried to run away from my assignments and callings in life, but I have always found myself gravitating towards my purpose. I have always felt a fire in me, a fire that will not stop burning, one that continually defines my current self. But I have not made use of it previously.

Today, I am all grown, I am committed to my destiny and I am working towards fulfilling my purpose in life. I still recall the two packets of biscuits that I got during my ELF interview, this always acts as a reminder that I have a home, a safe place, a heaven for young people with brilliant ideas and burning desires.

In life, blessings come in many forms, mine came through ELF, I found myself, I am alive, I am playing a role, one that I hope will have impact.

By: AnnMercy Wairimu, ELF Cohort 7

I never thought I needed training, until I joined ABLI

Happiness is an episode life. Running on caffeine and three hours of sleep, my morning was bad. I had to catch a train otherwise, I would run late. As I sat in the train, I decided to check my overwhelmingly full mail. I scrolled through looking for any important ones and then sort the rest later. One caught my attention, my dad had sent me an email, it was a rare occurrence. The subject head read: invitation to a training. It never took my attention as such, I ended up locking my phone as I needed to catch up on my sleep.

Each day presents a new experience. I am always looking forward to learning more.

As I left class, I checked my emails once again with the intention of getting to understand more of the ‘training’. The program was being conducted by Emerging Leaders Foundations (ELF), an organization I had not heard of before. Like any curious being, I did a quick nosedive and checked their website to learn more about what they do. I was not doing anything else apart from French classes and so I thought, ‘Why not apply’.

One thing led to another and soon after, I got a call one evening for an interview, an impromptu interview, which I was not ready for but nonetheless, I went through with it. At the moment, I was sure that I wasn’t getting a slot in the program. Voila! I got an email confirming that I had made the cut into the program. I could say it was God’s Grace. I have been in trainings before and thought this one would be as the previous ones; long boring lectures, no discussions and team building. I have to admit I am not a people person, I love being part a passive member.

The first day I was not so sure. I logged in, the music was nice and I thought just a few more minutes. Sure enough I ended up listening to the whole session. I then thought to myself, may be it is day one. With time I have come to see it was not just the first day.  Each day presents a new experience.  I am always looking forward to learning more and filling my puny brain with ideas and knowledge. I have never considered leadership, but this training has motivated me to finish reading a book on leadership. I thought I would pick up in-depth learning once I started my post-graduate studies. ELF has really made an impact in my life. I am learning to contribute to the sessions, human interaction is not bad after all. Outgrowing my comfort space has made me explore new opportunities. I only told stories anonymously, now I can put my name out there to accompany my pieces. ABLI has really shed light on my life, I have learnt a lot. I can confidently say that it is shaping the person I am becoming.

I appreciate ELF and BSK for affording me this opportunity. Each new day I am finding myself looking at things in a different perspective, am learning, adopting, and dropping old habits. Training virtually can be hectic, you guys have beat the odds. I am happy to be in this program at such a time.

 

By Zipporah Mwangi-ABLI 2020

NEVER DESPISE HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

I left my previous job back in 2015 because I felt like I was struggling in it. Like any other young and ambitious person, I was pretty sure beyond a doubt that I would secure yet another opportunity of choice in the soonest time possible. Turns out I was wrong! Three years went by and nothing came forth, even after making numerous applications. Out of the hundreds of applications I made, only less than five invited me for an interview and the results, negative. The quest for a job drained me and I became so desperate that at that time, I was willing to do anything to survive. I regretted my decision to quit.

It is not wrong to be ambitious; but in your ambitions, be humble.

My world was falling apart; life was getting tough each and every day; the struggle was too much and almost crushing, that I lost my sense of self. I significantly lost confidence and self-esteem and this made me shy away from people close to me. I was not the same person. I couldn’t face anyone or anything anymore. I felt like my life was doomed. At this point I thought of going back to the village (home) than to stay and languish in the city. I was convinced beyond a doubt that the city life was not for me. I fixed dates to travel to the village but as the day drew closer, I kept on shifting it, over and over again. My heart couldn’t let me leave the city. Looking back, I realize that God was preparing me for a breakthrough.

