“As [emerging] leaders, people must define you by your character, and not what you wear,” Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods urged YON –Gbon Youth Leadership Fellows during the group’s second mentoring and training session held recently in Gbarnga, Bong County.
Serving as Guest Speaker of the Mentoring and Training Session, Woods, an advocate and a former Minister of Government told the Fellows during the 3 days training session that to be effective leaders, it is important to recognize that ‘Character primarilyshapes how we engage the world around us, what we reinforce, what we value, what we choose to act on; and it is only those with positive leadership characterswho will contribute to others in powerful ways.’
Speaking on the theme,“Encounters,” Woods told the twenty three YON-GBON Fellows of the 2013 Leadership Program that, “as individuals and leaders, when you put value in materialism, it diminishes your value as a person and as a leader.” He emphasized that rather than developing and exhibiting leadership characters and traits that would enable us to lead in a comprehensive way, most of us live in falsehood and pretenses, thereby conforming to the norms that has plunged our society in crises and unwisely derail progress in society.
The YON-GBON Youth Leadership Training Program of the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation (KAICT) is developed based on the belief that there is a need for a new breed of young leaders dedicated to the promotion of participatory, enabling, transparent leadership in all sectors of Liberia, oriented towards a more stable country. The recent session (BLOCK II) is part of the curriculum components which is divided into six BLOCKS spread over one calendar year.
Attorney Woods said he has had several encounters in his life, including those that occurred during his elementary to high school days and his days at the University of Liberia where he became vocal on national issues. He said his journey in life and theexperiences he had up to the moment he stood before the Fellows allowed him to see ‘encounter’ from different perspective, and the experiences from each encounter helpedhim to make informed decisions. He asked the students to do the same- the encounter from each moment in their life should help them make informed choices, adding, “Every moment in your life is meant to give you the opportunity to choose to be different in a positive way.”
He pleaded with the Young aspiring leaders to beware of people who will try to convince them to give up on their character or integrity, saying that nobody’s perfect, and taunting them for being such unrealistic. Woods emphasized that the fact that nobody’s perfect doesn’t mean violating what you believe is right. It’s good to learn from our mistakes, but we can reflect and assess our lives and we do not always need to make mistakes in order to learn.
Woods concluded his interactive address to the Fellows by underscoring the need for Critical self reflection as a tool for assessment and growth, having the capacity to be courageous, accept consequences for decisions they make as leaders rather than apportion blame to others; being conscious, and have independent will and not always to follow the negative norms because “it is the way it is always done.”
In supporting Attorney Woods statement, Professor DebeySayndee, Director of the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation walked to the podium while quoting one of William Shakespeare’s statement, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Prof Sayndee, also one of the mentors at the Training session, said character is a central, important element of leadership. He added, “The wonderful thing about character and integrity, which are intimately related, is that they’re one of the few things in life that no one will ever be able to forcefully take away from you.” In this regard, the choices you make are your own.
The Professor then took the students through another interactive session- The Johari Window model, a simple and useful tool for understanding and training in self -awareness, personal development, improving communications, interpersonal relationships, team development and intergroup relationships.
After Prof Sayndee’s presentation, Senator Franklin Siakor, another mentor at the training session and supporter of the Youth Program,engaged the students in discussing qualities and characteristics of leadership, the different Leadership styles, and their impact on society.
Senator Siakor then completed the session by asking student to reflect on leadership characteristics that they possess, and identify areas where they need improvement. He urged fellows to develop their own approach to leadership and become effective leaders.
Topics covered during BLOCK II session included the essence and characteristics of leadership, introduction to different types of leadership, featuring into your own leadership qualities and how to use them in your community among other related topics. These followed topics of Detraumatization and Coming to Terms With the Past, Historical Contextualization, etc which were covered in BLOCK I.