Today I would like to reflect on my leadership journey at university and how it has contributed to my personal growth and why you should consider leading and volunteering if you are not already doing so.
When I started my Mining Engineering degree at Wits University, I was advised to join the Christian Action Fellowship(CAF), a place which became my spiritual home. I then joined what was called Men’s Fellowship, it was a congregation of brothers that advised each other on the issues that affected them. Later in the same year I was then elected to lead the team-that was the beginning of my leadership journey.
The CAF was founded by Wits students in 1986, making it one of the oldest student organisation on campus. It is wholly student led, with the Chaplain only providing oversight role-mostly intervening when the leadership is confronted with some difficulties. The long existence and continued strength of the organisation is what makes it a great platform for learning about building a lasting organisation and most importantly, becoming an ethical and effective leader-a rare breed of leaders Africa so desperately needs.
There are two guiding documents that have been critical to sustaining the organisation, the Policy Document and the Constitution. At some point I was part of the CAF’s Constitutional Assembly member, a group of few former and current leaders who were responsible for updating the constitution and making sure that the general conduct of the incumbent leadership is in line with the guiding principles of the organisation. These experiences taught me the importance of clarity of purpose, consistency in pursuit and adherence to fundamental principles to ensure accomplishment. In addition to that, the ability to reinvent and adjust to change is key-and that’s why we had to update the constitution from time to time and also modify the structure-something which was uncomfortable to do.
In addition to the above said, a great system of governance and effectively managed handover arrangements have helped the organisation to ensure that previous mistakes are avoided and new best practices are taken forward. Also, a culture of integrity, love and accountability among others, were some of the things I experienced at the CAF.
Leading within established structures helps you to develop the discipline of governance, and to understand authority and how to deal with power struggles. They also teach you accountability and responsibility, it is known that at the CAF you will be ‘grilled’ if you do not perform or you take reckless decisions. To think of it, some of our ‘leaders’ lack these two elements-hence poor service delivery and a lacklustre progress in our communities.
In those times, I would often volunteer my time to go to a children’s orphanage home that the CAF had adopted, we would go and help children with home works and to talk to them to instill passion for education in them so that they can better their lives. This taught me to be socially conscious of the challenges in my surrounding and to see myself as part of the solutions.
So for those looking to build empires and great legacies, I think it will be worth their time to volunteer their services within existing structures so that you can learn how things work before you take off on your own.
After the CAF, I went on to serve as the Secretary of the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals (ABSIP), and immediately after that I became the Chairperson. At the end of my term of service, I was recognised as the Student Leader of the Year across 12 universities. Both organisations played fundamental role in grooming me, at ABSIP I had the privilege of inviting company executives and high profile individuals, this is where I learned to engage with individuals who make the news and I had to cope with it and build relationships with them. I will reflect on my experiences of ABSIP in the near future.