One evening while pondering on my next move, it hit me that I needed to find a ‘small job’ that would help me fend for myself. Out of all the job hunts I did; I attached my certificates and put my best foot forward but that didn’t work. I re-thought my strategy. This time, I opted to try using my driver’s license as a brokering bridge for a job. I looked around and saw an opportunity in the taxi industry. After availing all the necessary documents at small fee, it did not take long before I secured a job as a driver. The job was not easy at the beginning though, but it being the only job available, I had to do it to my very best and passionately. I thought to myself, ‘Is God giving me a chance to reinvent myself?’ I gave the job my all and served all my clients in the most professional way. In my trips, I got to meet different kind of people and every time we interacted, a fresh energy rejuvenated my spirit bringing me confidence and hope yet again. At this juncture, more questions than answers filled me. I began having dissenting opinions on everything I believed was impossible. My eyes finally opened I started looking at things differently. A new ray of light started to shine my way.

Executing my taxi work, was the most fascinating thing for me, it gave me a chance to meet new friends to whom I learnt a lot from. It is during this period that I learnt about ELF and the good work they were doing to inspire and give hope to young people like me. Initially, I joined ELF as a service provider of the taxi service to the staff. In the course of the service and during our numerous conversations on the journey to various destinations, I got an opportunity to learn more about the mentorship program, this created an interest in me to be part of the program. Later, I joined The ABLI mentorship program offered by the Bible Society of Kenya in collaboration with ELF. The training was so amazing that it changed everything for me. It is through the program that I discovered who I really was, and what I could do. I discovered my strengths and weakness and learnt to align them for a successful living.

After graduating from the program in August 2018, I maintained contact with ELF and every time an opportunity arose, they could always call me for my services. Around February 2019, a senior ELF staff called me and asked whether I was willing to take up a job, as an assistant to one of her friends.I looked at the requirements for the job and saw that I was qualified. So I made the decision to take the offer. The job entailed driving kids to school and later the mzee to work. In addition, I acted as an office messenger and secretary at my boss’s office. To most graduates, this wouldn’t be a job they run to take. But my mentor encouraged me to take it and give it my all.

I gave it my best shot in every way – I kept time, I was disciplined, I was honest, I delivered within the required deadlines and learnt very fast in the job. One thing led to another, and within no time, on Dec 4th, 2019, I was introduced to British Engineering Services (BES) Group as a project support officer. Currently am a supervisor at the same company working in nine counties.

In a nutshell, my journey has been a good one. I am not yet done; I am just hitting the midway mark. On my way to this point, I have encountered challenges that have enabled me to learn lessons and be strong.

One key lesson I wish to give young people is this –  it is not wrong to be ambitious; but in your ambitions, be humble. Utilize small opportunities that come your way and ensure that you play a great role in preparing yourself for the future. When you keep the focus, you will get to your dream destination.

Never ever despise a humble beginnings.  Everything happens for a reason. When I left my job, it sounded crazy, but had I not taken that step of faith, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now. I kick-started my journey as a driver and now I am a Supervisor at an international company. What if I had turned down the offer?

 

By Elijah Kipkurui- ABLI 2018

Looking Back, I have no Regrets

God indeed is at work in our lives, it’s just that it doesn’t always look or feel like it. Or even worse, he is not physical enough for us to directly interact with him.  I have always been seeking clarity and direction from God as I felt my life was a little bit off and I want pursuing my passion enough. I needed a change on my career path, it was one of those roller-coaster seasons that we are all encounter at some point of our lives.,

It was one those casual moments when you lazily spend time scrolling your phone and switching from one social media site to the other -just to pass time- when I bumped into a poster on the African Biblical Leadership Initiative (ABLI). After a close look at it, I thought “Why not give it a shot, who knows.” I had previously made so many applications without response, in my hazy thoughts, I expected the same with this one. I did fill the application form, I do not remember the exact details, but the form required a bunch of details.

Once done, my life continued normally (nomaree 😉) I forgot the application and moved on with my daily activities. Furthermore, I just made the application with no expectation of feedback.

