Discovering myself as a Leader – By Ralf Siwiti
It’s a month now since I completed the African Nutrition Leadership Programme (ANLP) at Elgro River Lodge in Potchefstroom, South Africa. It’s an intense 10 days of learning sessions, team activities and responsibilities that stretch the very limits of an individual in the best possible way. The analogy that comes to mind is “gold tried by fire”. Yes, the more I think about it, that analogy of purifying gold in intense fire sums up my ANLP experience because I really emerged a shining better, bright and vibrant leader!
I went to ANLP with a rough idea and somewhat decent understanding of my capabilities including how I could be a better leader. However, it never occurred to me that there are things about myself as well as my leadership potential that I have not been harnessing in my work as convenor of the SUN Business Network in Zambia. ANLP helped me discover my inner leadership “gold” through tools like the Belbin Team Roles (helps to identify the role that an individual plays well in a team based on rankings of how well one plays different roles) which helped me realise that I excel as an implementer; or the Johari Window (a self-awareness assessment tool) which drew me to the importance of asking for feedback if am going to lead people effectively.
By far though, the experiences and exercises during the ANLP course had the most impact on my life. Through the team tasks we were assigned, I learnt the value of standing back in a team and not placing a premium on how I would want something to be done or my ideas but accommodating other people’s ideas. My presentation skills have also stepped up a notch following an exercise of impromptu presentations which left me with a now imbedded practice of only developing PowerPoint presentations after I have taken a few hours to critically think through my audience and my one key message.
I think I see gold in the fire
Right there in the ashes, is all you’ve desired
Oh, it’s hard, As you press toward the goal
Don’t give up, Don’t give in, Don’t stop now
I think I see gold
(I think I see Gold by Ray Boltz)
It was however, only three days before the end of the course during a reflection session that the greatest discovery about myself occurred to me: I am full of infectious energy! All through the 10 days, I was constantly going at full throttle with every task and would not stop until bed time (which was almost always after midnight!). When I reflected deeply about how I could harness this great wealth of energy, I realised that the reason I was kept full of energy is that I had done something I rarely do – just be me and let go of myself. Amongst other things, I was not holding back or over-thinking things; I danced when we were told to; sang even though my voice is terrible; I laughed a lot and made myself available (even doing a stand-up comedy show!). This allowed me to release all the energy that was deep within me. The best part is that by doing this, I was not only keeping my team mates energetic but the whole group kept catching this energy too.
Now I know my greatest leadership resource – providing the energy – it is what gets people motivated and moving. As solving nutrition problems becomes increasingly important to my country, Africa and the world, we all need to be filled with energy to keep pushing in the right direction. Am glad that I can help do that from where I stand leading my team at the SUN Business Network in Zambia and beyond.
I am glad ANLP helped me find my “gold” of energy!
About the Author: Ralf Siwiti is the convenor of SUN Business Network Zambia, hosted by the World Food Programme. His background includes working in marketing and sales for Unilever, G4S and Colalife in addition to various roles at the World Food Programme. He has a keen passion for creativity and marketing and enjoys working across sectors.
Learn more about the 2017 African Nutrition Leadership Progamme.