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There you will find updated information about the Center for Creative Leadership's initiative to make leadership development affordable and accessible to people everywhere.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Organizational Leadership Development in Ethiopia Among NGOs

Update from Steadman Harrison

The CCL Leadership Essentials Workshop content begins with an individual leader focus and moves quickly to broaden an organizational leadership development lens. In prototype workshops conducted in East Africa from November 2006 through January 2008, experiential exercises were used to draw out the lessons and best practices regarding working with others. Trust Walks, Move the Mindset/Money, and Visual/Metaphor Explorer are a few of the tools we thread together in the Assessment/Challenge/Support (ACS) framework to address organizational leadership development. Participants are asked to think beyond their own personality and learning styles to consider the organizational culture and community context where they work.

In a recent workshop with nearly 100 participants from Ethiopian NGOs, CBOs, and FBOs a group of 10 volunteers took on the role of managers, 10 blind-folded participants took on the role of employees, 25 observers shared the perspective of the rest of the organization, 25 observers shared the perspective of the local community in need, and 25 observers played the role of the local, province and regional government ministries. As the managers and employees worked through a simple task to move a physical object representing NGO funding out from a fixed point to a nearby circle representing the community in need, the observers noted in the debrief how easy it was for those focused on the task to lose sight of their purpose and to literally forget about the community they were serving. Managers missed opportunities to engage with the rest of the organization available for support and complained about the challenge of working with government representatives when new rules and regulations were being communicated. During the debrief of experiential exercises and appreciative inquiry tools participants routinely draw the parallels to their everyday work and see the analogies and metaphors of these simulations come to life. Participants report that their understanding of their impact on others, their appreciation for the complex cultural context within which they work, and the importance of building clear direction, alignment, and commitment through their leadership influence increases throughout the course of their workshop experience.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Leadership for the BoP and the Bottom Line

By Philomena Rego and Lyndon Rego

On our trip to India in December 2007, we met with several corporations, educational institutions, trainers and young professionals. Most inspiring was our meeting with KC Kurien, who heads the people diversity initiatives at Pantaloon. Pantaloon Retail (India) Limited, is India’s leading retailer with more than 500 stores in 51 cities across India and over 25,000 people. What’s especially noteworthy is that the majority of employees come from lower economic groups. Organized retail is emerging as an important source of jobs in India, and is expected to add 2.5 million jobs by 2010. We found Pantaloon’s training approach to be remarkable on a number of levels:

  1. While the war for talent in India is aimed at attracting the best educated, Pantaloon’s employees are typically young people from slums who might not have a degree, but have aspirations like everyone else.
  2. Their innovative approach centers around helping these individuals be successful and providing opportunities and resources for developing their self-esteem and aspirations for their life and work. They ask recruits “what is your dream?”
  3. The training approach is holistic and extends beyond building skills needed to fulfill job requirements to encompass the overall well being of the employee. They provide parenting classes, continuing education, and even have a happiness index to gauge overall employee satisfaction.

We asked KC, who came to Pantaloon after heading the design school Shristi, how he developed this unique orientation. He said he gained insights from watching beggars at a traffic intersection and reflecting on why some beggars were more successful than others. He found that it had to do with self-confidence. KC’s stint with design enables him to look at developing people with fresh eyes and to try new approaches.

Pantaloon’s parent organization is the Future Group, led by the visionary Kishore Biyani. The organization’s manifesto speaks of “rewriting rules” and “creating the future” and identifies among its core values: leadership, building relationships, humility, introspection, openness, and adaptability.

The link that Pantaloon has traced between individual self-awareness / empowerment and organizational success is at the heart of the Center’s vision to make leadership development more accessible and available in our world. Pantaloon -- and the aptly named Future Group --provides an inspirational example of how we can create a brighter future for those at the bottom of the pyramid through leadership development.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Learning to Lead

By Philomena Rego

As a social worker educated in India, I had been through a graduate program where field placement was a requirement. At the time, only a few institutions were doing internships and fieldwork but now these approaches are commonplace in colleges as a way of providing students with practical experience.

Looking back, I gained work exposure and the application of theory to practice from the fieldwork, but the experience produced little insight about myself and my ability to work with others. It was ultimately of little long-term value.

In returning to India with an eye for ways to make leadership development possible for young people, it occurs to me that these field experiences are a fertile ground for building self-awareness and team skills. For this, we can couple these programs with assessment, reflection, coaching, and feedback. This would impart students with not only practical experience in their field of study, but the critical leadership skills that they can use for a lifetime.

Employers in India have complained that fresh hires arrive with a deficit of soft skills. The value of this particular approach is that with the added leadership emphasis, we could transform a common practice into a potentially powerful and valuable action learning platform.