Alas! The unexpected happened. I got a call from one of the ELF staff members informing me that he had called in regards to my ABLI application that they had received. He took me through a brief interviewing process over the call. At this point, everything else picked up fast, I got an email informing me that I was one of the successful applicants. I cannot explain the emotions that I went through in that moment, but I can tell one thing, I was excited and expectant of the unknown that awaited.

This is when my journey into being a better and transformative leader begun. Dreams fulfilled. My dreams for becoming a better and transformative leader begun. That phone call and the email changed my life. In that moment, I knew God had answered my prayer. Thank God for people amazing  people like ELF staff members who were always calling to encourage and push me into not letting this opportunity go at the beginning of the program when I was facing challenges with the whole idea of online sessions. Well, they were right on this as it is by far one of the best decisions of my life. I was also so surprised that my one of my close friends and church mate Florence, was also enrolled in the program. This made me feel much at home.

ABLI has taught me a lot, it has been a mind-changer.  The first module, self-awareness has helped me become more aware of who I am as a person. It has also helped me understand my emotions better, be more in tune with my emotions and know how to relate with different people. To seek to understand rather than being understood.

This training has helped me deal with my own fears and allow myself to be vulnerable to growth. I have also learnt to tell my story without guilt and shame and be proud of the baby steps I am making in pursuit of my dreams.

That you to Emerging Leaders Foundation and the Bible Society of Kenya for giving us an opportunity learn, unlearn, grow and sharpen our skills in order to be effective, relevant and enlightened even as we fulfill our God given mandates in life.

 

Written by; Jess Kaurie, ABLI 2020

“We all have to strive for the Best and Be Positive,” Tamara

As we have all witnessed, these turbulent times brought forth by the onset of the novel coronavirus have led to significant changes in our lives. We went from enjoying social interactions, freely attending social events over the weekends, and generally having great times with our friends, to barely being able to step outside our own homes out of fear that we might become part of the daily stats that are given by the Ministry of Health.

These changes have been so consequential, they have also affected the school lives of not only me but millions of students around the world. Some haven’t, and perhaps will never get to truly experience the culmination of education for a high school student. Some will never get to celebrate their hard work and accomplishments along with their parents, teachers, and fellow students. Although most, I included, were fortunate enough to participate in some sort of makeup online graduation ceremony, majority will agree that it was a subpar substitute for the real deal. As though being denied graduation by the pandemic wasn’t cruel enough, some of us might not be attending university in-person this year. Currently, it seems like we might never free ourselves from the thralls of the coronavirus.

In these unprecedented times, feeling bad about the past doesn’t help to solve anything.

Okay, let’s pause from Corona for a minute, I can say I was one of probably thousands or millions of first-year university students who were looking forward to orientation week and making new friends. The adrenaline rush and anxiety of saying the right thing to create the perfect impression, the fear of rejection, not fitting in, or maybe even fitting into the wrong groups. It could have been quite the experience, one that I had been anticipating for approximately 547 days (yes, there had been a countdown).  I can only imagine what it would have been like.

One of my personal habits that more than often works to my detriment is that I like to please people and while that’s fitting in a new environment, it sometimes means I create this impressionable persona that’s not a true reflection of who I am. I suppose we’ve all been in such situations, many times in an elevator pitch where you can only hope that the right side of the coin lands facing upwards by the end of the coin toss.

Now back to the elephant in the room, the pandemic. It has been a time of self-reflection and many, including myself, are now focusing on what character we would like to present after this and which is our best foot to put forward. It’s quite a challenge when we don’t really know what ‘new normal’ really means. Will we have to embody strength, courage, adaptability, unfamiliar compassion for some of us? So, what does this mean for me in my next steps?

Despite all that has happened during these past months, I can’t continue to allow it to harm my life and my mindset. The pandemic has left the world reeling and desperately searching for any sense of normalcy and with this comes new opportunities to thrive. I may not start university on campus but, this comes with the new experience of being part of the first cohort to start university online. Admittedly, while this may not be the most appealing introduction to such a vital chapter in my life, it’s quite extraordinary to begin this journey in a way nobody has ever done.

