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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Leapfrogging the Digital Divide

I am spending the holiday break in Goa, India. We are staying in a rural area named Santana. I am pecking this out on a BlackBerry while looking out across miles of marsh, populated with frogs, swarms of birds, grazing buffalo, roving pigs, and wandering country chicken.

What's remarkable to me is that this remote area -- where there is no trash pick-up and only occassional bus service -- is quite accessible via mobile technology. While I can't buy the local paper without getting to a nearby town, I can read the New York Times just as well as anyone in New York City.

In India, people are starting to use communications technology to overcome hurdles. College courses are telecast from major universities to hubs around the country where students attend remotely, farmers are making selling decisions based on market data via Internet links, and in traffic-choked cities, telecommuting is becoming a norm. In other parts of the world, banking and money transfer services are finally feasible for millions of rural people via cell phones.

What is the potential of these technologies to make leadership development and resources more accessible? CCL is exploring a number of possibilities along this axis. I anticipate that in years to come more of us will be able to live, work, and learn just fine in places like Santana, sitting as I am right now under a coconut tree listening to the chirp of the grasshoppers.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Designing a Sustainable Future

At the Design with India conference I attended in Bangalore, Geetha Narayanan, the founder of Srishti asked, is the current economic model (that pits development against the environment) the only way forward for India. While the conference showcased the work of talented commercial designers, the role of design as a means to take on social challenges was very much front and center. How can we make sure that economic development doesn’t marginalize the poor or destroy the environment? In Bangalore, the pace of development is simply staggering. New shopping malls, office complexes, residential high-rises, and a commercial airport are all mushrooming, outpacing roads, power, and water supply. The growth is dynamic and creating prosperity, but not without unwanted side effects. The idea that design can make a difference is key.

Design thinking doesn’t assume that what’s gone before is what should be, or that problems are intractable. The ability to envision and enact fresh solutions is predicated on the belief that such solutions are possible in the first place. Poonam Kasturi is a designer who is building such solutions. She is created Daily Dump (, an enterprise to support urban composting. Sixty percent of Bangalore’s urban waste is organic. Turning it into compost, reduces landfill and facilitates recycling of the non-organic waste, such as cardboard and plastic. Poonam’s solution is an elegant stack of earthen pots that can fit physically and aesthetically into small urban apartments. At Poonam’s design school, Srishti, alumni say what they learn that is the most important is the ability to think creatively. A broader challenge for India, is to increase the number of people who can think and create the kind of future we want.

The Center is working in India to increase the number of creative thinkers in an educational environment that has traditionally favored rote learning. In meetings with a number of educational institutions we’ve found a readiness to think about the role of creativity and leadership in preparing students for the future. We’ll have more to report on this front in the months to come.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Thank You for Your Support

You may have recently viewed our e-Spot by MediaSauce describing the leadership development needs in Africa or perhaps you have read the content of this blog and are wondering how you can help us with our goal to make leadership resources accessible and affordable to people everywhere.

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Note: It is most helpful if you do not select a Special Fund in Section 2 and instead simply type the text "Africa" in Section 3.

Thank you!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Business Takes on Poverty

Is using business practices to address poverty an idea whose time has come? One indication is that the top two gurus in the The Thinkers 50 biennial poll are C.K. Prahalad, who wrote The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, and Bill Gates who is now increasingly known for his focus on global health, development, and education. What unites these two individuals is the sense that we need new approaches to dealing with the issues of poverty.

Here’s what Gates had to say on the subject at his 2007 commencement address at Harvard University:

We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism – if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. We also can press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that better reflect the values of the people who pay the taxes. If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world.

Prahalad is perhaps the leading agent of this line of thinking. In his landmark book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid he argues:

For more than 50 years, the World Bank, donor nations, various aid agencies, national governments, and lately, civil society organizations have all fought the good fight but have not eradicated poverty ... If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value-conscious consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up. Four billion poor can be the engine of the next round of global trade and prosperity ... [and] a source of innovations.

Prahalad was spotlighted in a 2006 BusinessWeek profile that offered a compelling case for why the BoP matters to business. More recently, Prahalad looked ahead to the future at the 2007 BOP conference, paying special attention to environmental concerns (an hour-long video clip of his presentation is posted online).

The focus of the best business minds on ending poverty is cause for optimism, not only for their ideas and actions but for their ability to inspire many more of us to lend our own efforts to this great cause.

Can You Relate?

Increasingly in our world, large and small organizations are seeking alliances to create and deliver goods and services. At the same time, the failure rate for corporate alliances is in the range of 60% - 70%. An article in Harvard Business Review (Simple Rules for Making Alliances Work) suggests that too much emphasis is placed on strategic aspects of the alliance and too little on building the relationship between people within the two entities on which the alliances ultimately thrive or flounder. The authors, Jonathan Hughes and Jeff Weiss, suggest that a shift in emphasis is required (see graphic).

In the social sector, the importance of alliances is far greater, as is the desire to focus on the important outcomes. Yet, weaving the fabric of the joint relationship is essential. Rebecca Gajda in the American Journal of Evaluation (Utilizing Collaboration Theory to Evaluate Strategic Alliances) states, “Without a basis for trust and healthy inter-personal connections between people, strategic alliances will not have a solid foundation on which to stand. Collaboration depends upon positive personal relations and effective emotional connections between partners. Trust is only developed between partners when there is time, effort and energy put into the development of an accessible and functioning system for communication, and interpersonal conflict needs to be recognized as normal and even expected as the level of integration and personal involvement increases.”

