Master of Ceremonies for the May 29th conference is announced

The Master of Ceremonies for the upcoming May 29th conference on African leadership is Bofta Yimam- a Dynamic Speaker, Emcee, Award-winning Journalist, and Coach.

Come and join us as we launch an initiative, which aims at bridging the leadership gaps in Africa starting from Ethiopia, the seat of the African Union.

The Place of Leadership Development to Implement Ethiopian Education Roadmap

The Ethiopian Science and Academic Network in partnership with One Pupil organized an event on May 18, 2019, at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC. The was very successful, great speakers. Congrats to the organizing committee members.

My presentation was about “The Place of Leadership Development to Implement the Ethiopian Education Roadmap” I showed on how leadership makes or breaks any initiative.

The success of the Roadmap is dependent on whether we can raise competent leaders at all levels- from Ministerial to Unversity to Faculty and to Classroom levels, who can implement the Roadmap successfully.

Translating this great Roadmap, which is now on paper, into realities; converting the vision into results, requires to invest on leadership capacity development within our education system, and I shared how the upcoming Initiative by PRO Leadership, which will be launched on May 29th here in the US and July 17th in Addis could contribute its fair share, in partnership with our key strategic partners, in bridging the leadership gaps.

I will share the content of my presentation soon. Stay tuned…

Press Release- Conference on African Leadership

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                          Press Release

Conference that focuses on bridging the leadership gaps in Africa

PRO Leadership Global dedicated its annual conference on “Bridging the leadership gaps to tackle the major challenges Africa faces”. The conference will be held on May 29th, 2019 6 – 9 pm at Veteran Plaza Civic Building in Silver Spring MD. The keynote speaker is H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, AU Ambassador to the US. The conference incorporated a panel discussion and success stories of African leaders in the diaspora. Elected officials, Diplomats, and VIPs are also invited to attend as guest of honors. At the end of the conference, there will be a strategic consultation session among key strategic partners to brainstorm the next steps and ways to collaborate in bridging the leadership gaps in Africa.

Silver Spring, MD, May 2, 2019 (PRO Leadership)This season is the last chance Africa has. It makes or breaks her future. Right now, the continent is at a crossroads. Africa has been lagging behind almost in every sector, far behind. If Africa continues this path because she is using the same approaches and with the usual pace that led her to this point, there is no better future for its people and the coming generations. She must take this season of her seriously and as her last chance to redeem herself. This is time to chart a new path, turn a new page. Otherwise, she will remain behind forever.

Africa now, however, has a new hope regardless of those skeptics who dubbed her ‘The Hopeless Continent’. Africa is the youngest continent endowed with untapped potential.  These give her a competitive advantage to come out of her predicaments. What is more? Regardless of past misfortunes, betrayals, and brutalities in the forms of colonization, slave trade, and so on, Africa demonstrated resilience and survived. Now, we see so many encouraging changes in many parts of Africa. Hope is on the horizon.

21st C is Africa’s. She is an upcoming star in the universe. She is set to shine in the new Century. We at PRO Leadership see a bright future ahead for Africans. That is why we dedicated the next few decades to bride the leadership gaps in the continent so that she may tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities the new era presents. We are committed to playing our fair share- together with our strategic partners, for the transformation of Africa. History is in the making and we would like to be part of this history.   Thus,

Thus, PRO Leadership dedicated its annual conference on “Bridging the leadership gaps to tackle the major challenges Africa faces”. The organization created this platform to bring key stakeholders to launch its initiative that aims at bridging the leadership gaps in Africa in order to tackle the major challenges the continent faces, and also tap into the opportunities the 21st C presents.

The main goal of the conference is to signify the importance of developing the organizational and leadership capacity of Africa to tackle the major challenges the continent faces. The conference is designed to achieve the following specific objectives:

  • To acknowledge the three major leadership gaps that exist
  • To recognize the significant place and roles of leadership to tackle the major ills in Africa
  • To discuss the roles of major key stakeholders to narrow the gaps
  • To provide the platform for strategic partners to devise ways to partner in bridging the gaps

This is our hope that the remarks by the honorable Ambassador of AU to the US and other speakers will increase the awareness of participants about the critical roles leadership could play to tackle the major ills Africa faces. We also anticipate the following main outcomes at the end of the conference:

  • Increased awareness about the need to invest on the organizational and leadership capacity of key stakeholders, which in turn empower them to tackle the major ills Africa faces.
  • Clear understanding about the three major leadership gaps that exist and the potential approaches stakeholders should take individually and collectively to bridge these gaps
  • The coming together of strategic partners to create synergy in bridging the 3 leadership gaps in the coming years and decades until Africa experiences true transformation.

