I recently returned from a nine-day trip to Rwanda whereI teamed with two colleagues to train the ASYV Mural leadership team of Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a residential community for orphaned youth, in how to use evaluation to continuously improve their educational and personal development programs.

One of the first things we did with the staff was to ask them to share a story about when they discovered that they were leaders. This exercise, which had their enthusiastic participation, set the stage for our week of training and learning. We heard many inspirational stories. We heard stories about:

  • Feeling compelled to take action to right an injustice
  • Making a difference in other people’s lives and their communities
  • Being entrusted with leadership responsibilities by people who are highly respected
  • Taking a risk to fill a major leadership role and then succeeding
  • Having leadership thrust upon them and rising to the occasion
  • Being chosen by peers to be their leader

Interesting to me was that nobody mentioned a college course on leadership, a leadership training program, or leadership coaching. Their newly acquired awareness of their own leadership capabilities came from meeting challenges they faced in everyday life.

When did you first discover that you were a leader? Where were you? What were you doing? What happened that told you that you could lead others and be effective at it?