Inspiring Leadership Abroad

So thankful that I reconnected with my friend Mike Henry Senior founder of Follower of One, a ministry devoted to following and living life like Jesus, especially in the market place. Mike and I forged a friendship a few years ago when Mike was leading and facilitating the Lead Change Group. Lead Change brought thought leaders together from all over the world to share leadership principles, practices, strategies and actions through articles and books. Mike has been influential in my leadership journey as he has with so many other leaders. 

A few weeks ago I met with Mike to catch up on our my leadership journeys since we last spoke a few years ago. Mike was interested in learning more about my current passion of sharing the collaborative voices of African leaders.

 

Thank you Mike for posting and sharing our discussion. I would encourage you to discover more about Mike’s passion by checking out his Facebook page and following him on Twitter.

 

I Am Going To Continue Until I See It Happen Or I Die

Sometimes you encounter a photo, a quote or a song that touches your heart and inspires you. The words of a courageous leader bravely transforming the lives of Burundi’s youth are ingrained in my heart. Freddy’s vision will be remembered when I feel powerless to overcome obstacles.

Freddy is the founder and leader of a large, growing organization in Burundi. Burundi is a landlocked country bordered by Tanzania, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. It is a beautiful country that has experienced a succession of civil wars. As founder of Burundi Youth for Christ, Freddy has committed his life to meeting the vision of his organization. Burundi Youth for Christ’s vision is, “to raise up a generation of godly leaders to transform our society.” Freddy believes that Burundi’s development is dependent on the attainment of this vision. Transforming the lives of Burundi’s youth is his passion.

“I am going to continue until I see it happen or I die”

Freddy, founder and leader of Burundi Youth for Christ

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Twenty years ago, God gave me a vision: To raise up a generation of godly leaders to transform our society and I have been working on it without any stop; and I am going to continue until I see it happen or I die. I am ready for whatever it takes. As we learned in class: “Your purpose defines your relentless drive to achieve something of value”. My vision is spelled and written everywhere in all the centers of Burundi Youth for Christ. 

I understood that the Lord has called me to take my people onto a journey in order to reach a particular goal; I am ready to take the lead: “Christian leaders are godly people of integrity and passion who take people from where they are to a place which God has envisioned the leader to take them through empowering church members to become what God has gifted them to be(Wallis R. & Collinson J.; 2018).

It is a very big dream but with the Lord’s help, I believe that we shall make it as nothing is impossible for him.

God has called me to raise up a generation of godly leaders in order to transform Burundi, I am very sure about this and everyone around me knows that.  Burundi has been so destroyed by poor leadership which has resulted in circles of civil-wars and genocides between our two major tribes like our neighboring country of Rwanda; we are the same people with the same challenges. I started Burundi Youth for Christ during the very dark years of Burundi when our two tribes were killing each other. I personally suffered so much by losing my brother who was just two years younger than me. I lost many friends. One of the saddest days of my life was the day when eight of my students were killed while they were sleeping.  

It is in this perspective that God called me to stand up and start an organization which would be a solution to the division problem between our two tribes. By God’s grace, I have been able to build five schools, two orphanages and two medical clinics, etc. where all the tribes feel welcomed. “Vision is the world’s most desperate need. There are no hopeless situations, only people who think hopelessly.”  (Winifred Newman).

Leadership always requires courage as leading people to a new place is always a challenge. This involves taking risks and failing at times, attempting what seems impossible to others and taking a stand when things get difficult. I need to plan better that I have been doing.  As Peter Drucker says: “only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and under performance, everything else requires leadership”. I need to continue to raise up more godly leaders.

I am ready to go as Isaiah said:”Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8 (NIV).

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I know that all leaders need courage and encounter challenges as they lead. Yet, few leaders that I have served and worked with have to contend with and go to battle against the forces that Freddy has. Although I only have known Freddy for a short period of time, his resilient and relentless pursuit of transforming the lives of Burundi’s youth is commendable. 

Freddy’s words touched my heart. I felt compelled to include Freddy’s inspiring vision as another testament to the voices of African leaders activating praiseworthy and laudable servant leadership that is saving so many.  

Kurumbuka Leadership Solutions is Expanding the Voices of African Leaders

Florence, a committed leadership voice from Uganda, and a participant in the online Foundational Leadership Principles and Practices course I facilitated last month shared an observation that demonstrates the impact that shared learning and leading can have on individuals, organizations, and communities.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to grow as a leader and to develop an abundant vision. Your training has enlarged my vision and impact that now close to 5000 people from the community are beneficiaries.

The training Florence is referring to is Kurumbuka Leadership Solution’s year-long leadership training program empowering leaders, connecting influencers, and multiplying leadership solutions.

Florence has completed the program and is part of a growing list of African leaders who have been equipped and called to now impact and influence their organizations and communities. These leaders operate from an abundance mentality and willingly serve to remove barriers to facilitate the transformation of the communities they lead. 

Kurumbuka, which was birthed from the Wellspring Foundation for Education’s Abundant Leadership Institute, has been training leaders Since 2015. Beginning with a small initial cohort of fifteen leaders from Rwanda, the Kurumbuka leadership program now has trained leaders from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. This includes the group of leaders who have just completed the fourth cohort which Florence was part of. 

The feedback and reflections received from the participants of this unique leadership development program have been affirmative and encouraging. Numerous positive outcomes have been communicated. Many of the leaders share that the program not only helped with providing more leadership principles and skills, but also has equipped them with practical and hands-on strategies to assist them in leading and transforming their leadership abilities.

Another consistent message articulated is that the program has empowered the leaders to stretch beyond their comfort zones and avoid isolation. They are reaching out and connecting; recognizing that there is strength in sharing and collaborating.

