Reflections from Graduates of the Transforming Leadership for 21st Century Africa Programme

The Transforming Leadership for 21st Century Africa programme offered by the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC), in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (HKS) graduated the second cohort of leaders on November 13, 2019 at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nairobi. The programme helps executives from Africa, exercise leadership amid uncertainty with skill and effectiveness, while communicating for impact, and combines the teaching experience of established faculty from both Kenya and USA and incorporates seasoned leaders to share their experiences in dealing with leadership issues.

Here are some reflections from the graduates:

Ali Akbarali
Chief Operating Officer, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Nairobi.

Share your learning experience
I learnt a number of concepts and tools that at first glance shook the foundations of what I thought leadership was and how I was performing in my professional and personal life. As the programme continued, I began to unpeel certain levels of who I was, how I was contributing to my own challenges, how I could grow and become a better person – and these tools will be useful to me for the rest of my life and I will pass them on to the next generation.

What has been your biggest highlight?
Redefining leadership and knowing that it is an activity rather than a position. I also got to understand what adaptive challenges are and outline them.

How has the programme helped you in your professional and personal growth?
It has opened my eyes on how I can be a better person. I have started to use the concepts that I have learnt very gently to create a shift in my organization, especially on how we look at problems, not to rush into solving them but really incorporate long-term strategies and evaluate whether we are achieving our objectives based on the adaptive issues rather than looking at a problem and trying to solve it quickly and walking away from it.

Jacquelyne Waithaka,
Head of Corporate Banking, Cooperative Bank

Share your learning experience
Profound and revealing! The programme has made me realize the difference between leadership and authority. I used to assume that both of them were interchangeable and that leadership is what one exercises when they are in authority but I had to learn and unlearn the new concept of leadership.

What has been your biggest highlight?

The realization that leadership is an activity, it is what I do and it is very diverse from authority – which is a role. This realization will enable me to do exactly what I am supposed to do in my role as a leader, using both formal and informal authority, in order to change and transform the organization that I work for.

How has the programme helped you in your professional and personal growth?
The programme was very timely. The organization I work for centres itself around people and it has been going through transformation. For one to excel as a leader at work, they need allies, circles of influence and partners – which is what I will ensure that I have going forward.

Rose Macharia
Chief of Staff and Policy Advisor,
Office of the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage

Share your learning experience
Invaluable! When I came into the programme I had preconceived notions about leadership. I did not look at leadership as an activity, rather I confused leadership and authority. This programme has taught me to debunk my assumptions and question my philosophy and application of it. I have been privileged to deconstruct all of my notions in a collaborative environment, where I have had amazing minds and thought leaders to bounce my ideas with.

What has been your biggest highlight?
Each day was a highlight, but if I could pick one it would be the interaction with other people and a realization that for over thirty years I had an idea of leadership that probably was not useful in the present and future of my work.

How the programme has helped you in your professional and personal growth?
The programme has lowered my pressure because it has put me in a place where I can now accept failure and manage conflict in the workplace. I am moving from a place where I did needed everything to progress properly, but life’s motion is different. I will now be able to better connect with colleagues and accept conflict. At a personal level, I will be more mindful of my leadership journey and I will be an increasingly adaptable leader, who sees situations from a different lens.

The graduates were from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Botswana, Egypt and Malawi.