African Diaspora community leaders; Elected Officials; representatives from international organizations; Private foundations; immigrant, women, and youth activists are expected to attend the conference.

Below are confirmed speakers:

1.Keynote by H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, AU Ambassador to the US;

2.Guest of Honor Speakers:

  • Marc Elrich, County Executive of Montgomery County
  • Tom Hucker, Councilmember of Montgomery County
  • Mohamed E. ‘Mo’ Seifeldein, Councilman of Alexandria Virginia
  • And more.

3. Dr. Helena Mishoe, Rear Admiral of United States Public Health Service (Ret) Title of speech: “Africa’s Future: ‘Growing’ High Impact Leaders”

4.Panelists:

  • Viola Llewellyn, Co-founder & President of Ovamba
  • Samson Teffera, Board Member and Communication Lead of TASFA
  • Matthew Breman, Regional Director, Africa of International Youth Foundation 

5. African Leaders Success Story Speakers:

  • Julian Kiganda, Transformational Brand Strategist
  • Dr. Omekongo Dibinga, Director of UPstander International
  • Chiko Abengowe, CEO/Founder of Perfect Staffing Solutions, LLC

6. Book Signing by Dr. Assegid Habtewold, Founder of PRO Leadership Global Inc.

About PRO Leadership:

Founded in 2009, PRO Leadership Global is a tax-exempt 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization based in Maryland, USA. PRO Leadership PROmotes leadership, PROduces leaders to bridge the leadership gaps (Geographic, Gender, and Generational leadership gaps) to tackle the major ills of the world one community at a time. To learn more about PRO Leadership, check out its website: https://proleadership.org

For more information and/or interviews, please contact:

Besu Feleke

Email: besu21@gmail.com

Cell: 540-230-3622

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Some more tips to speak like a pro based on a short video clip

Two weeks ago or so, I shared some helpful tips based on a short speech video clip to help you take your speaking competency to the next height. Some of you may be advance speakers and may not need some of the tips. However, I thought, you may want to share these tips with those who may need it the most. If you missed the previous tips I shared 2 weeks ago, checkout the tips before further continuing to read this blog:

In this follow up blog, I would like to use another short video clip of mine to share with you some takeaways you may apply immediately in order to take your speaking ability to the next level. By the way, the speech was based on my latest book “Unchain Your Greatness”.  

While watching the Youtube video below, I encourage you to take some notes. Write down what worked very well and what need to be improved…

How did you find the speech? This is my hope that you have enjoyed it. 
If you may remember from my previous email, I coach people to speak like a pro. This time, let me coach myself so that you too may learn from this conversation with myself  

What went very well:

  1. Finished on time. Like the previous speech, I finished this one within the time frame I was given.
  2. Connected with the majority of my listeners using proper eye contacts. Hope, you could be able to see from the video that I was making eye contacts to engage people in the conference room.
  3. Used the stage very well. If you may remember from the previous video, I was constrained. The stage was very tight. This time, the stage was very wide, and I fully used it to the max. Don’t forget, you don’t have to move around a lot unless you have a fairly large group. Regardless of the size, however, you should come out of the podium and come close to the audience when you speak. Don’t allow any barrier between you and your listeners create blockage.
  4. Purposeful gestures. I used my gestures purposefully. One quick tip: Your body is your weapon of communication, especially your hands. Nonetheless, you should avoid erratic and purposeless use of your hands. Once in a while, you may consider using bold gestures. But, be cautious. The occasion, the audience type, and the topic may not warrant such bold gestures  Let me ask you: When in the speech did I use bold gestures? One good example is when I talked about the great ones burned their bridge. Another one is when I was talking about how they turning setbacks into assets, their scars and defeats into testimonies, etc. Where else did you notice bold gestures?

What would I do differently if I get a chance to give this speech again?