To conclude, I know I can’t reverse the flow of time. I can’t miraculously prevent the disease from infecting so many people worldwide and I definitely can’t forbid the virus from existing in the first place. What I can do is accept all that has happened, pray for the best, and move forward. In these unprecedented times, feeling bad about the past doesn’t help to solve anything. Instead, I chose to take this opportunity to find some good and look forward to what the future may hold. We all have to continue to strive for the best, despite the situations we might find ourselves in. Wouldn’t you agree?

 

Submitted by:
Tamara Lugonzo- Communications Volunteer, ELF

Mentorship works, Embrace it.

“You need to get a mentor.” Stella insisted on this for the better part of 2017.

I am a stubborn being at times and it can take time and effort- or bullying- for me to be fully convinced on certain issues. We were in a matatu with Stella when her mentor, Ms. Caren Wakoli called. They had a chat before Caren requested to speak to me since we had previously met in a few forums. Knowing how bubbly and warm Caren is, I was excited to talk to her and get to hear how she was fairing.

A mentee must always find a way of being of help/ contributing to the mentor

Little did I know, my ‘bullying’ moment had brought itself closer, in a warm way. “Cate, when are you applying to join Emerging Leaders Foundation?” Caren asked.

I took a little giggle and responded that I would join soon after I had my finances in order. She was not about to take that non- committal answer. “I will be waiting for your application for the next cohort which starts in January and I will not take anything less.”

Oh my! I was cornered! I have so much respect for her and I could not say no. That is how I found myself as part of ELF Cohort 5 where I met my current mentor, Ms. Zippy Musyimi. My life has not been the same ever since. After the leadership training, I asked to be paired with her as my mentor. Ms. Zippy honoured my request and took me under her wings.

It has been a journey of success. A wise lady once told me that for mentorship to work, it must be personal and intentional. My first meeting with Zippy was casual. She invited me for tea where we got to know each other. We set goals for our journey, and wrote down our expectations. By the time we were done, I had learned so much from her and about her and got to experience her comic side.

It has been more than fourteen months now and we are still counting. We have become friends. Three things that I took from my journey with her:

  1. As a mentor, you are called to be a consultant for your mentee, a counsellor and a cheerleader.

She has led our discussions from the front and from a point of knowledge. This came so automatically. She has paved the way for me and does not hold back information that she thinks will benefit me at any point. She has listened to my rants, shrunk them and walked me down the path of finding solutions. Sometimes administering small doses of painful lessons. At the end of it all, she has been a great cheerleader.

  1. As a mentee, you MUST ensure that there is reverse mentorship.

Just like any other interaction, if the two of you are not gaining then there is a parasite. A mentee must always find a way of being of help/ contributing to the mentor – no matter how irrelevant it may seem to be. This helps boost your mentor’s energy to continue offering counsel and contributes to their growth as well. At the end of it all, mentorship is two-way.

  1. Discipline, Commitment and Fun.

Discipline and commitment to follow through with the plans that both of you have laid down is non-negotiable. Mentorship for me is like any other relationship. It is two way. Both parties must play their part, it must feel right. And while at it, please have some fun! Laugh a little, digress a little from all the serious business, meet for coffee just to catch up, after corona go for a dance…and all will be well 😊

 

Submitted By:
Catherine Njeri Gathuru, Cohort 5

“Dear Future Self…”

Dear Future Self,

You’re 35 already! Goodness, can you believe it? Happy birthday to you my darling. How do you feel today? Excited? Happy? Hopeful? Scared? I really hope you are not growing grey hairs on your head already (laughs). But hey, I’m sure they would still look good on you.

The year is 2020. And I am typing this letter on a friend’s computer – because at 25, I still have many borrowed things. As you can imagine, this hasn’t been your typical year – let’s not even talk about the pandemic, Covid-19. But you see, even amidst all that, God has been so good to me. For starters, I now have a ‘Madam President’ prefix to my good name. Yeah-yeah, it’s just a class leadership title, and nothing close to the grandiose first-female-president dreams you had at 17. But it’s close enough. A mark of possibility, you know.