The ability of people to build relationships and trust is linked to emotional intelligence and the ability to navigate differences. The Center’s work in the Leadership Beyond Boundaries effort is very much about helping individuals enhance their self-awareness and interpersonal skills. This is a growing imperative as we seek to accomplish more through collaborations, alliances, and partnerships. In the end, our ability to make grand cross-institutional relationships work rests on the humble ability of the individuals involved themselves to relate and collaborate.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Liberty in Liberia

The Center for Creative Leadership has been invited by the Government of Liberia to help develop a global leadership initiative for women in government. The effort is being championed by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first female head of state, and Tarja Halonen, President of Finland. In her two years in office, President Johnson Sirleaf has already enacted a dramatic transformation in Liberia, a country that has seen its share of horror.

Johnson-Sirleaf has set her presidency as an example of a new kind of leadership. In a speech on leadership at International Institute For Strategic Studies, she stated:

"I pledged to demystify the Presidency, and decentralize the governance system in a spirit of participatory democracy, which will ensure that every segment of our society will become an effective stakeholder, rather than a disinterested bystander, in the running of the country.

"... [a] daunting challenge which our leadership faces in the post- conflict period is getting our war-weary populace to renew their faith and confidence in themselves as a people capable of forging a much better future. This may sound simple, but it is not. In the context of post-conflict leadership, it devolves on us to provide the proper environment that will enable our people to regain their self-confidence. In this regard, we have the responsibility to put in place a governance system based on transparency, accountability, rule of law, and respect for the fundamental human rights of our people, as well as create opportunities for the re-emergence and rekindling of their abundant entrepreneurial skills and aptitudes."

Sirleaf's words are far from empty. The change in Liberia was contrasted by Steve Radelet, a development expert, in the New York Times:

[Before Johnson-Sirleaf] "... the 14-year civil war had killed 270,000 people -- an astonishing one out of every twelve Liberians -- and forced another 250,000 to become refugees. The economy had completely collapsed, with GDP falling by more than 90 percent between 1989 and 1996, one of the largest collapses ever recorded anywhere in the world. Children as young as ten had become pawns in the violence, with warlords abducting them from their families, stuffing them with drugs and arming them with AK-47s."

The situation today is far different, says Radelet, who has been back a dozen times in the past two years:

"Each time I come there are new signs of change: schools and clinics are being reopened, stores are restocked and repainted, the streets are ever more crowded with commercial activity, and electricity and water are being restored (there was no piped water or electricity except generators anywhere in the country for 14 years). Liberia's "control of corruption" index, as measured by the World Bank, registered the second-largest improvement of any country in the world this year."

The change in Liberia is cause for great hope. It signals the dramatic role that leadership can play even in the most fragile of states.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Transformation and the Twenty-Something

By Joel Wright

The Center has been exploring at ways to develop young leaders. New research, by Jeffery Arnett at Clark University in Worchester, MA, indicates that there is greater potential for transformation in lives of the average twenty-something today.

Dr. Arnett is a pioneer in studying and proposing that there is a new developmental time of ones life occurring between adolescence and young adulthood. According to Arnett, in the past half century what most people experience between the ages of 18 – 29 has changed significantly in industrialized societies. One major change is with marriage and parenthood. In the past, most in this group would start this phase of their life in the early twenties but now it is being pushed off until the late twenties. Arnett claims that the period from the late teens through the mid twenties is now a time of self-focused exploration trying different possibilities with work and love. Some during this period even claim a “quarter-life crisis”.

Based on interviewing 300 “emerging adults,” Arnett describes the five key stages of Emerging Adulthood which distinguish it from the periods of Adolescence & Young Adulthood:

1.) Age of identity explorations – exploring love & work which helps them understand more about who they are and what they want out of life.
2.) Age of instability – because of the exploration, their life/work/love plan is constantly changing as new decisions and explorations reveal new insights.
3.) Self-focused age – with so many decisions occurring during this time, only the individual can truly decide what they want.
4.) Age of feeling in–between – a “gradual” change from adolescents to adulthood which can last between 7 – 10 years.
5.) Age of possibilities – high hopes and great expectations, a time of transformation

Aspects of these five areas were first noticed and classified as part of “Generation X”; however they are now becoming more mainstream with subsequent generations.

Age of Identity Explorations:
While typically identity formation is associated with beginning in adolescence, Emerging Adults are still exploring and are much closer to achieving their identity. During this period they are able to try out different ways of living and different options for love and work.

Age of Instability:
While Emerging Adults know they need a plan, it is often one constantly being revisited. Thus, this period can lead to anxiety about where to go and what to do for the next day, week, month or year. Some Emerging Adults will even look back on high-school years fondly because at least they knew where they were going and what they would be doing next. Moving, typifies this transient time period because with so many choices and changes occurring, each one could direct them to a new place to live and with new people.

