Game-changing Leaders

Game-changing Leaders
Learning Brief

Lucca Leadership South Africa

Exploring the factors that stimulate agency

Category: Game-changing Leaders | Secure the environment for young people to lead | 1 March, 2013 - 07:04


This learning brief looks at the factors that awaken and develop agency - the drive within an individual, organization or communities to make a difference that uplifts others around them in order to make the world a better place.  We consider the key factors and barriers to creating a movement of critical mass, in scale and quality, which is capable of making a measurable difference to the individual people it touches and – ultimately – to all the people of South Africa.  We explore the following in detail:

  • That the work involved in developing the transformational leadership capacity of people who believe they ‘can’ is hugely different to working with people who believe ‘they can’t’;
  • The assumption that all those who aren’t dedicating their life to ‘making a difference’ don’t want to;
  • That getting the first step of ‘self-belief’ right is essential in order to successfully develop leaders who enable transformation.

What is Transformational Leadership? 

We define Transformational Leadership as the ability to bring about change that uplifts and benefits humanity through meeting its needs and developing its capabilities. It is an approach to leadership that creates sustainable solutions and avoids solutions that benefit some at the expense of others.

Transformational Leadership inspires wholeness of being, so our thoughts, feelings and actions are consistent. We lead with integrity and authenticity that resonates with others, and inspires them to follow.  A transformational leader, therefore, is someone who is able to connect with their true passion, intent and inner wisdom, in order to unlock their potential for the good of all.

We believe that Transformational Leadership is universally accessible because we all have the required tools already within us. This approach takes us from a constricting model of competition between individuals, teams or nations, to a connection with the whole of a situation and leadership for the good of all. We move from making a sale at any cost towards creating lasting relationships and seeking socially responsible outcomes; it takes us from a narrow focus primarily on the bottom line, to realizing a sustainable vision that contributes to the welfare of humanity.

But, how do you genuinely develop a sense of agency or quality of transformational leadership within an individual, organization or community, such that they want to commit to making a difference in whatever way they can?’

To explore this question we have developed the following analysis, based on our experience implementing our programmes.

Lucca SA Programmes

Lucca Leadership South Africa (Lucca SA) is a member of a group of affiliate organisations based around the world, each running international programmes in transformational leadership, leadership that uplifts humanity through creating lasting and effective positive change.

In designing Lucca SA’s Catalyst 2.0 programme we were guided first and foremost by the question: How do we empower/enable others to want to make a difference?  Secondly we considered: How do we empower/equip/prepare people to actually make a difference?

Our programmes are based on the idea that ‘in any given situation, transformation is possible’ and in order to create this transformation the leader needs to be aware of themselves, others and the context so that they can do what is needed for the good of the whole. In short, it cultivates the skills and awareness to serve the needs for the good of all.

What we have seen:

Broadly speaking, participants of our leadership courses fall under two main types that can be described as follows:

  • The Ones – ‘Self Selected’: they have either applied to participate or chose to participate when the opportunity was presented.
  • The Twos – Selected by others or accidental: They are either participating blind (for example attending with a friend) or where required to attend (by their organisation for example).

For the Ones, it is safe to assume that most already have a sense of agency - a want to make a difference. By the time they arrive at the programme, they are ready, open and available to learn, to meet people, to develop themselves, to improve their skills – and to ultimately go and make a difference.  For the Ones, our responsibility is to deliver the highest standard of transformational leadership development, but little work is needed on ‘activation’- they have signed-up for an experience that could ultimately shift the way they operate, they are therefore taking responsibility for action.

For the Twos, those selected to attend a programme by someone else or who have landed somewhere by accident the situation is quite different. The danger here is to assume that these people don’t want to make a difference because this, in our experience, couldn’t be further from the truth.  Underneath the lack of motivation is not necessarily a lack of desire to live a life that creates waves of positive impact, it is often just a lack of belief that they can and because they don’t believe that they can: they don’t feel responsible for doing anything, because how could they do something if they can’t do something?

A case study:

We were invited to run a one-day leadership programme for 150 girls between 14 and 16 years old at a certain school. The brief from the Head Teacher was, “Please come and get these girls to do something in their community, they’re lazy and don’t care about the world around them”.

