Can leadership development be a tool for peace? In late 2009, CCL explored this question with a program designed to create understanding in the conflict-riddled zone of Gambella, Ethiopia.

Last year, as Steadman Harrison laid the groundwork for opening CCL’s Leadership Beyond Boundariesoffice in Addis Ababa (he and his family just relocated there for a three-year assignment), he met Aaron White of Samaritan’s Purse.

Samaritan’s Purse had been supporting capacity-building work in Gambella, on the western edge of Ethiopia. Harrison learned that conflict across ethnic groups has ignited disputes over land, resources and power for decades. More than 2,000 people have died in the last 10 years because of tribal conflict. White wondered, “Could CCL’s Leadership Beyond Boundaries workshops help with conflict resolution? Could leadership be a lever for peace?”

Several months later, Harrison and White, along with J.T. Vaughn (a CCL Leadership Beyond Boundariestrainer) introduced “Leadership Essentials for Peace” to 29 men and one woman in Gambella. For three days, the participants — speaking four languages, representing three tribal groups and serving in local government, NGO and community roles — focused on building trust, seeing issues through others’ eyes and considering what they could do personally to foster peaceful resolution of problems.

Participants began to see conflict in a new way and to imagine a shared, more peaceful future. They spoke of taking new risks to create the future.

“CCL comes here from America to inspire us,” said one participant to his peers. “They come with the name Leadership Beyond Boundaries. They come facing many uncertainties, putting aside their fears. For me, I am challenged with this question: What does Leadership Beyond Boundaries look like for each of us here in Gambella? Will we be courageous and face uncertainties of our own? Will we go 20 miles across the river to talk to those tribes we have been at war with in the past to bring this message about leadership and peace?”

Harrison believes the “Leadership Essentials for Peace” participants took CCL’s ideas and methods to heart. “We could see natural leadership taking place. The local leaders were candid and truthful with each other and determined to go forward and make change.”

“We brought the program to a close with the entire class helping to build a set of rock stairs,” Harrison recalls. “The steps, standing in the courtyard of a government complex in Gambella, remain a testimony to their commitment to peace.”

“These steps we have created today remind us that we start with a basic awareness … today we are here at the base, at this very first step,” said one participant. “Tomorrow we will continue to build our skills, and when we get to this next step we will be working to teach others that which you are teaching us today.”

Added another leader: “In the past, rocks have been used to kill our neighbors. Today, as leaders, we are using them for good – to build a foundation for peace.”

Putting Leadership Into the Hands and Hearts of Many

From an initial prototype workshop with local African leaders in Jinja, Uganda in 2006 to a movement that will reach more than 10,000 Africans by the close of 2010, CCL’s Leadership Beyond Boundaries (LBB) initiatives are putting leadership tools and models into the hands and hearts of grassroots leaders and local governments.

Early on, the LBB work solidified around two key efforts: distilling powerful leadership ideas and processes into a toolkit of “essentials” and putting those tools into the hands of community organizations, government agencies, educational institutions and NGOs.

Through an innovative, on-the-ground process that has evolved though experience and collaboration with partners primarily in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia, we created the “Leadership Essentials” program. Designed to be flexible, low-cost and easily shared, Leadership Essentials begins with the individual leader and quickly broadens to the application of leadership at work, at home and in communities. CCL is using the same approach to bring leadership development to communities in India, as well as to public health organizations, microfinance initiatives and even to schools and other youth organizations.

Visit the Leading Beyond Boundaries Web site – www.leadbeyond.org – for stories, photos and inspiration.

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