Self-focused Age:
“There is no time of life that is more self-focused than Emerging Adulthood.” With so many choices occurring: what college, what major, what love, what occupation, when to come home, when to eat … the only one who truly knows these answers is the individual. This self-focus is healthy and Emerging Adults see it as necessary before they make big relationship commitments in work, love & life.

Age of Feeling In-Between:
When Emerging Adults were asked to describe this period the most used word was “gradual”. “Gradual” could be a great summary word for the key criteria that most regions in the U.S. and in most ethnic groups see as the three distinguishers of adulthood:

1.) Accept Responsibility for yourself
2.) Make Independent Decisions
3.) Become Financially Independent

All three of these take on a “gradual” and incremental process rather than all at once. Interestingly, when polled by Arnett, 60% of those from the age of 18 – mid twenties responded that they did not quite feel like adults yet.

Age of Possibilities:
Without having truly been tested by the “fires” of life or being tied down to certain networks, responsibilities and commitments, opportunity abounds. Since many of this group does not live at home, personal transformation is a huge part of this period. Their ability to depart from their past – whether positive or challenging – and the many choices and explorations that take place can be extremely formative. This period can last for about 7 – 10 years.

For more information on this topic visit Jeffrey Jensen Arnett’s website:
Or consider reading his new book, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties.

Other resources:

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Improving Leadership in Fragile States

Leadership in fragile states continues to be a significant concern around the globe. Back in 2006, the Center partnered with CHF International to convene a dialogue on Capitol Hill to discuss critical issues and approaches.

The panel discussion in Washington, D.C. was titled "Leadership in Fragile States: Building Stable Societies through Local Leadership." The half-day event on Capitol Hill brought together an array of international experts to explore best practices for supporting local leadership in fragile states such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. To view video clips of the opening statements made by each panelist, including CCL President John Alexander and CCL faculty member George Houston, please visit the appropriate video links from CCL's website: A Capital Hill Panel Discussion

Here's a direct link to a statement by Robert Jenkins of the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Leadership Tools for Grassroots Trainers

One of the fronts in our exploration is the creation of leadership development tools that can be used by grassroots leadership trainers. In India we tested whether the CCL tool Visual Explorer – a set of pictures used to facilitate creative thinking and group dialogue – could be used by trainers who work with youth and community organizations. Philomena Rego observed two tests with Adrian Rosario, a leadership trainer who had only been provided Visual Explorer tool along with simple written instructions. She reports:

We used Visual Explorer with a group of 185 college and working youth in South Bombay, India. The facilitator used Visual Explorer with the framing question: where are you in the bigger picture? These youth were asked to consider where they see themselves playing a role at the present how they could become more involved in playing a leadership role. It was amazing to see them in small groups talking about their role in schools and at work and how they are able to make a difference in their own small ways. Some of these young students felt that they had the responsibility to make this world a better place for everyone.

Jeevan Dhara is an NGO based in Cheetah Camp, Mumbai. This is Asia's second largest slum. Jeevan Dhara operates pre-school classes for children, adult literacy classes and study classes. It also works on HIV/AIDS issues and drug & alcohol rehabilitation. Visual Explorer was used with the teachers of the above programs. The framing question used was "how do you see your work/role in this community?" The session was conducted in Hindi, as the teachers are mostly Muslim, and Hindi is the most understood language in Mumbai slums. The teachers enjoyed the session which was aimed at improving their ability to work together and stay committed, inspite of the difficulties. VE helped them to express themselves more freely since they were speaking about the picture they had picked. The pictures do not have any language barriers.

Another Visual Explorer session was held with a small group of Young Christian Workers in Mumbai on August 24th. This group wanted to help each other see the importance of belonging to the group and sharing their thoughts. The group felt the pictures made it easy for them to talk about themselves and what each of them contributes to make the group strong and meaningful.

The success of Visual Explorer in field tests such as this has encouraged us to pursue the development of a broader range of inexpensive tools that can be used by grassroots trainers, teachers, and community workers. These tools work best when they are simple to use and flexible in their range of application. More on Visual Explorer at:

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Transforming Society and Self

CCL’s Jeffrey Yip recently interviewed Sam Voorhies of World Vision for an upcoming issue of the Leadership in Action journal. Sam spoke about the role leadership development has to play in accomplishing the organization's mission.

“World Vision globally is growing very rapidly. We’ve doubled in the last five years, and we project this growth to double again. Human talent and developing leadership capacity is our biggest challenge. We can raise all the money we want, but if we don’t have capable people to design programs and deliver them locally, it won’t happen. Our strategy is to identify and develop local leaders and not rely on expatriates.

Most of my work has been at the national and global level in the area of program development, leadership, and evaluation. The cross cutting theme of my work is in developing leadership capacities across all levels – indigenous leadership, national and global leadership. This work has been a tremendous education for me enriching me in ways I never thought possible. If we are going to facilitate transformational development in the communities of need, we have to be transformed ourselves. I would say our biggest challenge is growing our own leaders.”

Voorhies' words echo the wisdom of the greatest change agents of the 20th Century:
  • Mandela: “One of the most difficult things is not to change society, but to change yourself.”
  • Gandhi: "As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves."
To address the great problems of our time we should take note that change must take place within people to enable the greater transformation we seek in the world.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Give One, Get One or Got One, Give One?

