"It takes courage to discover, develop and donate your genius to the World" Robert Kiyosaki
I can't believe it has been a year since I was honored and given an incredible opportunity as 2016 Bush Leadership Fellow. Time has gone so fast but not without significant positive impact in my leadership journey and the work I am engaged and passionate about. My leadership development has gone through significant transitions that are making a seismic shift in my life. I have had a fast paced career over the past 18 years working at the intersection of community development, philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. The work I have been involved has been quite demanding of my greatest commodity-time. However, for the first time in my life, under the Bush Fellowship, I have had the privilege to 'pause' and 'reflect' on where I want to go and whether my deep passion for service to others aligns with my long term vision of who I am, and what I want to achieve in life. The Fellowship has encouraged me to explore, experiment innovative ideas to tackle the greatest challenges facing our society. It has given me the privilege to travel around the world, connect with local and global leaders and bring ideas and lessons learned back to Minnesota.
Over the past year, I have developed a stronger sense of self-awareness, which as a result makes me feel more hopeful about what I can contribute to overcome the formidable challenges facing both my immediate immigrant community as well as our collective challenges as a State.
During past one year of Bush Fellowship, my leadership has grown both horizontally and vertically. Horizontally, my technical competencies in community service, innovation and strategy development have increased significantly. This is evidenced by the dual role I am currently playing as a social entrepreneur as a founder of BanQu as well as my work in building coalitions across organizations, people and sectors in Minnesota.
My vertical leadership has also grown as I increased my adaptive leadership skills. I have developed a growing awareness of my own 'shadow.' As a result, I am making choices that are connected to my greatest strength rather than being open to all opportunities that I can play role. Over the past year, I began to discern what actions lead to the greatest impact. One surprise learning about my developmental journey as a systems leader has been the depth of commitment needed to build collaborative networks for systemic change. I think very few people realise this. Truth is that we now face a host of systemic challenges beyond the reach of existing institutions and their hierarchical authority structures. Some of these problems are very real in my community in Minnesota, such as increased hostilities to immigrants and religious minorities, lack of platforms for young people to express their hopes, aspirations and challenges including high unemployment and lack of access of opportunities. The contentious issues of immigration reform, racial justice, and confronting ideological extremism at home and abroad have come to dominate American political discourse, now worsened by the election of President Donald Trump. As a whole, the discourse reflects what conflict resolution practitioners like Timothy Phillips of Beyond Conflict have noted is a growing global desire to “identify by sect, tribe, race or ideology over any sense of shared nationhood” or humanity.
If there is an exemplary demographic group whose politicized identity exists at the intersection of the aforementioned troika of contentious issues, it is Somali-Americans, who have experienced greater xenophobic, racist, and religious prejudice, stereotyping, and violence on a daily basis, as well as recruitment from gangs and violent extremists.
All of these challenges require increased levels of collaboration among different organizations, sectors, individuals and the government. While I appreciate the fact that formal position and authority matters in solving some of the challenges, there are significant ways in which leadership without authority, both in the public and private sectors, can have meaningful impact.
I am more inspired than ever before to help create the conditions that can build the 'beloved community' Martin Luther King Jr. has envisioned for us. I am determined to increase my leadership role in our state in the coming months and years. The Bush Fellowship has immensely contributed to my leadership journey to date, which I am so grateful!