Chronicles Of A 31 Year Old Bachelor: Finding My Leadership Strengths

21 June 2019 | Day 2 of the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) and already the focus is on developing our leadership skills. Well, YALI is essentially about leadership development, contrary to the belief that it’s a fully paid holiday.

I make my way up to the second floor where the leadership session will be held. I decide to take the stairs, because I’m consciously trying to be as physically active as possible. The promise is that we are going to play a number of games that would help us identify, define and appreciate our leadership styles. Of equal importance, today is about finding our Top 5 strengths as young leaders. Energized, excited and ready- the games begin.

We play about 4 different games, starting with ” Have you ever”. A question is asked and if you’ve ever done that, you had to step into the circle and meet similar culprits. This was followed by the ” Do you prefer leading from the front or behind” exercise where we almost crashed down trying to find a balance. The third game was a holla hoop exercise- the challenge was to lift it up with an index finger. This particular game challenged many of the fellows as it required a strategy that most of us were unfamiliar with. The last and final game also challenged us a lot and was the highlight of the day for many fellows. Our team was broken into three smaller teams and each team was given specific instructions without the other knowing. All these exercises had incredible leadership lessons- team work, listening, patience, empathy, humility; the list is endless.

The highlight of the day for me was doing the Clifton Strengths online assessment to help us identify our Top 5 strengths. The rationale is that if you know what your strengths are, then you are more likely to focus on what you do best, become more efficient and achieve your goals.

For years, I almost felt like I was “crazy” for doing things a certain way. I had to justify why I had meetings on a Saturday morning, why I was too ambitious, part of various initiatives and I never stopped. As a result, many fights ensued with a number of friends, colleagues and family regarding time management, not meeting deadlines or being driven enough. I didn’t understand how other people approached life, solved problems and made decisions.

I didn’t understand how someone could spend 60% of a day sleeping – OOH how I used to be judgmental . Over the years I gradually learnt to cope and save myself from insanity; but today, TODAY I discovered that I’m not as crazy as I thought. The YALI experience helped me find my strengths- and finally it makes sense. I found what makes me ME, so allow me to share my Top 5 strengths.


“Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself ”

My obsession with managing a very busy schedule finally makes sense. I’ve been told by therapists that “I keep busy to avoid dealing with issues” “I keep busy to run away from things”. I believed it at first, but today I know it’s not TRUE. I’m an achiever- I draw energy from achieving things- small events, projects etc. I do this because it’s exciting to see the milestones fall into place.


” Where am I headed? You ask yourself everyday. Focus, you need a clear destination”

If you want to frustrate me, assign me to a project where the goal is not clearly defined. Ask me to go on a trip that isn’t planned well or destination that isn’t clearly defined. I will cry, not because I’m crazy but because not knowing drains my energy. I will cry because I’m not spontaneous. I need details – I need a clear plan.


“You see the potential in others. Very often, in fact, potential is all you see”

My obsession with having deep and meaningful conversations with you on a Friday evening or at a braai on Saturday are important. I want to see you achieve your personal goal (s) and be a better version of yourself. I want to see you achieving the goals you’ve asked me to hold you accountable to. So allow me to ask you about the 5 year plan or how you are progressing with your studies or career. Allow me to ask you how far you are with launching your business.


” Excellence, not average is your measure.

Often times I will tell you that ” you had one job” and that people always feel hurt by my comments. The truth is I cannot stand mediocrity, because I believe each person has a lot of potential. I do not allow myself to be mediocre or allow my friends and family to be either. So when I hold you to the highest standards, do not hate me. My goal is for us to pursue excellence in everything we do. We are more to be great human beings- why are we settling for average?


” You are a conductor. When faced with a complex situation involving many factors, you enjoy managing.

The last strength is the most exhausting one for me. I suppose if things aren’t clear and there is no plan, I automatically try to control the situation. This was very evident with a trip to Thailand with some friends and many other projects I’ve been a part of. I want things to be in place ahead of time. So next time I ask about logistics, please bear with me and give me something to work with. I keep reading over the feedback again and again.

I hope that you too get an opportunity to find and identify your strengths; because when you do, a lot of things will suddenly make sense. Till then, allow me to explore the beautiful city of Chicago.

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