You may have heard about a recent initiative entitled One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). The mission of this non-profit association is to develop a low-cost laptop that could revolutionize how we educate the world’s children. Our friends at Continuum, a Boston-based design firm, helped create the actual laptop. Recent articles in Newsweek have shared a marketing strategy called, “Give One, Get One”. The idea is that when someone purchases a $188 laptop for a child in a developing country living in a community that represents the base of the economic pyramid, you are also able to purchase another machine for someone in your own household or community for the same $188 price. What a wonderful idea!

The Center for Creative Leadership is considering a similar idea. CCL has the privilege of training some 20,000 leaders each year. These individuals are given the incredible opportunity to step out of their work roles for as much as a week to focus on developing their own leadership potential. This is quite an investment on behalf of their organizations. We believe that many of these individuals and possibly the organizations they work for would be willing to ‘pay it forward’. Some call it moving from success to significance, others talk about giving something back. Would you be willing to sponsor a leader in a developing country? Would you be willing to provide resources, tools, or workshops for our global neighbors to help them on their leadership journey? Perhaps there will be a CCL-sponsored opportunity in the near future for those in the leadership development community who Got One, to Give One!

Monday, September 24, 2007


By Don Prince

CCL entered into an alliance with an Egyptian foundation, the Future Generation Foundation (FGF) in 2006. In this arrangement, the partner promotes CCL’s leadership development programs in their region, and CCL delivers the programs.

FGF is a non-profit organization founded in 1998 by a number of leaders in Egypt’s private sector. The Chairman of the Board is Mr. Gamal Mubarak, son of Mohamed Mubarak, President of Egypt. FGF’s mission is to transform the business culture of Egypt and to reorient it to international norms of excellence and achievement. FGF targets human resources at all levels, from recent university graduates to executives. A key area of emphasis is in developing the youth of the country. One of their phrases is “Working for a Better Tomorrow”. Their primary emphasis is on Egypt, but they have the goal to reach the entire Middle East region.

CCL conducted its first 5-day Women’s Leadership Program in January 2007. Attended by 22 women executives from the public and private sector from multiple countries, it was a great success. CCL and FGF are planning 2 additional programs in 2007. These are: WLP (November) and LDP (December).

As an outgrowth of the first program, the Egyptian government is discussing with CCL the possibility of further leadership training of government leaders.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Developing NGO Leaders with TISS

By Philomena Rego

India has an estimated 1.2 million NGOs. They work with the poor, exploited, and disadvantaged populations. Many NGOs serve their constituents through developing their empowerment and skills. Their own employees on the other hand do not get much by way of training. On our immersion last year we met with over 50 NGOs who expressed the need for leadership development. NGOs work in difficult environments and cant't pay people as much as corporations. The lack of development and support reduces their ability to acquire and retain talent and impedes their impact in advancing their mission. This is a critical issue as many NGOs seek to deal with complex challenges and scale up operations to serve more people.

To address the needs of NGOs in India, CCL in collaboration with TISS -- a highly-regarded university in Mumbai focused on social work, HR and other human services professions -- has begun to create a leadership development program for senior NGO executives. TISS is doing impressive work to scale up education and skills development (more on TISS in a future post). We found that we saw a common need to build NGO capacity through leadership development.

To inform program design work, in August 2007, we did a three day demonstration program led by Karen Dyer with 25 participants from various NGOs from Mumbai. The program was based on the Center's assessment, challenge and support model. We used assessment instruments, experiential activities, and rounded it up with a deep debrief. Karen also facilitated a half-day leadership program for some 20 school principals.

The NGO program will couple hard and soft skills development and be offered by TISS. As second stage will be to offer the program through other deemed universities in India (and beyond), and develop parallel offerings for government administrators and SMEs.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Leadership Beyond Boundaries - Colloquium at CCL on Work in East Africa

Dou Fall and Steadman Harrison hosted an update on the progress of the Global Voice of Leadership initiative on Thursday, September 20 in Greensboro, North Carolina. The colloquium focused on the work of a CCL team in Kenya and Uganda, East Africa during the month of July, 2007. Pictures were used as prompts for story-telling from the team’s recent experiences working with NGOs in Nakuru and Nairobi, Kenya as well as Jinja and Kampala, Uganda.

The initial work in 2006 included immersions aimed at providing an anthropological perspective as well as a rapid prototyping opportunity to test initial ideas. The team (including Patricia O’Connor, David Day, Dou Fall, and Steadman Harrison) returned in 2007 for additional concept testing with partners including CHF International, ERMIS Africa, and Global Outreach International.

Colloquium attendees included visitors from Boston University and the Archives of the History of American Psychology. The group of 24 attendees generated several innovative ideas (such as a hand-held tool for generating 360 degree feedback for leadership workshops in regions with low or no bandwidth). One attendee pointed out that CCL’s Leadership Beyond Boundaries effort in regions like East Africa, India, and Central and Eastern Europe represents a major differentiator between the work of CCL as a non-profit and many of the other consulting firms and business schools that have added leadership development to their portfolios in recent years.

