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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Leadership Essentials in Afghanistan

Clemson Turregano traveled to Afghanistan to deliver a Leadership Essentials program to the Afghan Army. In a series of posts on the Leading Effectively blog he recounts the experience:

"We would have to deliver in Dari. We would be working with a population that although very intelligent, and may not have a had a great deal of formal education. Every one we would be working with had served in war, with the Northern Alliance, the Mujahadeen, or even the Soviets. Some of these men had actually fought against each other, on opposite sides, at different times.

They were already good leaders – what can we do to help them become better, think differently about themselves, and their organization? How can we possibly help them think through the obstacles and focus on a vision for themselves and their country?"

He continues:

As the Afghan officers arrived for the program, many were what I pictured – hardened warriors, surviving not only years of war, but also seven testy years of uncertain peace. These men were the ones who were left, after thirty years of fighting an external enemy, then internal strife, then oppression, and now insurgency – these men had met and mastered the challenge of being true warriors. But could they lead an Army?

For the next three days, the Afghan Officers and their mentors endured the same challenges, revelations, bonding and cohesion that are the hallmark of a CCL program. At first skeptical, they drew their leadership windows, describing what made them good leaders and what they wanted to learn about leadership. They chose images from Visual Explorer that defined leadership ‘in their hearts and in their heads.’ They survived the Blizzard exercise and created consensus through teams – something many believe is close to impossible. And they mastered the helium stick activity, working together as teams to communicate and break down barriers.

At the end, one of our students, the nephew of General Massoud, commented to our American Sponsor, with his hand over his heart ( a gesture of great sincerity in Afghanistan), “..thank you for brining this to Afghanistan – we needed this training…All Afghanistan needs this training...thank you…”

Then I realized that in spite of the danger, the location and the population, we were not doing anything different from what CCL does every day – act on its beliefs, its principles and its mission:
  • All people are leaders and simply need to find the best way to lead.

  • Anyone can learn to be a leader if they want to stretch and try new approaches.

  • When provided support plus a safe and secure environment, people, regardless of background, will experiment with new ideas and create new opportunities."

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