It has been an amazing academic year at SI NFGL Network in Lund. Being one of the biggest networks, it is always a challenge to engage every SI member.
However, we have been privileged enough to count on the strong support and active engagement of several current scholarship holders and also alumni. Their ideas and participation, along with the support from the board, has made possible over a dozen events, not including social gatherings or as we usually call them while living in Sweden, having fika!
The events covered different professional disciplines and they captured the interest of different groups of SI members.
Ranging from professional photoshoots of our members to seminars on public speaking and lectures on entrepreneurship and development work where the learned skills were put into practice, as well as the screening of documentaries on women’s rights to workshops to raise awareness on gender equality and diversity.
Last but not least, study visits and workshops to Medicon Village in Lund, waste management plants like Sysav and Filbornaverket in Malmö and Helsingborg respectively, UN City in Copenhagen, one of the leading Swedish startup UNITI’s electric-car worldwide debut in Landskrona and an upcoming visit to IKEA’s innovation and product development center in Älmhult.
Before the end of the semester, we will have few more events on entrepreneurship and business and a community event together with Save the Children.
All of these events have been possible thanks to the financial support of the Swedish Institute, key partners in Lund like the International Desk who always supported us when a venue was needed to host an event.
Lastly, and most importantly, thanks to the active and continuous involvement of SI members whose ideas were followed by time and effort to make them possible so that we all can learn from each other, from other professionals and from organizations who are leading the way towards sustainable development.
Thus, given that all SI members come from different backgrounds and have differing experiences, on this occasion at Lund Network we wanted to involve SI scholarship holders who have shown leadership and actively contributed to the network. We asked them a few questions that would give SI News more details of their past and present experience, as well as their hopes and expectations in their role as future global leaders.
What is the typical leadership style in your country and how does it differ or how is it similar to your values?
Nini, from Georgia, states that “unfortunately the most common leadership style still remains strictly hierarchical. For me, the most effective leadership is transformational, where everyone is engaged throughout the decision-making process. Everyone is motivated to work together to identify the need for change, create a vision and set goals.”
Likewise, according to Angel from Macedonia, leadership in his country is mostly traditional and hierarchical. “The leader is the boss who knows everything, takes almost no criticism and makes the final decision. For me personally, that has always been a problem because I have had a hard time obeying people if it’s due to their position. Of course, people should obey the laws and respect authorities but when it comes to leadership and human-to-human relationships, I believe such an approach has a devastating impact on everyone, including the leaders themselves. They get lost in their world, perhaps the best examples of that are our political leaders.”
Ken from Kenya agrees with both Nini and Angel stating that “Kenya has a hierarchical leadership style.” Information and instructions flow from the top downwards, and he would prefer a more consultative leadership.
However, an interesting perspective was shared by Ha-An, who is from Vietnam: “In Vietnam, leadership is often practised in the vertical hierarchy. Though where I worked before, this was minimised, which is similar to the Swedish one to some extent. My peers and I, I believe, experienced more discussions and sometimes debates before the decisions could be made. I value respect and openness to differences and find myself enjoying such conversations where everyone is encouraged to give a voice.”
In your experience, what can we can learn from Swedish-style leadership?
Tea, from Georgia, said, “I like that it is at its core to listen to everyone’s opinion and make decisions based on reaching the consensus. This type of leadership is very close to my values… it enables inclusion, diversity, and creativity. It decreases the chance of losing great ideas or opinions and makes sure that everyone’s voice is heard”.
She adds that “you can e-mail the CEO of organizations directly, get responses and be invited to have a fika with them.” Lastly, “you can write and talk to people directly using their first names without mentioning their titles… this stresses that we are all equal.”
Eunice, from Kenya, agrees with Tea commenting that she likes how the notion of power doesn’t influence how people relate to each other. She continues, “if this leadership style was adopted in my country, more positive development would be realised as leaders would care more about the citizens”.
In like manner, Ken likes that “is open and flat, every view is taken into consideration.”
Ha-An thinks that “It is always easier to talk than to listen” and keeping a neutral stance until everyone expresses their opinions is a good practice to learn.
Bushra, from Bangladesh, agrees with Ha-An and stated, “Swedish leadership style taught me to respect others’ opinion and give equal attention to each participant.”
How has being a member of SI NFGL Lund Network contributed to strengthening your leadership skills?
For Nini, it has strengthened her emotional intelligence, which is a crucial asset for successful leadership.
She adds, “as the marketing representative of the network, I have been in charge of assisting event organizers with an online presence and audience engagement. I have gained experience in working in international environments and become more aware of cultural differences.”
For Tea, SI NFGL helped her to strengthen her leadership skills by being inclusive in decision-making and actions.
Additionally, Thiago from Brazil had the opportunity to create and run events with other members, where he got to improve communication, negotiation and organizational skills, which are essential to be leaders.
Both these experiences sum-up Bushra’s feeling towards the privilege of working with people from diverse backgrounds and cultural context while performing as treasurer of NFGL Lund Network.