  1. Share some stories. Since I had 7 minutes to summarize a 200 something pages book, when I was preparing for the speech, I focused on sharing the four stages to unchain one’s greatness without paying attention about mixing some stories. Looking back, I should have given some examples for each stage. 
  2. Insert some humor. In the previous video clip I shared with you, at least, I inserted one sense of humor and I smiled more than I did here. Some how, I was too serious devoid of any humor  To refresh your memory, I told you that nowadays, people would love to be entertained even if your topic is serious. You might have already seen that in your own case, people like speakers who are friendly and approachable. Well, I missed a golden chance in this speech but I’d consider to add some humor, smile, and laugh more if I get another chance to deliver this the same speech again. 
  3. Use the book. If you watch the video, I went there with my book and put it on the table but never used it   Did it happen to you? Do you relate with that? I have a story or a statistics or a graph you would like to share, boom! You forgot to share. 
  4. What else needs to be improved?

This is my hope that you have drawn a couple of lessons, which in turn may help you take your speaking ability to the next level.

If you may have any questions, feel free to reach out to me @ assegidh@gmail.com or give me a call at 703-895-4551

Some tips to speak like a pro based on a short video clip

You may already know that I’m a motivational and keynote speaker, and workshop facilitator on themes such as greatness, soft skills, project management, and leadership. I serve diverse audience including leaders in government agencies, major corporations, and community organizations.

However, you may not know that I also coach and mentor leaders. One of the coaching and mentoring themes is presentation and facilitation skills. I coach and mentor by doing the following:

  1. Share some stats, facts, and insights to improve one’s presentation and facilitation skills. For instance, I share the science behind why we feel nervous, how it impacts your performance, and how to overcome it, and so on.
  2. Demonstrate how it is done. First of all, speaking/presenting is totally different than facilitation. For example, the video clip below is a motivational speech. I may come back again another time with a clip to talk about facilitation. In each case, I demonstrate to show how it is done properly. I demonstrate how to gesture purposefully, move deliberately (if you have a large crowd), make proper eye contact, start with high impact intro, make smooth transitions, conclude forcefully with some call to actions, and so on.
  3. Give feedback. My coachees and mentees then practice by implementing the above two (the

You may already know that I’m a motivational and keynote speaker, and workshop facilitator on themes such as greatness, soft skills, project management, and leadership. I serve diverse audience including leaders in government agencies, major corporations, and community organizations.

However, you may not know that I also coach and mentor leaders. One of the coaching and mentoring themes is presentation and facilitation skills. I coach and mentor by doing the following:

  1. Share some stats, facts, and insights to improve one’s presentation and facilitation skills. For instance, I share the science behind why we feel nervous, how it impacts our performance, and how to overcome it, and so on.
  2. Demonstrate how it is done. First of all, speaking/presenting is totally different than facilitating. For example, the video clip below is a motivational speech. I may come back again another time with a clip to talk about facilitation. In each case, I demonstrate to show how it is done properly. I demonstrate how to gesture purposefully, move deliberately (if you have a large crowd), make proper eye contact, start with high impact intro, make smooth transitions, conclude with some call to actions, and so on.
  3. Give feedback. My coachees and mentees then practice by implementing the above two (the theory and demonstrations they learned from me). Mostly, I video record their speeches myself (or ask them to record their speech from somewhere and send it to me) and we sit down to give them feedback on what worked well and what needs to be improved.

That being said, today, I would like to give you some tips to help you take your speaking ability to the next level by using my own speech.

While watching this clip, take some notes. Write down what worked very well and what need to be improved…

Hope, you liked the speech and also took some notes about what went very well, and what needs to be improved. Let me tell you what I think about my own speech above:

What went well:

  1. Respected the time. I finished within the time frame I was given.
  2. Great eye contact to connect and engage with the audience. This is one of my strengths. 
  3. Full of energy. I was happy that I was there and I was also present 🙂 You know it, or at least, they figure out whether you were there or just performing…
  4. Smiled and threw a couple of sense of humour. Of course, I could have smiled and inserted more sense of humor. Remember, nowadays, people don’t just be informed but also entertained. They also appreciate speakers who are friendly and approachable… FYI, these are the areas where I’m still working on 🙂

What should be improved:

  1. Didn’t prepare well for the place. I could have come early and worked on the setup of the stage. It was tight and constrained me alot. It is important to come the previous night or 1 hour early to make sure everything is right or, at least, to adjust yourself with the stage and room setup well before you step on the stage.
  2. Stuck behind the podium. In the beginning, I was holding the lectern for dear life 🙂 That is a no on. I don’t usually do that. You will see that in my future clips. If possible, don’t even hide behind the podium 🙂
  3. Weak demonstration. I could brought my book to show the level of greatness in graphics than explaining it verbally.
  4. What else needs to be improved?