We need your help to make leadership development accessible and affordable to our friends and global neighbors working in communities that represent the base of the economic pyramid. If you know of potential funding opportunities, organizations that you believe would be good partners in this effort, or you have an idea of how you can be a part of this work, please let us know! Start now by posting a comment here on this blog…

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Leadership Development is Not Wasted on the Young

B. Muthuraman, Managing Director of Tata Steel and mastermind behind the Corus acquisition, states in an interview that soft skills constitute a major portion of a manager’s success, but are not well developed even in the best b-schools. “80 percent of good management,” he says, “is based on what I call the behavioral traits of a person – it is the mindset and attitudinal make up of a person that makes him or her a successful executive and leader.”

In India, soft skills get short shrift at educational institutions that reward students for performance on exams. As we reported earlier, the economic boom in the country needs professionals who can hit the ground running, yet companies have to spend significant time – sometimes yearlong immersions – prepping new hires for the job.

What can be done to remedy this? Muthuraman suggests that binding reflection to action may be a key to helping young people mature more quickly as leaders: “…much of the development of a human being happens through self-reflection and follow-up action. Students and executives should spend organized time with themselves – reflect on their thinking process, aspirations, strengths… ‘Reflection and action’ is the mantra for personal and professional growth.”

The Center is developing a series of offerings to accelerate and support experiential leadership development for students and young professionals. These offerings for young people have relevance not only in India, but also in many emerging economies where the talent gap is a key concern.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good to “Go Do”

GOOD Magazine asked IDEO (a firm we worked with on the CCL GVOL initiative) to create a way to capture the ideas in a special issue on design solutions. IDEO, as always, did a creative and masterful job, overlaying a sidewalk cafĂ© photograph with handwritten notes about everything in the picture – from the potted plant (“help reduce greenhouse emissions”) to the billboards (“doubled as climbing walls?”). What most caught my eye, however, was IDEO’s re-representation of the magazine name “GOOD” as “Go Do.”

For the longest time I’ve pondered the seemingly opposing ideas of being prudent vs. proactive. This is sharply contrasted in Stephen Covey’s admonition to “measure twice and cut once” and Tom Peters’ hyperactive “ready, fire! aim.”

I’ve become more partial to Peters of late, understanding that “learning by doing” is a way to be both prudent and proactive. On our GVOL project we shelved traditional market research (surveys and such) for on the ground immersions that helped us understand the lives of the people we hoped to serve. We postponed business planning (a traditional precursor to action) to push forward with rapid prototyping and experimentation as a way of understanding what works rather than presupposing what the strategy needed to be.

It seems to me the change agents in our world are not busy drafting elaborate business plans, but are out there actively trying things, learning, and adapting their approach. IDEO’s mantra of “fail often to succeed sooner” echoes the words of one of the world's greatest social innovators, Gandhi, who promoted action and acknowledged the failure that comes with it: “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching” and “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sometimes in April is Something to Remember

I watched Sometimes in April, a movie that focuses on the desperate and tragic story of a Hutu-Tutsi family in Rwanda when the ethnic genocide broke out in April, 1994. What the film indicates is that terrible events don’t emerge overnight. In this case, the seeds were sown by colonialists who divided to conquer, as well as by the subsequent waves of ethnic discrimination. So too, as the genocide unfolded, cascading to the murder of nearly a million people, the world stood aside, because of the lack of strategic interest present in Rwanda, and because stopping the violence once it was unleashed required more than political statements or diplomatic pressure.

From a leadership perspective, the situation was enormously complex and difficult. No one was able to initiate, orchestrate, or stop the killings. The family in the film is well educated, affluent, and has connections to the military supporting the killings, as well as the movement that is enacting the violence. But all this proves insufficient to ensure their safety.

The film suggests that the time to act is before the time of war and killings start. We can act to increase social equity, to reduce poverty, stimulate economic growth, to improve education, to build civil society, and establish international networks that can act swiftly when needed. And who must do this? We all must.

The film opens with an eloquent quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Action and inaction are both choices that are ours to make.

Leadership Essentials for Youth

A group of youth leaders / camp counselors came together on August 18th for the first local YMCA-sponsored prototype of a CCL Leadership Essentials for Youth Workshop. We are calling this the Lead Now! workshop design with the intention of creating one-day, two-day, and three-day curriculum for youth leaders with a detailed facilitators guide and tool kit. Joel Wright, Paula Morrow, Matt Hall, Dou Fall, Tim Burress, and Steadman Harrison facilitated the design that included an Introduction to CCL, Leadership 101, D-A-C, S-B-I, MBTI, Experiential Exercises, and Visual Explorer. The youth that attended each shared how this workshop design impacted their understanding and practice of leadership. These youth represented late high school and early college age students. They were all current employees of the YMCA and selected on the basis of their positive leadership over the 2007 summer term of work. This was an exciting step in the exploration of youth leadership models at CCL. We appreciate the YMCA's partnership and funding.

When the participants first arrived (teenagers from 15-19 years in age), some of us were feeling a bit skeptical about what we would be able to accomplish with them. They seemed too laid back, reserved, a little too ‘cool’… these were a few of our first impressions. However, the CCL modules that we used are so engaging that soon we all found the room full of energy. The quiet and reserved kids came out of the shells and took on the leadership roles time and time again. The young women in the room really surprised us the most. One of these women was one of the younger counselors in the group and she stepped up to articulate the needs and initiated a plan of action on behalf of the group several times during the course of the day. The mix of experiential exercises and a ‘lessons from life’ type overview connected with these youth. They rated their appreciation for S-B-I and the MBTI overviews close to the top of their list along with Visual Explorer and the experiential exercises.

