I wanted to come to the ANLP for leadership development, but I didn’t really know how it would be structured and what to expect apart from what I read and heard from the alumni, so I came with an open mind. So far, I have been challenged physically and mentally at individual level and while working in a team. From climbing the high ropes on one day, to hosting the day as part of the lion team, storytelling and giving my presentation, all on another day. I have even written a blog, something I probably would not think of doing. I have made new friends and precious memories while doing new things that were outside my comfort zone. I have also received feedback in a safe space, as part of the process. Michael Jackson sang: ‘I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to make the change. And no message could’ve been any clearer. If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change…’. Hearing these words and looking at what I have experienced at the ANLP, I’m more aware that change begins with me. Going forward, I must be more intentional with my thoughts, actions and communication. In addition, I need to regularly reflect as I continue to lead from where I stand. While reflecting on top on the hill overlooking the Vaal river, I counted my ANLP experience as a blessing that came at just the right time. I can try and explain what it’s been like to be here, but I feel that words and pictures cannot fully describe it. The ANLP is more than a workshop or program, it’s an experience worth living.
l will take home a bagful of lessons at the end of this programme. Some were intentionally included in the program, and others are bonuses. I have been guided through the path of reflection and perspective. Every interaction and engagement meant something. Chaos is not normal. Zen, tranquillity, and serenity are. Sitting quietly during reflection brought into life a reality I did not think existed. I learnt that the physical environment where I engage with myself at a deeper level plays a critical role in the outcome of that interaction with myself. I will remember the passion with which Johan (pictured below) narrated about the ranch and the wild animals. How he navigated with ease around the park. How despite being on the wheel and looking out for animals, so we don’t miss them, he was able to identify snake tracks across the road. I learnt that if your mind is in the right place, nothing will miss your attention. A male buck was laying down in solitude, having lost dominance to another male in a territorial fight. This made me sad. I am told it will get to fight again in a few months. I bet he was strategizing. I am vouching for him in the next round. A seemingly unbothered male giraffe stood tall, watching the tour vehicles drive by its habitat. I learnt that I must position myself where I need to be and not let the noise around me deter me from my vision. An ostrich ran ahead of the tour vehicles looking for a clear exit into the safety of the bushes. He ran a long distance and left the road only when it was sure that it was safe to leave. I figured that had it just ducked into the bushes at the sight of the vehicles, it would have been tangled and trapped by the branches. Learning opportunities are everywhere. Interactions with humans, animals and nature. We only need to stop and learn.
It has been such a privilege to participate in the 21st ANLP. This training has unveiled knowledge, skills and attitude on how to “lead from where you are”, i.e. developing the right competencies through a purposeful commitment, understanding and application of the right processes.
Today is the seventh day, and I am inspired and motivated to apply these practical sessions in my daily life and my profession. My mind is set for a change, and I am ready for action. I have had rich interactions with leaders from Ethiopia, Ghana, Egypt, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, South Africa, Madagascar and Malawi. What a blessing! I am taking away with me a lot of new insights from the classes, books to read and websites to check. I am looking forward to reading books like “Dead Aid” by Dambisa Moyo, “Small is beautiful” by Ernst Friedrich Schumacher and “Art of small talk” by Debra Fine.
I am not leaving ANLP the way I came, my mind is transformed, and something great is happening to me. I will spread this good news back home and work to ensure others get this rare and invaluable opportunity to experience what I did at ANLP. I choose to lead from where I am.