This is my hope that you have drawn a couple of lessons, which in turn may help you take your speaking ability to the next height.

Stay tuned for such tips in the coming weeks and months…

If you may have any questions, feel free to reach out to me @ assegidh@gmail.com or give me a call at 703-895-4551

Interview on SOAR Community Media

In this less than 15 minutes interview I had with the CEO of SOAR Community Nebula- Mali Phonpadith, I shared about my passion, a person who lent me the first two self help books I read that impacted me at the early stage of my life, the key characteristics of change agents, my hope for Africa, and the upcoming conference on African Leadership on May 29th, 2019 and more.

You may check out this link to watch the interview video clip: https://nebula.soarcommunitynetwork.com/viewpoints/7203757 

Let me know your feedback…

Conference on African Leadership- May 29th

This season is the last chance Africa has. It makes or breaks her future. Right now, the continent is at a crossroads.

Africa has been lagging behind almost in every sector, far behind. If Africa continues this path by using the same approaches and with the usual pace that led her to this point, there is no better future for its people and the coming generations. She must take this season of her seriously and as her last chance to redeem herself. This is time to chart a new path, turn a new page. Otherwise, she will remain behind forever.

Africa now, however, has a new hope regardless of being dubbed ‘The Hopeless Continent’ by skeptics. Africa is the youngest continent endowed with untapped potential. These give her a competitive advantage to come out of her predicaments.

Nonetheless, Africa must tap into its human capital. Resting her hope solely on any form of revolution- industrial or technology- must stop now. The continent took too much time and failed to capitalize on these on time. These revolutions that helped other continents cannot accelerate her speed of growth to catch up with the rest of the world. It is too late. Financial and in kind assistances, technology transfers, and experience sharing from those who attained sustainable economic development alone cannot also allow her to experience true transformation in one generation.

The continent must make a paradigm shift from focusing on techniques, systems, and technologies alone to investing in her people, especially on her youth and the most crucial section of her society- women. Africa should also tap into the Diaspora community well beyond its contribution in the form of remittance.

In short, Africa may need to undergo lots of changes and use various approaches at multiple fronts before she attains sustainable development. Regardless, she should put developing her human capital at the center. These efforts cannot be successful both in short and long terms without raising competent leaders in quantity and quality. Raising leaders at all levels should be the focal point of Africa’s transformation.

That is why PRO Leadership, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 2009 decided to focus on bridging the leadership gaps in Africa.  PRO Leadership’s this year annual conference is themed “Bridging the leadership gaps to tackle the major ills Africa faces”. The conference will be held on May 29th, 2019 @ 5 – 9 pm in Silver Spring MD.

The keynote speaker is H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, AU Ambassador to the US.

African Diaspora community leaders; Elected Officials; representatives from international organizations; private foundations; immigrant, women and youth activists are expected to attend the conference. Below are the core elements of the program:

  • Brief opening remarks by guest of honors (Elected officials, VIPs, Major sponsor);
  • Keynote by H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, AU Ambassador to the US;
  • A book signing (a brief presentation by the author, the Founder of PRO Leadership, on his book “Bridging the Leadership Gaps”);
  • Panel discussion focusing on the three pillars to bridge the leadership gaps;
  • Success stories of African leaders.
  • Consultative discussion among strategic partners concerning next steps and future projects.

This is our hope that the remarks by the honorable Ambassador of AU to the US and other speakers will increase the awareness of participants about the critical roles leadership could play to tackle the major ills Africa faces. We also anticipate the following main outcomes at the end of the conference:

  • Increased awareness about the need to invest on the organizational and leadership capacity of key stakeholders, which in turn empower them to tackle the major ills Africa faces.
  • Clear understanding about the three major leadership gaps (Geographic, Gender, and Generational) that exist and the potential approaches stakeholders should take individually and collectively to bridge these gaps
  • The coming together of strategic partners to create synergy in bridging the 3 leadership gaps in the coming years and decades until Africa experience true transformation.

Behind this important and timely conference are talented and dedicated professionals (Advisory and Organizing committee members) from diverse nationalities, cultures, backgrounds, gender, and generations.