The workshop close really caught some of us off guard. We were remembering our first impressions and trying to figure out where these kids came from as they went around the room receiving their certificates and sharing their ‘take-aways’ from the day. Each of them described important lessons of impact like how they had a new vision of leadership, or how they were prepared to give feedback to the kids that came to their camp, or how they understood personality preferences for the first time, or how they planned to step up to opportunities in the future. We were really blown away by how far they came in the course of 1 day… it reminded us of the same sort of impact we experienced with the 1-day workshop in Jinja, Uganda.

The goal of this GVOL youth work is to create a workshop design and toolkit that we can put in the hands of youth leaders around the world. Our prototype from this initial design will be going to South Africa later in September and on to Singapore in October.

Eastern Africa Leadership Exploration

In November and December of 2006, CCL sent a team of five to Uganda and Kenya to conduct interviews, prototype new leadership development models and test preliminary concepts that were aligned with the design considerations guiding an initiative entitled, Global Voice of Leadership (GVOL). A second visit took place in July 2007. Our initial work was to translate the Center for Creative Leadership's content and knowledge base into meaningful tools for leaders working in a diverse African context. The team used story-based interviews to hear from local NGOs, CBOs, and FBOs how work was accomplished at its best and what the challenges organizations, teams, and individuals faced day-to-day. Our team developed what we now call a CCL "Leadership Essentials" workshop.

Workshops were hosted in Jinja (Uganda), Nakuru (Kenya), and Nairobi (Kenya) with groups of 20 to 40 participants attending each workshop. Experiential exercises were tailored to the language and context of East Africa. Hand-score assessments were chosen to provide participants with information about their personality styles when approaching change. CCL feedback models (Situation-Behavior-Impact) and leadership models (Direction-Alignment-Commitment) as well as our approach to development (Assessment-Challenge-Support) were utilized and tested at each of these workshops. The workshop was led by one trainer with no power-point screen shows, limited handouts, and no assessment pre-work. While CCL typically delivers a high-tech, five-day program, the CCL team delivered a high-touch, one-day workshop with similar impact.

One participant shared the following comment at the conclusion of our first workshop in Uganda.

“This training is very important and you need to understand why we say to you, you need to come back. You hear us saying come back soon and it is for a reason. Where you come from this leadership teaching may result in better management, better business practices. But here, here in Uganda this teaching has the ability to save lives. This region, these governments have been at war for many years. If they heard today what you were teaching us I believe we could end many of these conflicts. We could see an end to these wars.”

In July 2007, CCL returned to East Africa to train a group of 50 NGO partners for CHF International and to assist ERMIS Africa with the launch of the Eastern Africa Leadership Forum. CCL returned to East Africa at the request of these NGOs who provided a small amount of seed money to partially offset the expenses of the CCL team.

We invited LEAP Africa to co-train these workshops with us and they accepted the invitation. We want to explore a formal affiliated partnership with LEAP through which they may continue delivering CCL content and materials for a royalty fee. In July, we worked with a LEAP trainer and with very limited ramp-up in order to test the “Grassroots trainer kit” providing the appropriate materials and instructions for the delivery and facilitation of CCL workshop modules. This concept test was tested with the safety net of having CCL there to support the work. Based on our 2007 experience in East Africa we believe that it will be possible to create a training of trainers workshop through which we will can increase the training capacity of multiple organizations and extend the reach of our program content and materials.

The Eastern Africa Leadership Forum is a non-profit entity stemming from a synergistic joint initiative between CCL and Environmental Research, Mapping and Information Systems in Africa [ERMIS Africa] that focuses on promoting leadership and leadership development within the region. It draws from shared principles and experiences by the two organizations on the need to create partnerships, networks, and communication mechanisms towards development of leadership skills and resources. The forum envisions individuals and organizations within the Eastern Africa region applying creative leadership tools to solve complex leadership challenges towards sustained development within the region. The mission of the Forum is to advance the understanding, practice and development of good leadership practice for the benefit of society within the Eastern Africa region. This concept came about as a direct result of requests from the participants of the leadership workshop hosted in Nakuru, Kenya in 2006. The 2006 work included participants from diverse backgrounds representing NGOs (n=10), government offices (n=4), educational organizations (n=5), and businesses (n=6).

We are actively seeking opportunities to extend these initial field tests to further illustrate how the Center for Creative Leadership can create and sustain viable models and tools to bring affordable and accessible leadership development and organizational capacity to base of the pyramid economies. Please comment on this blog entry if you have creative ideas or suggestions for how we can extend this work further.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Of Scale and Substance

I recently attended the BOP 2007 conference at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The “base of the pyramid” thinking has been quite instrumental in helping the Center understand that it was possible to serve low-income markets sustainably. The idea centers on the need to create business models that are affordable and accessible.