Phocas Ngendahayo, Kurumbuka’s Rwanda Country Director shares, “ it is exciting to read about how you are already planning to stay connected, to celebrate the learning and competencies you acquired, while finding ways to strengthen the already established connections and productive relationships, multiplying solutions to bless your respective institutions and communities to bless your respective institutions and communities in the region, with our shared vision, faith, our abundant heart and quality of service.”

As I read Phocas’ comments and after reviewing the comments of the feedback received from the participants, Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed came to mind. This parable, which describes the transformation of a minuscule seed into a tree capable of producing and sustaining an abundance of branches, is a vision of Kurumbuka’s leaders. 

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32 NRSV).

From an initial kernel of a small group of leaders sown in cohort one, the program has multiplied to seventy two leaders with the completion of cohort four. Kurumbuka is beginning to realize its “mission to develop and empower 10,000 leaders by 2030.” 

Kurumbuka’s mission may be lofty and ambitious, nonetheless, it is evident that leaders in Africa see a need for this type of leadership development program. More individuals from different communities and neighboring countries are looking to join the expanding table. The voice of Kurumbuka is growing and, “ just as great rivers have a very small source, so great movements in history often start in a single moment with an obscure thought, word or action…” (African Study Bible Commentary, pg.1164).

Kurumbuka Leadership Solutions is and will continue to be a key contributor and influencer in bringing African voices around the Leadership is Heart table. View the video to learn more about how Kurumbuka Leadership Solutions is impacting leaders and how to get involved.

 

From a Table of One To a Table of Many: Repurposing Leadership is Heart

Leadership is Heart has been in existence for almost ten years now. It has gone through a number of iterations, topics, and reflections. One constant though has been the focus on my passion for leading, mentoring, impacting and influencing individuals, organizations and communities. The blog has generated some success over the past few years allowing me to share my own thoughts, reflections and learnings. Last year around this time, I felt moved to compile some of my posts eventually resulting in the publication of my first book Learning and Leading in The Land of a Thousand Hills.

The effort and energy expended in writing Learning and Leading resulted in a hiatus from consistently writing on Leadership is Heart. I did not realize how physically and emotionally draining it can be to publish a book. In addition, dealing with and coping with the isolation and social distancing brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic created obstacles to coming up with creative ideas to share through the blog. Inspiration for my writing consistently comes from people I interact with through teaching, mentoring, and sharing in groups around a table. Normally, these situations are not done in isolation, but with people sharing thoughts, ideas, and actions face-to-face.

The pandemic pause has helped. Life has slowed down. Time to reflect has increased. Much needed rest resulted.

For me an unexpected outcome has occurred. The use of alternative ways of interaction have increased out of necessity. Although physical connections and relationships have been curtailed, the online strategies of using Zoom, Google Meet Ups and other platforms have allowed online connection to flourish. Perhaps not as effective as face-to-face however, being forced to use online teaching, mentoring and connection has turned out to be beneficial. 

Recently, I facilitated a three-day course to an inspiring and engaged group of leaders from the countries of Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Foundational Leadership Principles and Practices course was delivered online for the first time as travel restrictions prevented me from travelling to Africa to teach the course face-to-face. I was forced to teach online from my home office to twenty individuals sitting in their homes in Africa. I had never taught an online course in such a manner and I was anxious going into day one. My main concern was not only how was I going to connect with these leaders, but whether connecting online would be effective. I also wondered whether the three-day commitment from these leaders would be worthwhile. 

The investment turned out better than I had ever expected, and according to the course feedback from the students the online course was very successful. Learning and leading together around an online table worked!

Personally, teaching the online course led to a new realization; I felt called to re-purpose Leadership is Heart.

I have been serving in Rwanda for over seven years now and I have encountered the work and service of many outstanding African leaders. But it was not until this last online teaching session, and after a discussion with my wife Anne, did I realize what I now needed to do. After serving with so many remarkable leaders in Africa I felt it was time to bring their voices to the attention of more learners and leaders around the world. Their passion, commitment, and relentless drive to transform lives and communities is inspiring.

I feel renewed following the three day module and now feel the need to move Leadership is Heart into a new direction with a renewed purpose and mission. A direction that not only shares my own writing, but also the thoughts, reflections and wisdom from the leaders in Africa that I am so fortunate to engage with through my work with the Wellspring Foundation for Education and Kurumbuka Leadership Solutions. The voices of these African leaders need to be heard.

As I was sharing this insight with Anne, she described an image of leaders sitting around a communal table sharing thoughts, reflections, concerns and solutions. And with this image in mind, together we came up with a new purpose. 

Leadership is Heart will now focus on sharing the collaborative voices of African leaders who are learning and leading to transform hearts, minds and leadership around a shared table. 

One of the leaders who gathered around the ‘online table’ during the teaching encapsulated our thoughts perfectly. 

“We just completed three days of online learning, and a lot was covered, discussed, and learned in such a short time. Students learned leadership principles and practices such as ‘how to build a purpose, mission, and vision’, ‘how to build relationships and organizational trust’, and ‘how to build resilience and strength as a leader.’ Both the facilitator and the students were so engaged throughout the module and many times we didn’t realize how much time had elapsed. Claudio taught from his head and from his heart. He shared that he feels re-energized by joining together with incredible leaders from Central and East Africa. He challenged the students to go forward and multiply leaders, create solutions in their institutions, and empower their communities all while embodying a servant’s heart and an abundant mentality.”

I did challenge the students, but I also felt challenged to go forward and do my part to multiply and empower. To continue to invest in and mobilize the voices of African leaders.

My heartfelt thank you goes out to The Wellspring Foundation for EducationThe Wellspring AcademyKurumbuka Leadership Solutions, Anne and all of the international and African leaders I have engaged with and learned from. Your inspiration is contagious and now it is time to share our thoughts and wisdom with the world together.