Yasmin from Indonesia felt so relieved when she decided to join as one of the event creators in SI NFGL Lund since previously, she was only a participant. “For me, leadership skills are not limited to being a leader, it also includes how you lead yourself to do something useful! The experience also taught me how to engage in communication with different people I barely knew beforehand, so it was a very delightful moment during my encounter in the network.“
Line, from Seychelles, was part of the organizing the team for the LGTBQ -Gender & Equality workshop. For her, “the workshop was a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper understanding and to learn about gender issues and equality…by being part of the organizing team, it has provided me with an opportunity to empower my fellow SI colleagues on an important issue.”
We are called future global leaders. What does that mean to you after you complete your studies?
To Tea, it gives her the responsibility to think how to contribute to her country, Georgia, and to the world, overall. She believes it means that wherever we are, in high authority positions or at the bottom, we should always be leaders, do our best in our field, give an example to others and collaborate for reaching the common goal.
Yasmin shares the same thought as Tea and believes that as future global leaders we need to contribute back to the society: “No matter where we end up to work to, I believe that the values we've learnt during our time in Sweden could help us be highly effective leaders with such skills and experiences.“
To Eunice, it means that she should positively contribute to developing and changing society. Additionally, Line adds that through the experience gained in Sweden we should empower others.
To Nomsa, from South Africa, it means “being the “walk-the-walk” leader and always leading in the front by example.”
Also, for Ken, it means creating a change for the better in every opportunity that we get.
Who is a role model to you and why? What makes him/her admirable?
Eunice’s role model is Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate: “I admired her values, her persistence and fearlessness in fighting for human rights and the environment in Kenya.”
For Angel, it is Muhammad Yunus. He was also the person who inspired him to get involved in business. He comments on Yunus,: “Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, he founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh which was giving out loans to poor people, otherwise ineligible for regular bank loans, for starting their own business. In my opinion, social businesses, such as Yunus' model, are probably the best way to achieve a sustainable future, beyond any goals established by governments, organisations or companies. We only have one Earth and we only have one life, why not make the most out of it?”
Nomsa’s role model is Patricia Bright. “She is a formidable woman who makes things happen. She is talented and very inspirational. What I admire the most is her charisma and creativity.”
Which has been an experience in Sweden, either in University or extracurricular, that has made you realize your potential and rediscover yourself?
For Maurice, from Zimbabwe, it was the 21st of March, when he discovered his potential to give a public lecture.
He explains, “my potential to use the power of words to draw an audience’s attention. Public speaking has always been my passion, but for the greater part of my life I have always been part of the audience, clapping hands in appreciation of well-delivered speech just wishing I would be able to give a good speech someday.”
He continues, “SI NFGL Lund asked me to give a public lecture on entrepreneurship and development in the Global South. I hesitantly accepted the fear of public speaking already creeping into my subconscious, but my conscious mind was seeing an opportunity to do what I have always wanted to do. I grabbed the opportunity and bang! It was well delivered judging from the audience response! This time the clapping of hands was going my way.”
How does the opportunity granted by SI NFGL to study in Sweden contribute to your personal and professional growth as a future global leader?
Eunice says she has learned new concepts and skills in the field of business management which she hopes to utilize both in and out of work for professional growth and to positively impact on others.
Ha-An adds, “I owe Sweden the chance to be here in the first place; shaping my own reality, and shaping me into who I am today and tomorrow.”
For Thiago, it has provided the chance to exchange ideas and meet with many people from different cultures and backgrounds, which enabled him to learn different approaches and listen to different opinions about a diverse range of topics. In his opinion, “it is extremely important to understand how different cultures deal with different situations, as it enhances our perspective and increases our chances to make better and well-based decisions.”
A very similar experience is shared by Ken: “The SI scholarship grants an opportunity to live in an international environment away from your country. It allows one to have an honest view of the world without the usual familiarity of your own country. Because we interact with people from all over the globe, we create networks and friendships that would help in case we face challenges in future.”
Lastly, Andres from Guatemala believes that this “is an opportunity I feel responsible to repay. Maybe I will never be able to pay back to Sweden for giving me so much, but I can invest my time and resources in believing and developing the skills of the present and future generations with the hope of a brighter future ahead for all.”
SI NFGL generally, and specifically SI NFGL Lund, has shaped and developed our skills in leadership in many different ways. We have all changed throughout this process in the best way.
Over a dozen events that we have organized together gave us new knowledge and perspectives that has bonded us together and with Sweden. These connections and experiences will be very valuable in the future and lead us to interesting ideas, actions, projects and changes in a smaller or a larger scale to build a better sustainable future for all of us.
SI NFGL Lund: Kennedy Onyango Owino, Bushra Yesasmin Esha, Thiago Ferreira, Maurice Ndoro, Eunice Muthee, Nomsa Thina Zulu, An Ha Nguyen, Yasmin Nabila, Line Veronique Mancienne, Tea Mkheidze, Andres Rios, Nini Berishvili, Angel Nikolov.