At the conference I had a chance to hear how the field had evolved since the seminal works by C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart had been published. Two big ideas were expounded. The first was the need to consider environmental impacts of enterprise. The poor, said Prahalad, are often the ones most impacted by pollution. Job creation at the expense of environmental damage could generate short-term income but ultimately further marginalize the poor. The second was the idea that many corporations that had adopted BOP principles had largely focused simply on creating affordability and access for existing offerings, but had not pushed the envelope of innovation. A new wave, which Stu Hart labeled as BOP 2.0, was focused on co-creation with people at the BOP. This offered the potential of greater impact and scaleabily, as well as the potential for disruptive innovation.

I came away from the conference impressed by how much the field had progressed. The academics, corporations, NGOs, and governmental organizations present were all working together – leading together – to chart a new course that I believe in time will lift billions out of poverty … by enabling corporations to think more innovatively about markets they’ve failed to serve, and by unleashing the potential of social entrepreneurs to birth socially-motivated businesses that can scale up to span the world.

Laos Leadership Forum

Post by Patricia O'Connor

CCL Singapore was contacted by SNV, a Swedish-based capacity building NGO, with a request to participate in a one-day leadership forum involving senior public sector ministry officials in Vientiane, Laos. SNV asked the Singapore Embassy for assistance in linking up CCL and SNV. SNV had heard that Singapore “had” a Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) that promotes similar principles of leadership development and explored the possibility of involving CCL in a project. The Singapore Embassy contacted Roger Byrne who passed the request to Chris Ernst, who proceeded by conducting the initial intake. He identified a link between SNV’s request and GVOL objectives, bringing Patricia O’Connor into the conversation. Patricia saw this request as an opportunity to test a mini-version of “CCL Essentials” while exploring the potential of targeting senior government officials initially as participants and later as sponsors for future leadership development support focused on less privileged populations in their country. Patricia & Chris proceeded as a team to qualify the request, work with the SNV contact, design the modules, and facilitate the delivery. This opportunity required a very fast turn-around -- initial contact to Roger was 5 May 2007 and delivery took place 11 June 2007.

See the Laos Leadership Forum Newsletter for Details:

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Enabling Young Professionals in India to Reach their Potential

By Joel Wright

This project grew out of the work of the Global Voice of Leadership (GVOL) effort at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) to examine opportunities for “democratizing leadership development”. Through this goal, CCL seeks to make leadership development available to more people. The GVOL effort is exploring two areas of relevance to this report – Young Professionals, and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in India. Early research and conversations with Indian executives suggest that these two groups may be underserved in regards to professional and leadership development. We thus began a series of activities to answer three key questions:

1. To what extent do corporations and young professionals perceive a need for young professional leadership development?
2. Would new leadership initiatives be beneficial for young professionals, businesses and NGOs in India?
3. What are the specific needs for young professional leadership development and what strategies would be most acceptable and effective?

In an effort to understand these complexities, CCL sent a team of professionals to India and hired a leading design and innovation firm for this project.

Our Approach

When we arrived we were overwhelmed by the amazing culture, food and welcoming hospitality. The start of our visit coincided with the Ganesh Chaturthi which we learned was a festival of good omens, prosperity and luck. Perhaps a good sign for what the future would bring.

In no time we found ourselves talking with a broad spectrum of people. Our exploration took us into the educational backgrounds and developmental foundations of young professionals. We explored the choices they made as they navigated their way through schooling and into the early years of work. We spoke with educational institutions, corporate executives, HR managers, independent trainers, young professionals, NGOs and foundations that fund grants for learning, development and leadership. Each establishment provided us with a great deal of information.

Between the two projects we met with 43 organizations and about 200 people. Of the sectors visited, 42% were NGOs, 37% were corporations, and 21% were educational institutions, and training centers. (Fig. 1)

Challenge, Change and Opportunity

We heard that for young professionals, corporations, and educational institutions in India this is a time of significant change, adaptation and growth.

The overall picture that emerged from our conversations across the nation was:

· The high growth in India has generated a tremendous demand for young professionals
· Many organization are struggling to attract, develop, and retain talent
· A key factor is that the overall educational system is doing a poor job of preparing people with soft skills (versus book knowledge)
· Companies are working hard to develop training programs to address this need

We note three areas that would increase young professional staff retention, their overall development and performance, and the overall strength of the organizations.

1.) Preparation – do as much as possible to prepare young people before they land in the work world.
2.) Transition – enhance the transition into their place of employment where mentoring, coaching continued learning, training, and career guidance become a common practice.
3.) Support – continue to prepare this group to become effective team players and managers.


“Something needs to be done about that.” This is what one corporate trainer said referring to how young professionals are not being prepared with the skills needed for the work environment. While many young professionals and leaders in organizations expressed the need for better preparation, our findings show that a piece of the problem is young professionals have false expectations about the work world. Many describe the transition as “shocking”, or “what you think of the work world is very different than the way it is”. Others elaborated by saying, “the sort of mindset you get in the MBA is that you have these theories and this is how organizations work and if you apply this you can do whatever you want. But that…just doesn’t happen…it doesn’t work…it comes down to practical human interaction”. “Practical human interaction” is one way many express the recognition and need to develop soft skills, team work and interpersonal understanding prior to the work world.