You have always been passionate about developing young African leaders. Just do it! Pour yourself into the next generation of leaders.

Alright, back to 2020 and the goodness of God.

There is this class I’m taking with the Emerging Leaders Foundation and the Bible Society of Kenya called African Biblical Leadership Initiative (ABLI). Honestly, it’s been one of those things I didn’t know I needed, until we crossed paths. Two months in and my life is revolutionized. I already feel better at leading myself and others. I am finally catching up with my potential and that is exciting! Oh sorry, I don’t mean to bore you with stuff you already know. But allow me to highlight two things out of my ABLI experience so far, as I hope to crown your 35th birthday with delightful reminders (Smiles).

First, I do hope you are where you dreamt you’d be at 35. If you are not yet there – because woman, you have had fierce dreams – I would like you to always remember, as Dr. Funson Somorin would say, “You have enough mass to cause a ripple or domino effect to the world around you.”

Oh yes, you do!

You are an amazing African Woman. An amazing African Christian Woman and there is nothing small about that. I know the years between 25 and 35 have put that to test in unthinkable ways; with a little too many confused moments trying to reconcile your womanhood to your faith and your vision for a better world. Mistakes? I guess those have been there too – all humans have a sprinkle of some. But I would like you, today, to focus on the substance of your identity. You are a woman of conviction, because you are a woman of faith. That has always been your X-Factor. Never lose sight of it. And I pray you won’t ever be ashamed to shine your light. Your world needs it.

You will sit at tables that will have you question your worth as a woman. Demands will be put on you to prove yourself. I hope in those times, you will feel anything but small and insignificant. Because you my darling, are a world changer and pacesetter.

And no, 35 is not late. Please shake off that lie. Wait, you have a family already, right? Is he a fine man? Are you transforming the world together…? I digress. And my time here is running out, unfortunately. What I mean to say is, 35 is just about the right time to start sowing back the good seeds sown into you over the years. You have always been passionate about developing young African leaders. Just do it! Pour yourself into the next generation of leaders. That way, you will live on even beyond 105 years.

I got to go now. But I must say this, I am proud of the woman you are Mutethya.

Happy birthday.

Submitted by:
Agnes Mutethya, ABLI 2020

 

The Journey: Redefining Leadership

What makes a leader really? Leadership is one of the most widely covered topics and with so many definitions of a leader. Earlier this year, in the process of checking out my social media updates, I came across a call for applications for Africa Biblical Leadership Initiative (ABLI) 2020. I must admit, it was intriguing that such an opportunity existed. I decided to just make an attempt. “What do I have to lose?” I said to myself, unaware that it would be one of the most transforming programs I have come across so far.

I have learnt of the importance of developing good leadership habits and replacing negative habits with positive ones.

For the longest while, I have been on a journey of self-discovery. I have made discoveries on my capacities and my role in affecting my surroundings. It is a beautiful thing when success meets preparedness. Around the time when I came across the ABLI 2020 application, I was genuinely seeking an opportunity for structured mentorship in leadership and career development. ABLI has given me the opportunity to re-discover not just myself but leadership in itself.

Leadership begins by leading self before leading others. Reflecting on my story and mapping out my life, I have discovered many instances where I have been a leader without a title, but a leader nonetheless. In the first module on self-awareness, I discovered my personality and how it has influenced my leadership style. People are different and mutual understanding eases and harnesses leadership. Being able to apply emotional intelligence as a leader has taught me that more than doing the right thing, I need to do things the right way.

Sometimes wisdom is hidden in retrospect and everyone has a story. I have learnt the important of constantly being in touch with the development of my story as a leader. Many of the experiences that make up my story have prepared me for my present and future moments.

“Dear younger me.…” If you were to write a letter to your younger self, how would it read? Many times, wisdom does not find us in a vacuum with no experiences. Making peace with the past is one of the key things that an effective leader must be keen to do. As I have learnt from one of the sessions, I need not to allow past mistakes and regrets hold me back from becoming the leader I ought to be. It may not have been my fault that particular things happened to my younger version, but it is definitely my responsibility to seek healing and be free from the pain by forgiving and letting go – even forgiving myself.

