Scaling Your Leadership – Learning from our Virtual OHBD Future Leadership Computer Science Boot Camp
Ellenore Angelidis, OHBD Executive Director
Last year we were awarded a grant from the US Embassy American Corners to run a leadership program for young people with a focus on Computer Science and Business/Entrepreneurship. The American Corners are located in key urban areas, have skilled & dedicated staff, equipment, and space to allow for optimal learning and engagement with those in the communities they serve. I reached out to a friend who had led our first coding camp for girls at Lebawi to ask if he wanted to be one of our leaders. He immediately agreed and recruited some of his former students with technical backgrounds and leadership skills to design and deliver the curriculum and recruit the learners we thought would most benefit and contribute to the effort.
This project had a lot of challenges in an ideal situation. But add on Covid and regional conflicts and the challenge level increased exponentially. When faced with the choice of delay until next year or launch virtually, the team decided to move forward because the need was great and the enthusiasm even greater. As the team navigates each of the challenges, we are all reminded of the importance of scaling your leadership.
All of our leaders are amazing in their own right. Each one can do things that are outside my skill set and experience. Yet, we are better together and when we operate as a team. Part of our goal with the program was not only to contribute growth to future leaders in Ethiopia but also contribute to leadership growth for each of our OHBD team members and volunteers. The learning has been intense and multifaceted.
Here are some highlights we wanted to share because they are generally applicable.
1. A plan on paper can be perfect but the people part is always the hardest when you move to implementation. Be ready to adjust your plan many times.
2. Volunteers have a different relationship with the project and can sometimes commit to more than they can reasonably do, or experience unpredictable life changes. Expect the unexpected.
3. Communication is key to leadership and is more challenging when you are virtual and most have never met each other. When in doubt, overcommunicate.
4. Identifying people's strengths and putting them in positions where they can use them is key, although not always simple to do. You need to invest in really getting to know each of your team members.
5. Making hard work joyful and providing affirmation is a key to sustainability. A simple thank you for a job well done should happen frequently.
6. Owning mistakes and failures as learning and opportunities leads to continuous improvement. Everyone should model this behavior, regardless of their role.
7. Delegation and providing ownership opportunities allows everyone to benefit. No one can do it all alone, and most people dislike micromanagement.
8. Perfect is the enemy of the good. Waiting for perfection can be paralyzing. The American expression, “launch broken, fix live” allows people to move faster and without fear.
9. Listening to everyone will help you identify trends as well as see new paths. Listening should not be hierarchy based.
10. If your vision is sound, the mechanics of delivering “the how” may change, but everything you learn through the process will validate the mission.
Growing skilled, gender balanced, inclusive leadership is our mission, and we are honored to do this work. It has its ups and downs and challenges a plenty. But the joy and enthusiasm of the learners and the team has not waned. We are excited to watch these leaders continue to emerge and make their contributions to their lives, communities, country, and globe.
We are so grateful for our OHBD leaders and those from the US Embassy, as well as all the generous volunteers and supporters who have made this possible. We are thankful for all the leaders in this program and across all our efforts. Your commitment and generosity both inspires and empowers so many.