When my friend Mercy came home after attending the 2022 ANLP, she could not stop talking about the experience. She used words like fun, intense and life-changing. She is one of those people that dares to test the waters. When opportunities arise, she pursues them despite having no point of reference from someone who walked that path before. She inspired me to join the programme. See, I am free-spirited at heart, but in reality, I stay within my comfort zone. This time round, I trusted her judgment. I read everything there was to read about ANLP on the online platform and marked my calendar for when applications for 2023 would be open. This seemed like an opportunity to take the shackles off my feet and dance; with my two left feet. The journey here was eventful. We boarded the plane in time and settled, ready for take-off. Then came the news that a co-pilot of the plane I was travelling with to South Africa had to be replaced. The attendant making that announcement deliberately mumbled something about ‘pressure’ into the microphones. We waited for an hour before the replacement arrived. This was my first experience travelling away from home by myself. I could have panicked, but I felt safe since home was only 50 kilometres from the airport. I was well within my physical comfort zone. I eventually got here and mingled with fellow participants. We were all strangers to each other. Socializing has never been a problem for me, so this came easy. I was, however, jolted from my comfort zone when the actual programme commenced. I quickly realized that I had to verbalize my input during the sessions. Why has no one told me until now that I have to project my voice when speaking? So, I have to ask for feedback and not wait for it to be offered? Did someone say that our ability to learn declines significantly after age 35? Reflection moments have to be deliberate and scheduled? Success should not only be acknowledged, it should be celebrated! Oh, my life will be one big celebration now. I will henceforth celebrate every win, big and small. It is five days into the programme. During the moments of reflection sitting by the river Vaal, I have had the opportunity to understand the nature of the shackles that have been around my feet. I learnt that I have to strengthen my internal locus of control. That I always have a choice and should pay attention to my self-talk. I got to test this during the high ropes challenge. I cheered everyone up but when it was my turn, my self-talk told me that I had a choice. The easier choice was to stay in my comfort zone. I did not have to do it. I could picture myself dangling several meters in the air. But then, did I come all the way to watch everyone else conquer their fears? Suffice it to say, the mantra be afraid but do it anyway prevailed. At the end of this programme, I will be free of the shackles around my feet. My two left feet and I will do a victory dance to the banks of River Vaal and deposit them there. My shackled self will fade into oblivion. I will be a ‘Mercy’ to someone else.
‘Trust the process’, I like telling myself and friends; but do I really believe this? I like outdoor adventures, and I had heard of the famous high ropes challenge from the ANLP alumni. I knew it would push my boundaries and with excitement, I was looking forward to experiencing it. However, when I got to the first track with the hanging logs, I could feel my excitement sort of taking a back seat. Another feeling was taking over. I was afraid. But why? Clearly, the whole structure was designed for this activity, I had a harness well fitted on me with ropes and carabiners that attached me to the cables above for my safety. Johan gave me very clear instructions on how to support myself with the cables on the side. I am wondering why was I so afraid that my feet were trembling uncontrollably to the extent that the logs were swaying from side to side? Many are times in my life when I found myself in similar situations. Challenging opportunities or situations come up, presenting a chance to grow in character or skill. However, because growth involves going out of my comfort zone and can be scary, I hesitate and allow fear to take over. What’s even worse is that because of the fear, I overlook the fact that the opportunity comes with a well-designed structure or system designed to help me make it through the process. If I can just take a few minutes to assess the situation, that helps me to realize I can face the challenge and grow. So, with feet on two swinging logs, ten meters above the ground, I decided to pause, calm down, steady my feet and trust the process and off I went, one step at a time.
Yesterday, when Johan told us what we were going to do for the day, I just asked him, “Is it possible to cry”? Ha ha…”yes, as much as you can’… he answered. Here it is. Today we come to face our fears and move from our comfort zones. Our journey to the high ropes was full of excitement. We even played some Spanish music that could give us some courage…It was Mary’s choice. The moment we arrived, ‘wow’, ‘oh’, ‘oh my God’ was the common words every person used. Then the host team tried to motivate us. We sat down and were given instructions from Johan and he told us that the perspective of seeing things when we are up there is quite different from when we are down here – my “Aha” moment. Thanks to the birthday girl that took the first BOLD step…next…next… then here it comes my turn to climb up to the height that was three or more times higher than I thought or imagined. I climbed up a ladder, walked on the hanging logs, the Pretoria bridge, and the beam. Imagine me depending only on a single rope, which helped me to keep my balance and walk through the three challenging paths. “Wow” moment …Johan, Did I really do it? Yip, Meron, you did it. “It is possible,” Francis said after accomplishing the challenge “Solidarity”, Cisse uttered after he was done “Promise of my four wives”, Ali demanded from Hamda It was not only me but all the 21st ANLP team who did it. Constructive instruction, motivation and solidarity made us winners of our mindset and gave us all the start to move on forward.