Another eventful year is coming to a close. For a third year I contributed a chapter to the Ready Aim Leadership book series, and was asked to write what I thought was the most important quality of a leader. I wrote about resourcefulness – by which I mean mental and emotional resourcefulness – the ability to find peace and strength within, to creatively turn adversity into prosperity, to negotiate between multiple worldviews. I believe true leadership skills can be developed when we are most severely challenged, and many leaders today are facing unprecedented circumstances that place them at the height of their capacity. I wrote, “If you can lose the things you depend on the most, without getting lost, you have reached the place from which you can be most influential.” The more we rely on anything outside of ourselves for our sense of dignity – other people’s approval, a title, a lifestyle, money, relationships – the more we put our dignity at risk. A question I often ask my clients is “Who would you be if all your needs were met in this moment?” They respond “ peaceful, fulfilled, happy, respectable, kind, powerful…” I remind them that this is who they are. The secret to being that person all the time is being resourceful.
In February I gave a speech to 500 High School students in South Africa as part of Star for Life’s Coaching programme to help them define and achieve their personal dreams. At least half of them were AIDS orphans, and most of them severely deprived, but all enthused with their newfound resourcefulness. I asked them to believe in their dreams, and to be patient, as dreams do not always happen overnight. I spoke of Nelson Mandela: “Mandela said ‘education is the most powerful tool we can use to change the world.’ Mandela had a big dream; to turn South Africa into a nation where people would live with fairness, respect, dignity and success. But long before he was able to make his dream come true, he was a high-school student just like you, he went to university and he became a lawyer. And for much of his life he faced probably the most severe obstacles to both dignity and achievement.”
Mandela did leave a great legacy, but an educational system that would enable more of his kind is still lacking in South Africa and so many other places. Resourcefulness is granted a few. And I’m writing this as 5 million children in Syria have lost everything. How will they learn to be resourceful as they lead their lives and future?
This year my young charity Integrate Hands, which supports local NGOs in post-conflict societies that help children meet international standards of education and break patterns of violence, sent teaching fellows on assignments in Iraq, Uganda and Ethiopia. In April, board members Jim O’Neil, Katharine Hirst and I visited our fellows in Northern Iraq. Since my first trip there in 2011, the local teachers have made significant progress in their use of the English language, and as a result are able to access information and resources via the internet for their own and students’ empowerment. And we witnessed the most striking evidence of their connectivity after hours of hiking up the spectacular Kurdish mountains, when a team member opened a laptop and inserted a mobile Internet USB stick to access an online dictionary.
To serve the enormous need for professional development and teaching resources among our partner schools, and to empower more teachers at a faster rate, Integrate Hands will in 2014 build an online portal for educational professionals to share knowledge across geographies, so that teachers in developed educational institutions can share best practices and support teachers in low-resource schools. This will funnel existing educational content on the Internet and allow approved teachers to feature their most successful practices.
In November I gave a second invited lecture on Cognitive Development and Conflict Theory at the University of Exeter, and began a collaborative project with key staff to ensure that our efforts and progress are measured against the highest level evidence based standards. More information on our fellowships and research is available in the project section at www.integratehands.org .
Should you wish to support our efforts, please consider giving a Christmas gift towards education that will last a lifetime, through www.integratehands.org/donate.htm . All donations to Integrate Hands go directly towards our efforts. We do not have fixed costs, and all members of Integrate Hands’ Management Committee give their time voluntarily and receive no benefits from the charity.
Professionally, with over a decade’s experience supporting the effectiveness of professional services firms through leadership and organisation development, and coaching business leaders and high-net-worth individuals, this year I also began working with Philanthropists to help them develop their philanthropic strategy and define their legacy. There is increasing complexity in the ways philanthropic funds can be deployed, and greater opportunities for donors to partner with grantees. Dedicated Philanthropists need representation with a deep understanding of their values and priorities, accurate perception of the challenges of grantee organisations, and the ability to bridge communication gaps between stakeholders to transfer knowledge and foster results. I am offering my combined experience to Philanthropists in a package of services that includes:
- Identification of values, desired legacy and donation criteria
- Development of a philanthropic strategy with defined timeframe and objectives
- Research, identification and assessment of suitable grantee organisations
- Grant negotiation and engagement in project planning
- Supporting grantees’ effectiveness through organisation and leadership development
- Reporting and presenting outcomes
- Facilitating round table discussions between grantees and philanthropists to identify best practices and opportunities for collaboration
All in all, it has been a year of beautiful experiences and growth. As a coach and facilitator, I remain true to my mission of helping others build resourcefulness to lead within their contexts. The further along this journey I have reached, the wider the reach of my efforts, and the itinerary is still unfolding. Nelson Mandela said, “it only seems impossible until it’s done.” I say, “I don’t know where my capacity ends, but I know where it begins, and that’s all that matters for now.”
Warm wishes for a happy holiday and an exciting year ahead,