We’ve begun discussions with a couple of Indian colleges to work to prototype an action learning approach for students. If successful they may be a model that can be scaled across the educational landscape to help turn a new generation of learners into leaders.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What's at Stake in Schools

One of the organizations we’ve encountered in our effort to make leadership development more accessible in our world is the African Leadership Academy (ALA). The Academy is a new educational institution that will prepare talented 16-19 year olds from all 54 African nations to take on roles of leadership. We recently received a note from Chris Bradford of ALA spotlighting some of the incoming students. Here’s an essay from Belinda, a 16 year-old Zimbabwean girl:

“In June last year (2006), I noticed a certain family in our neighborhood constantly came to my house to literally beg for food. I was greatly disturbed and concerned at this behaviour. I investigated further into the issue and was saddened to discover that this family was child headed by Anna (13 years old). Anna, who was looking after her sisters (10 and 8 years), told me that her parents had died of AIDS in January (2006) and because all the money had been used up, she had resorted to asking for food in order to survive.

I was moved by her story and with the intention of helping, I asked my mother to lend me some money. With it I purchased 30 chickens at point of lay. I had calculated that if each chicken laid an egg everyday, I would have a crate to sell after school. I would sell the eggs to my neighbours and on Sundays I would take the eggs to church. With money constantly available I began to meet the orphans’ daily needs.”

ALA notes that Belinda has continued to empower Anna by teaching her how to grow vegetables in a garden. With the money from raised from the sales of the eggs and vegetables, Anna was able to support her daily needs and pay her siblings’ and her school fees.

Belinda’s approach evokes that of social entrepreneurship and speaks to the potential of young people. In his article, Everybody a Changemaker, Ashoka founder Bill Drayton, voiced the need to focus on developing young people so that they gain “applied empathy, teamwork, and leadership” skills. It was important he said that we include those who have traditionally been subject to the kind of education that leaves out inspiration and empowerment.

“The children of elite families grow up at home and usually in school being expected to take initiative and being rewarded for doing so. This confident ability to master new situations and initiate whatever changes or actions are needed is in essence what defines the elite. Entering adult life with confidence and mastery of empathy/teamwork/leadership skills is what ultimately has given this small group control of the initiative and therefore of power and resources for millennia.

However, the other 97 percent grow up getting very little such experience with taking initiative. Adults control the classroom, work setting, and even sports and extra-curricular activities. And this situation, coupled with society’s attitudes, drums home the message to this majority: “You’re not competent or perhaps even responsible. Please don’t try to start things; we can do it far better.”

Clearly young people like Belinda rise far above their circumstances, and ALA intends to enable them to hone their skills as agents of change. There is desperate need for many more institutions like ALA, however.

The gulf is great between their potential and the present state of education in places like rural India, spotlighted in a feature in the New York Times, where teachers seldom show up at decrepit schools and children learn little.

“Sixty years after independence, with 40 percent of its population under 18, India is now confronting the perils of its failure to educate its citizens, notably the poor. More Indian children are in school than ever before, but the quality of public schools like this one has sunk to spectacularly low levels, as government schools have become reserves of children at the very bottom of India’s social ladder.

Among children in fifth grade, 4 out of 10 could not read text at the second grade level, and 7 out of 10 could not subtract. The results reflected a slight improvement in reading from 2006 and a slight decline in arithmetic; together they underscored one of the most worrying gaps in India’s prospects for continued growth.

“When they get older, they’ll curse their teachers,” said Arnab Ghosh, 26, a social worker trying to help the government improve its schools, as he stared at clusters of children sitting on the grass outside. “They’ll say, ‘We came every day and we learned nothing.’ ”

In India, CCL is exploring the development of a leadership program for school principals. Helping school administrators to think creatively about their challenges is key but only a small part of what must happen. Ultimately, we need millions of schools to embark on the path that ALA has taken. It will take a lot of us working together at the global and local level to bring about this critical transformation.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Overcoming Want and Waste

In the last couple of months, two long awaited BOP innovations were unveiled: the One Laptop Per Child ($100) computer and the Tata Nano ($2,500) car. Both these innovations aimed at providing access to those who previously could not afford a laptop or a car.

While much of the innovation in our world is focused on pushing the forward edge in terms of features and functionality, the OLPC and the Tata Nano focused on cost cutting as the frontier for innovation. Crossing this frontier offers access to millions new consumers. The OLPC and Nano price targets were widely labeled as unrealistic at the outset but as they drew close to launch, they resulted in a bevy of copycat offerings from mainstream producers in the computer and automobile fields. What the OLPC and Nano proved is that the true barrier to be crossed is not technical viability but that of vision and will.

As more products cross the price-innovation threshold, a worry is about the significant environmental problems that can be expected to ensue with greater consumption. Finding a way to produce green (yet affordable) products is a frontier that we must begin to tackle. Here too the great, big barrier is not about feasibility but that of vision and will. Will we see creative leaders like Negroponte and Tata embark on these challenges soon? There’s not a moment to waste.