An influential voice is my friend and colleague from the Wellspring Foundation for Education Theo. Theo is the Senior Program Manager in Kigali, Rwanda. He leads, manages and oversees the School Development Program that Wellspring has successfully implemented in the Gasabo District. His primary responsibilities are to lead a team of qualified and experienced teacher trainers and community involvement trainers to assist school leaders, teachers, and parents rally together in creating a healthy learning environment for Rwandan children.
I have seen Theo in action purposely and intentionally demonstrate what Bill George in True North defines as the authentic leader. “The authentic leader brings people together around a shared purpose and empowers them to lead authentically to create value for all stakeholders… they are more concerned about serving others than they are about their success or recognition” (pg. xxxi).
How did Theo get to be a model of authentic leadership? I believe it is due to a strong leadership foundation built from an integrity-filled character that is also generating tangible results. (Covey, 2006).
I was privileged to learn about Theo’s leadership foundation when I facilitated a course that Theo was a participant. This course highlighted the need for leaders to define a personal leadership platform, including their vision, purpose, mission, guiding principles, and non-negotiable beliefs. Not only were the leaders called to clarify these platform components, they were also required to demonstrate the ways they would activate them.
When I read Theo’s platform, I understood why he is such an impressive leader; moving others to follow him, and in the process being transformed themselves as leaders.
Let me share a part of Theo’s insights in his words to give you a glimpse into what makes Theo an influential leader.
My Personal Leadership Platform
The personal platform as a concept is huge because it encompasses the purpose or vision and mission, the intents of one’s agenda, and guiding principles and values or beliefs that make some be the leader she/he is to people.
The summary here is an amalgamated mix of my personal values and beliefs, my non-negotiables I hold as a leader in the organization.
I will begin with what I strongly believe in as a leader and the practical results of my beliefs:
My Personal Mission Statement
Empowered to empower in humility and simplicity!
|Beliefs/Values||Practical Results of What I Believe In and What I Value|
|As a leader I believe in Empowerment through delegation of responsibility||When I led a team of 12 Quality Education trainers for my first time, I had a difficult time with them. They used to always wait for every decision and daily plans to come from their direct line manager. I started changing the course and I included more of them in decision making and program field plans. This initiative revolutionized my working relationship with the trainers. According to their personal testimonies, they became more motivated, confident and focused. Many leaders in our African context just hold power and want to do it all by themselves. This disempowers people in the organization and makes them feel anxious and frustrated because they do not know what they can do by themselves since in most cases they are blamed of not attaining work expectations upon some tasks that requires in-depth exposure and familiarity.|
|As a leader I believe in Clarity||Sometimes leaders just do not release information because they think that by releasing the information, they become less powerful and hence lose control. This is not always the case. There are times when a confidential piece of information should not be sharable with everyone in the organization but there is also another category of information that everybody in the organization should know about. In my team leadership, I ensure that I share every piece of information that is not confidential because I have seen that by communicating clearly there is fewer politics and people feel more secure and valued in the organization.|
|I value and believe in Listening||Listening is a powerful tool for any successful leader. When you listen, you discover the motives and agenda of the heart. When you listen, you understand deep issues and you are able to provide appropriate support in situations. There are times in the team I lead when the team thinks that a certain task is totally impossible to achieve. They present the case on my desk and I ask them: ‘Can we have time together as a team when we can reflect on that?’ Whenever we had this discussion together the unsolvable task became so simple and achievable due to the fruit of listening. Listening yielded guidance and inspiration.|
|I value grace and trust||As a leader, I had also other leaders who shaped me in my leadership journey. I realized that I was not always perfect, and I needed grace many times. A leader who does not have grace impacts less. Grace is a reflection of Jesus in how He himself handles us. He does not reject us when we mess things up. Instead, He listens to us when we approach His gracious throne with humility and repentance. I have learned that as a leader there are times when you have to just let things go because that is not going to cause the end of the world. I have learned that many people learn from their mistakes, so I have trained my heart to abound in grace whenever possible so that failure is not seen as an absolute incapacity but rather serves as a tool for growing skills we did not have before. I also choose to trust other leaders around me and give them full authority and responsibility to carry out with confidence what I have entrusted them with. As a result, I have received many testimonies of young leaders sharing with me that this has impacted their leadership perspectives.|
|I belief that I am not an end in my self||I believe that everyone has a contribution to make. I cannot do it alone. That is why I intentionally invite other people into the work so that we can accomplish it together. I have seen this working very well with the team I lead at Wellspring. After all, every time they have accomplished a task, they feel more empowered and say, “They have done it with less intervention from our line manager”. This makes me happy as a leader because my role is to help people do what they thought they could not do by themselves.|
|I believe that I am unique-There is no duplicate of ‘Me’||I believe that the Creator made me so unique that my contributions are also unique if I am serving where He intends me to serve. I learned to be confident while recognizing my areas of growth. My strengths make me respected by colleagues and I also respect them because of what they are very good at.|
Theo has done a remarkable job as a leader, transforming himself, the organization he serves with, and the multitude of people he has served. His honest, clear, and vulnerable statements in his platform are a model that others should emulate. Theo is a prime example of how an authentic and humble leader can influence and impact by activating his knowledge and non-negotiable beliefs. His leadership platform helps to define his leadership. Even more importantly though, Theo “walks his talk.”
Theo is a leader worth listening to, and an inspirational voice around the Leadership is Heart table.