Our original plan was to:

  • Give an opening plenary talk at the school
  • Break into small groups with one facilitator to 25 girls
  • Run a relatively standard one-day experiential leadership course with some frameworks, skills and ideas that would enable them to lead more effectively.

What actually happened?

In the small groups we noticed that their level of enthusiasm was incredibly low even though they were very engaged.  After an hour, one girl spoke, “You’re wasting your time with us. I can’t do any of this, it’s impossible that someone like me could ever do anything”. The rest of the group agreed. It turned out that almost the entire group were repeatedly told how stupid they were, how useless, how badly behaved. The girls said many of their parents echoed this.

How could they believe their life was of any value if they’ve spent their lives being told it’s not? How can any child or grown-up believe that they can make a difference, if they don’t believe they are of any value to begin with?

The answer is: they can’t

We had a very short time to reflect and re-plan (less than 2 minutes). We asked ourselves the following simple questions: (i) What is needed here?  (ii) What do these girls need more than anything?

The answer was Love.

The revised plan:

We scrapped the leadership training and the community projects and spent a day reminding the girls how beautiful, brilliant and talented they are.  We found out who was good at what, the different things that they loved, we found out when they feel their happiest and what they can’t wait to do, we spoke about what type of lives they would love to have, what their biggest dreams are, who they look up to and why. We spent the time making sure they knew how remarkable they were, how much they mattered.

What impact did it have?

There were a lot of tears - for many of them, this was the first time they had had anyone believe in them, let alone an opportunity to talk about what mattered to them. Within a few hours, having really started to digest their own worth, the girls were so excited and motivated that they wanted other people to share their joy. The girls started being creative about the resources that were available in their neighbourhood. They came up with a plan to start after-school groups in an unused community hall to inspire other kids, to work together to do something. They started dreaming for the first time and making plans to do something about it.

In believing they mattered to those around them, they naturally wanted to make a difference for others.

What are they doing now?

We have no idea. The team was not permitted to have on-going individual follow up contact with the students and the teachers themselves did not participate in the day.  This in itself was a big lesson for us and enabled us to change our strategy and start to work with principals and teachers and training-the-trainers, so that instead of a one-day intervention from us, the kids would have teachers and principals who completely believed and supported them.  At the end of the day, when we asked the young people what stood out for them the most, they all spoke along the same lines, ‘That I am beautiful, that I am talented, that I matter, that my life is important to others’.  For that day, that was all that mattered. 150 girls knowing that they mattered.

Our insights:

Let’s imagine that people develop along a pathway of agency, which we might call “A to Z”.  If you imagine that A is a sense of agency (both the intent and belief that one can make a difference) and that B-Z are the skills, awareness, capabilities that (when combined with A) enable transformation to happen. When A is present, B-Z is, flippantly, a breeze. When A is absent, B-Z has nothing to stick to.

To answer the original question of how we develop A- we believe it happens if someone:

  • Deeply knows that their life matters, that they are important, that they are a gift to the earth;
  • Believes that they can make a difference;
  • Understands that making a difference is possible in any context, with every choice we make, with every action.

What does this mean for our leadership courses?

No matter what, we now provide A, the space for people to know that their lives are valued, that their existence matters. Without A, adding the B-Z is like building a house without foundations and by the time you get to M or N, the building isn’t strong enough to stand. When we run courses for the Ones - those who self-select to attend - we make sure that they know to instil a sense of A within all those that they go on to work with. When we run courses for the Twos - and everyone else - we remind them how remarkable they are, just as they are.

"In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it." 
- Marianne Williamson


Lucca Leadership South Africa

50 Glencoe Road, Higgovale, Cape Town

 072 588 2915

In Short

In this learning brief Lucca Leadership South Africa looks at the factors that awaken and develop agency - the drive within an individual, organisation or community to make a difference that uplifts others around them in order to make the world a better place for all. They consider the key factors and barriers to creating a movement of critical mass, in scale and quality, which is capable of making a measurable difference to the individual people it touches.  We enjoyed this brief so much that we included it in our Hands-on Learning publication which you can read here. 

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