Biryoha Bisangiwe! It Is Sweeter When Shared

Phocas Ngendahayo writes today’s guest post on Leadership is Heart. Phocas currently serves as the Rwanda Country Director for Kurumbuka Leadership Solutions, which was created in response to a felt need, to walk alongside a new generation of leaders as they fulfill God-given visions to transform their families, institutions, communities, and nations. Seven years ago, Phocas and I met in the Land of a Thousand Hills, where I began my service with the Wellspring Foundation for Education in Rwanda. Phocas was operations director for Wellspring, and from the time I met Phocas, I knew I had met a leader full of integrity with similar a similar passion for raising other leaders through collaboration and sharing. Our friendship has grown in seven years, and I am forever grateful that we continue to serve together.

Today Phocas not only defines why it is so essential for leaders to collaborate, but he also outlines the benefits he has encountered when leaders share around a table of many. 


Leadership is Heart’s new initiative, “from one table to a table of many” is timely. The project emerged as a result of Claudio’s involvement with the Abundant Leadership Institute (ALI), which was a precursor to the establishment of Kurumbuka Leadership Solutions. During the birthing process of Kurumbuka, Claudio coined the acronym, DEAL, to summarize his purpose and mission of developing and empowering African leaders.

Faithful to the call, Claudio is passionate about empowering leaders, and his current initiative may suggest a military plan, a business breakthrough, or a lucrative strategy, but none of this is the case. One can see instead an expanded circle of friends, of like-minded people and professionals who share what they care about together, in a circle of common interests.

The initiative is just what is needed for leaders in Africa. It invites people from diverse backgrounds to come together to find a space of stimulating and constructive ideas. A collaborative table is a circle of trust, equity and equality, building an ecosystem of learning and resulting in mutual benefits. The collaborative table is at the core of what Kurumbuka has and will continue to strive for.

There are benefits to sharing. A Swedish proverb says, “A shared sorrow if halved, but a shared joy is doubled.” A Rwandan proverb says, “Biryoha bisangiwe!” which means “it is sweeter when shared.” In French, it is said, “du choc des idées jaillit la lumière!”. This can be translated as, “Out of clash of ideas, light comes out!”.

Sharing enriches and sets one free. As people sit together around the table, collective wisdom emerges, resulting in a gain for the entire community. Sharing dignifies both the giver and the receiver. It sets free burdened souls and troubled minds. Truth is revealed, lives are built up, and transformation can take place.

During the last five years, I’ve seen graduates from ALI/Kurumbuka report that the program has been stimulating, inspiring and transformational. Methode, who works as a director at Youth for Christ, shared with me that for fourteen years he used to be a leader with an authoritarian leadership style. When he came to the ALI/Kurumbuka program, he learned about servant leadership. He went back to his school and applied the principles he learned. It didn’t take long for his staff to notice that something changed in his leadership style. He became approachable, and staff retention improved. Children became comfortable to come to greet him and hug him. Where there was gossip, mistrust and social polarities, slowly and increasingly, a new culture started to emerge within the school. A culture of ownership, care, accountability and trust. A culture of collaboration around a shared table.

Let us continue to seize this opportunity to build a collaborative culture, to make our voices heard, to share our best practices, generate collective wisdom that will bless our nations, our institutions, our families and our communities. We will be amazed how, in the end, we shall be enriched, united in our diversity. Our horizons will be broadened, our hearts and minds inspired and play a role confidently to make a better world around us to live.

It delights me to be among the many to engage in this sharing.

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.