We are creatures of habits. An effective leader builds evidence of their leadership through habits. As part of redefining leadership, I have learnt of the importance of developing good leadership habits and replacing negative habits with positive ones.

As my journey of leadership continues with ABLI as an Emerging Leader, I continue to have Leadership Redefined and become more refined. I am grateful to ELF, BSK, the ABLI Team, and my fellow leaders in ABLI 2020 for every opportunity and equipping. I encourage other emerging leaders to be set for the next opportunity to journey with ABLI. The journey continues!

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures,” F. M. Alexander.

 

Submittted by:
Kelvin Irungu- ABLI 2020

Leadership in the African society

Leadership is the deed of imposing authority or influence within a group. African society viewed a leader as a servant and not a dictator.  An African leader was expected to offer service to their follower, may it be a clan, family, tribe, or community. They were probably guiding their society towards a course. Moreover, they were supposed to have a goal that selflessly steered the community in a positive direction.

In most traditional African settings, leadership was granted based on age, wealth, and reputation. Most leaders were senior as old age was associated with wisdom. Having experience in life made them knowledgeable, enabling them to offer guidance and manage the community. Consequently, they were able to settle disputes. For instance, the Ameru community had a council of elders who were responsible for the governance of the society.

A leader ought to be selected based on their morals and ethics. A leader who deviates from this should be stripped off his leadership position.

Values majorly contributed to how leadership was conducted. That is, a leader had to shadow specific values with respect to their role. Values differed from one society to the other. In the traditional African society, values were forced on people to determine what’s right or acceptable. If one did not conform to these formulated values, they would be reprimanded. This in turn created desirable virtues such as honesty and integrity and deviance to them was non-negotiable. Additionally, continuous adherence to these values in a society leads to an ethical and disciplined community. Those who were competent in following the outlined values were praised while those who decided otherwise were shamed. It was also used to vet people who could become heads in the society.

African societies did not also shy away from religion. Religious values held a moral sense of justice and truth. This is because the society believed in a God that was omnipresent, all-powerful, and all-knowing. They also believed in eternal souls in the context that good and bad souls continued to communicate with the living even after one died. In respect to this, they interpreted God’s message on who would become a leader as well as who would be stripped off his or her leadership positions. It made aspiring leaders and those in leadership roles to dutifully adhere to religious values. Moreover, community members would abide by good behavior with fear of being exposed by diviners and sorcerers.

Leadership was developed at the family level as it the basis of the political hierarchy. Mostly, a father headed the family, and then there was a village elder, a clan head, and consequently a paramount leader. It was difficult for a man to head a community if they had not a family before. Failure to lead the family in the right direction also meant that he would fail at community leadership. Still, at the family level, hereditary leadership was groomed.  From a young age, a person who was in line to be the next supreme ruler was natured and taught how he or she would handle the responsibilities that come with the title.

Conclusively leadership in traditional African societies was either hereditary or ascribed. This should not be the practice in modern-day leadership as there are many people who are more than competent to be leaders and outdo their predecessors. Our genders should not be used to judge the capability of one being a leader, leadership belongs to all of us, we should incorporate everyone in equal measure. If one is ethical enough and has a good moral record, they should be given a chance at leadership.

However, we can borrow some of these values when selecting leaders. A leader ought to be selected based on their morals and ethics. A leader who deviates from this should be stripped off his leadership position. Similarly, modern-day leaders shouldn’t shy away from religion and stand by their values. They should not be intimidated by happenings in the society, instead, they should fully live by their morals and lead in rightful ways without influence.

Senior members in the current generation should be mentors to the rising leaders so that they can also have a chance at leadership. Value-based mentorship will always pay off dearly if well structured. Consequently, senior members should offer guidance as well to help regulate the manners of the young generation. As much as we would like to see young people ascending to power, we should not forget to draw wisdom from experienced members of the society. Nonetheless, our generation should aim at preserving the positive aspects of African leadership for us to have a heightened crop of competent and morally upright leaders.

 

Submitted By:

Stephen Kimathi- Assistant Programs Officer, Leadership Development and Mentorship Program.