Leadership in Action: A lesson in adaptability
This summer I have had the privilege of working with the Women’s Rights Initiative Uganda (WORI). In their own words, WORI is an “action-oriented organisation working with women and youth in the Eastern Region of Uganda”. Founded and led by Ugandan women since 2007, WORI respond to the “epidemic of poverty and denial of women’s rights in Uganda” (woriuganda.org). Through a range of programmes and services WORI envision a sustainable society, free from violence, in which women and girls are holistically empowered with knowledge, health, safety and recognition. In this blog I’d like to share some reflections on a challenge I’ve faced in my work, how I’ve overcome it, and ultimately how this experience has contributed to my leadership development.
Before going any further, I think it’s important to acknowledge a tension between writing this blog (exploring my personal development) whilst working on a social advocacy project. It’s crucial that my work for WORI always foregrounds the voices of Ugandan women and girls, so it feels a little conceited to sit here and write about myself. That said, I welcome the opportunity to reflect on my leadership development before returning my focus to WORI and their beneficiaries.
My internship is centred on WORI’s organisational development. Specifically, I am writing a report suggesting ways that WORI can expand their international profile and secure sustainable sources of funding, all whilst avoiding neo-colonial and ‘white saviour’ narratives. Unsurprisingly this has proven challenging!
Whilst my research project last summer, as well as my philosophy and International Relations degree, address many academic themes relevant to this work, the project has evolved in directions that are completely new to me. For example, an understanding of business/charity management and development strategies will be key to my final report. Initially this felt far removed from the critical and political theory I’m used to researching. However, now halfway through my internship, I’m confident that I’ve adapted and utilised my skills to meet this challenge to the best of my ability. In reflecting on my progress for this blog, it’s this ‘adaptability’ that sticks out as a virtue of good leadership that I should aim to develop further.
How have I adapted to this new role? In short, I applied the research skills I’ve developed throughout my degree and as a Laidlaw scholar, only to a completely new context. This experience has helped me come to better appreciate the value of these skills. I must hold onto the humility that my knowledge is limited to the specific focus of my project and necessarily restricted by my standpoint. That said, it’s encouraging to learn that I can enter a new work environment and, within a relatively short time, be in a position where I can make suggestions for development.
In this way, working for WORI has shown me the importance of believing in my ability to adapt to new working environments. Alongside the very practical skills related to charity management, this feels like a genuinely important way that the Laidlaw programme has helped me develop as a leader.
For this, and my entire Laidlaw experience, I’d like to thank WORI Uganda, the St Andrews Laidlaw team and Lord Laidlaw for their generous support, sponsorship and giving me this opportunity.