Although soft skills are seen as essential in the work world, college students in India see classes in leadership and soft skills as of little importance. “During education, even when doing teamwork exercises, I didn’t understand the importance, [there was] no context or introduction”. Additionally, it was shared that classroom based team building projects could not compare with work place team dynamics, diversity of people, and challenges.

Some schools, however, are rising to the challenge by incorporating team assignments, field work and internships into their curriculum. These institutions won much praise from employers for the quality of their graduates. While some students at top schools are beginning to receive better preparation and training, there are many more who attend more traditional schools. For them, their preparation offers very little exposure to industry, leadership development or team building. Overall, nearly everyone expressed the need for less theory and more practical experience. With this in mind, it is not surprising to hear a lead executive say “only 20% of the graduates are employable.”

While better preparation for the work world and the development of “soft skills” are one demand of the day, the next is to address the transition of young professionals (from their university and into their first few years in the work world) and the need to accelerate their learning to meet the fast paced growth taking place in India.

“In our culture…we do not emphasize identity from childhood; a child can never say that I believe this, I like this”. In fact, until the start of their careers, many young professionals describe their situation as being on a “railroad track” or “always in queue” and rarely having to make life directing decisions. A VP of HR expressed how, “self awareness is not in management institutes” and that he needs “people who can think.” As a result, this lack of self-awareness is carried into the work world leading to time and “energy that is just getting wasted here and there” until the young professional “sits back and thinks about what it is they want from a job and if they’re getting it or not.” It’s not until this happens that young professionals will align themselves with the proper position and be able to be clear about their goals and what they want from career and life.

Some young professionals talked about how their “fresher” year-long exposure program had an impact in helping them align their potential with career prospects. They explain how the program was designed to introduce them to different departments within the organization, share ideas with managers and develop relationships that would allow for future cross departmental collaborations. As a result, young professionals are able to better understand the individual departments and the organization as a whole. Moreover, they are able to observe and learn about potential career paths they might choose.

Some organizations even blend exposure experiences with international immersions. One training director describes the impact of an international experience on young professionals as, “they come back a changed person, exuding with confidence”. One young professional stated that, “I got the big picture when I visited the U.S. [Prior to that I] was just doing coding, just [doing] a piece of the puzzle. Once I saw the end product and received feedback from customers I realized I was doing something important”.

Several individuals we met who didn’t receive these immersion experiences felt neglected and more inclined to jump ship for better advancement opportunities and pay. Others, who worked hard to get ahead of the pack and be noticed, hinted that stress and pressure was taking a toll. Almost all spoke of the importance of good managers as role models and mentors who made a great difference in their lives.

Support – Coaching for Capacity

As young professionals transition into the work world, support from within the organization becomes crucial to their ongoing development and success. Many organizations are recognizing the need for a heightened developmental approach for young professionals and are designing valuable programs that enhance self-awareness, professional growth and the sustainability of both. One way organizations are beginning to do this is by institutionalizing coaching.

While ideally the immediate managers of these young professionals should play the role of a coach, many are young professionals themselves and are still learning basic managerial skills. One expressed how he was, “not experienced to facilitate difficult situations in the office” and that "initially it was difficult to disassociate personal ambition and views from the situation at hand”. Young managers are often “prepared to manage process but not people” and need to “learn how to communicate, how to get people to do their work, how to develop support, and convince/negotiate with people.” Most young professionals do not have this type of experience and thus are learning on the job.

Not only are young managers not reaching their potential, they are also not able to support those they supervise. For one VP of HR, his biggest fear is that a young manager might “kill” unidentified talent and drive them out of the organization. Because of the potential impact on the organization and the challenges young professionals face, many indicate an immense need for support and coaching.

One intriguing approach adopted by a leading business school was to pair fresh graduates with senior alumni mentors. These mentors were helpful in guiding these graduates as they encountered difficult challenges of new jobs.

Convergence of the Social and Corporate Sectors

In addition to our work with young professionals in the corporate world, we were also exploring the need for NGO leadership development. What we found was that skills learned within the social sector were applicable and highly effective in the corporate sector. This convergence of the social and corporate sector is seen by some as not only a way to give back but also a way for both sides to learn and grow. These professionals described their experiences within NGOs as life changing, challenging, and very different than the corporate world, causing them to think in different ways.

One NGO we visited specializes in recruiting students for extended assignments in rural India. Participants in these programs described the experience as powerful learning opportunities that expanded their abilities, self-awareness, and confidence.

Could the social sector be a training ground for more young professionals? Evidence from both the NGO sector and the corporate sectors, leads us to believe that both could benefit greatly from the convergence of the two.


There is little doubt that India is booming with opportunity. Those with whom we met were excited and optimistic about the challenges and changes confronting India. Most were aware of the situations connected to preparation, transition and support and were either already responding to them or were eager to help address them.

We noticed a significant role for educational institutions to do more in preparing young adults with soft skills and real-life experiences. Our sense is that colleges and universities are a critical point at which to help young professionals reach their potential and thus should be an area of focus. In addition, we observed the need to accelerate learning and experience for young professionals as they transition from educational institutions and into the workplace. It’s here where corporations need to provide more support and coaching to facilitate the development of future managers.

The Center for Creative Leadership is in the process of working to help address the leadership development needs we encountered.