As a course facilitator for The Wellspring Foundation for Education’s Abundant Leadership Institute, I had the honor and privilege of teaching a week-long module on educational leadership to a bright and engaging group of leaders from Rwanda and Uganda.
Working with these committed educational leaders for a week in Rwanda was an invigorating and inspiring time. The mutual passion that we shared for informing, equipping and empowering one another as educators was energizing. I am thankful that I had this opportunity.
Halfway through the week we were focusing on the importance of leaders building and enhancing trust with the people they work with and work for.
When I shared the following information where respondents were asked to record their views on the statement I believe that other people can be trusted, the energy dissipated as silence enveloped the room.
- North America – 34%
- Latin America – 23%
- Mexico – 31%
- Netherlands – 60%
- Scandinavia – 68%
- Africa – 18% (Source: Our World in Data)
The 18% figure is an aggregate of only some of the many African countries as reported. Not all of the countries were surveyed. However, the low trust level still provided relevant information and definitely provided some discussion points.
Although there was initial silence, the group overall was not surprised. Members of the group indicated that lack of trust among people might be one of the greatest roadblocks and challenges to not only building and enhancing positive relationships among people and among organizations, but also to the successful growth and development of African countries.
The group honestly shared that even though leaders know it is important and necessary to build trust, it is often avoided because the task seems insurmountable and too difficult to tackle. The group communicated that leaders tend to skirt the issue and not go deep to find out more and take action to do something about it.
In the past I had realized that trust was an issue, however the vulnerability of my colleagues sharing demonstrated their concern and in some cases despair. I truly understood for the first time how difficult this challenge will be to overcome.
Lack of trust has been ingrained in the culture of many countries in Africa due to a variety of reasons and circumstances. The genocide in Rwanda is a prime example of where lack of trust between people still exists. Although, twenty plus years have gone by since the Rwandan genocide where neighbours, friends and family members turned on one another resulting in hundreds of thousands of people being killed in a short period of time, my colleagues shared that distrust is still pervasive.The Rwandan government and people have made great strides in its reconciliation process however more time and effort is still required to improve trust levels.
Yet, this group does not see things as being hopeless as they continued to share that in their own schools and organizations they were not only trying to improve trust but were having some success. They see it as a slow and sometimes painful process but they do not feel hopeless. In fact, their commitment and passion for improving their countries through education for students, parents and communities makes them feel hopeful.
However, they were being realistic about the work that it will take to change from a culture of distrust to one where trust between people and organizations becomes foundational.
They felt that open dialogue, communication and creating awareness are the first steps in moving forward. My friends do not seem afraid of leading what seemingly is an impossible task. It is easier to avoid the discussion. It is less threatening to talk about it in a safe and trusting environment that we had during the week. But as my colleagues exited the classroom door on Friday afternoon after a week of being in what they called a “think tank”, they were headed out to the reality of what they are facing at their schools, at home and in their communities.
But, I could not think of a better and more passionate group of people to entrust this challenge to. One person said, “It has to start somewhere, one step at a time. Maybe we are the ones to do it.”
Thank you my friends for informing, equipping, empowering and most of all inspiring me this week. You are the leaders all of us should emulate and your leadership is the type of leadership your countries and all countries need.