Lessons From the Inaugural Leadercast Expedition: Africa
A jetlagged but nourished group of leaders ventured back to Atlanta last week after spending 10 days in Nairobi, Kenya, for the inaugural Leadercast Expedition, a transformational experience that allows attendees to grow as leaders while visiting unique destinations around the globe. Led by Leadercast CEO Duane Cummings, Leadercast Expedition gave select leaders the opportunity to break away from their day-to-day routines and dive into leadership principles in an unfamiliar culture.
With each day came a new experience and valuable leadership lessons to absorb. The itinerary included a leadership panel at Strathmore University, serving children at EduKenya Boarding School and Mawewe Primary School, and activities like safari game drives and more.
“On the first day, each attendee self-assessed what their challenges were and what areas they wanted to improve in as a leader,” says Duane. “My only hope was to serve them well so they could come home knowing they had made strides in those areas.”
Duane served attendees Jeff Barringer, assistant director of recruitment at Columbia College, and Dave Koepsell, a Chick-fil-A franchise owner who was accompanied by his son, Nathan. Here, the two discuss their experiences at Leadercast Expedition and the leadership lessons they learned along the way.
What was one experience during Expedition that will stick with you as a leader?
JEFF: We attended Strathmore University in Nairobi on one of our first few days of the trip. There we learned about the success of their athletic teams. It was hard to fathom that a university could compete and win at the professional level in Africa, but the biggest surprise to me was the facilities that they use to train. I would guess that my elementary school had better facilities than this school had. The basketball courts weren’t level, the soccer field was only half grass and some fields weren’t even regulation size. In the U.S., this would be looked at as the reason a team couldn’t succeed. Instead, these teams embrace what they have and work harder than anyone else with their subpar facilities and achieve great success.
My biggest leadership takeaway from this experience was that we need to eliminate the word “excuse” from our vocabulary. The magic is in the preparation and in the attitude you bring to the table; if you prepare adequately and have a positive attitude, success will follow.
DAVE: The last day, when we visited the primary school, was the highlight of the trip for me. As we walked through the slums of Mathare, we entered the home of a local resident who had a number of children attending the school. There were 10 people living in the one-room home, her husband had been out of work for several weeks due to the elections not being resolved and she was also recovering from surgery.
As we talked with her about her life and the concerns of her family, we asked how we could serve her. Her reply was very humbling: The only thing she asked for was prayer for her recovery from surgery and for her children to do well on their exams. She didn’t ask for money or substantial means; she simply asked us to remember her in prayer. Despite her circumstances, we witnessed a humble leader who was leading her family and being resourceful with an attitude of gratitude.
How did the trip help you on your leadership journey?
JEFF: There are countless ways in which it helped me; the beauty of this trip is that there are tools that I will still be unpacking months from now. But I think the biggest immediate impact it had on my journey is awareness.
We spent quite a bit of time talking about awareness and the impacts it can have on success. I’ve been working hard to be aware of the nonverbal communication that I see each day. This increased level of awareness will open many doors for me as I continue on my leadership journey.
When we talked about this skill during our trip, I used the analogy of hammering a nail into the wall: Before the trip, I had a level of awareness, but Leadercast increased my knowledge in a great way. It replaced the rock I was using to hammer with before with an actual hammer. Sure, I got the job done before, but it was sloppy and ineffective. Leadercast helped me hone this skill and now it is my turn to use the tool it has given me.
DAVE: Leadercast Expedition helped me order the lessons I have learned over the years studying leadership. Going to a different culture and having others on the trip holding you accountable to things you wanted to work on as a leader proved to be life-changing. Transparency and trust became our ethos during Expedition, and if you are willing to hear what others have say to you, you will grow as a leader. Coming away from the trip, I have a much greater awareness of how to lead and be a Leader Worth Following.
How will your experiences in Africa help you lead your team better?
JEFF: The biggest impact that this trip will have on my team is the information that I have learned that I can in turn pass down to my team. I have some budding leaders on my team that can greatly benefit from the lessons I learned on this trip. My goal is to be the same mentor that Duane was to me, to them. True leadership isn’t just about one person being inspiring, it is about raising a team of Leaders Worth Following.
DAVE: The experience sharpened my leadership ax. There are many tools that we gain as leaders, and one of the greatest ones to have in the toolbox of a servant leader is empathy. During Expedition, we were challenged to be aware of the culture we were visiting and to have empathy for others.
Being able to see things from the other person’s perspective strengthens the culture you lead. When empathy is demonstrated to those you lead, positive results will follow. Owning empathy will provide opportunities to have courageous conversations that will help liberate the minds, feelings and barriers of those we lead. By loving people and growing leaders there is greater opportunity to be a Leader Worth Following.
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