Below are members of the Advisory Committee who provide advices, suggestions, and recommendations to the Organizing Committee. Members include:

  1. Tebabu Assefa, Co-Founder of US-Africa Diaspora Business Council
  2. Omega Tawonezvi, Director of Southern African Community USA
  3. Mali Phonpadith, CEO of SOAR Community Network
  4. Krish Murti, Community Leader and Senior Project Management Expert
  5. Obang Meto, Executive Director of Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia
  6. Dr. Teylama Miabey, Executive Director of National Congress for Democracy
  7. Shim Mekonnen, Chairman of the Board of Your Ethiopian Professionals network
  8. Kalewongel Tesfaye, UN Youth Advisory Board and Founder of YouthToYouth
  9. Dr. Yetnayet Demessie, Empowerment Coach and Consultant
  10. Dr. Gabe Hamda, Founder of Go PRO21 Community
  11. Eric Rasch, Operations Manager of Silver Spring Civic Building
  12. Mary Assefa, Consultant and Co-Founder of Jantilla

Below are also members of the Organizing Committee who are super dedicated to carry out the day-to-day execution of the conference’s program:

  1. Yeabsira Zewdie, Int’nal Dev’t Professional & UN Association-NCA Board member
  2. Peyton Brooks, Business Success Specialist
  3. Semhar Woldetnsae, Project Manager & Educator
  4. Besu Feleke, Int’nal  Dev’t and Conflict Resolution Professional
  5. Rahwity Haile, Certified Operations Program Manager
  6. Dr. Eche Wilson, Leadership Expert and Consultant

Please stay tuned to get more details such as the guest of honors who would make brief remarks, panelists, the stories of successful African leaders stories, and more as the date approaches. This announcement is for you to mark the date on your calendar. In the meantime, if you have any questions or need further explanation about the program and/or would like to involve, please contact the coordinator of the Organizing Committee: Yeabsira Zewdie @ Yeabi.Zewdie@gmail.com or 703-870-1207

If you would like to learn more about media coverage, please reach out toBesu Feleke @ besu21@gmail.com or 540-230-3622

If you would like to learn more about the sponsorship packages, please contact: Rahwity Haile @ rahwity@gmail.com or 202-250-4252

Empowering women in leadership- International women’s day

Let’s celebrate the invaluable contributions of women.

In every society, women constitute roughly half of their respective population. They are the principal homemakers, caregivers, and sustainers of the family fabric of every society. Women are mothers, sisters, wives, and friends to the male dominated world.

On top of the home front, women also play key roles in the market and workplaces. They fulfill so many invaluable responsibilities in every society and nation. In short, without women, the human race cannot exist and survive let alone to thrive.

But, we have lots of works ahead of us in order women to play leading roles in the areas of their passion. This is especially important in Africa. For the continent to redeem itself and experience true transformation, it needs the full participation of women. Africa cannot afford to ignore, undermine, and/or underutilize its productive and invaluable citizens and expect to flourish and thrive. Women must have true say and placed in decision making positions to play their fair share as leaders…

The Highest Level of Greatness (7 min motivational speech)

The founder of PRO Leadership provides motivational speeches and keynote addresses for leaders from diverse cultures based on his books.

In the motivational speech below, he used his book entitled ‘The Highest Level of Greatness’.

Victims of one’s own culture: Why many Ethiopians aren’t leaders?

The theme of my speech at a community empowerment event organized by Jantilla on Saturday, February 2nd, 2019 in Silver Spring, MD at DoubleTree by Hilton hotel was “Leadership in the 21st C”. Last week, I wrote a follow-up article concerning one of the reasons why we Ethiopians don’t have as many leaders as we need. If you have missed the article, check it out from this link: “What is the primary reason that prevents many Ethiopians from becoming leaders?”

In that article, I shared how the way leadership is defined discourages many from taking lead in the area of their passion. In this sequel article, let me share with you another reason that prevents many Ethiopians from becoming leaders, from playing their fair share in transforming our country. In my book I quoted in the previous article- “Redefining Leadership”, which was published in 2011, I pointed out four major barriers that keep many at bay from claiming their birthright of leadership. One of the four reasons is culture. During the Q&A session, we explained how our culture doesn’t incentivize outward looking individuals and how this, in turn, discourages many from going out to take leadership initiatives to advance the cause they care about. Rather than recounting what I said at the Jantilla event concerning the impacts of culture, I thought to share with you an excerpt from the above-mentioned book to show you how many people are victims of their own culture:

“Culture is simply the collection of beliefs and values a given society or organization reflects collectively. These shared viewpoints, principles, rules, and behaviors bind stakeholders together as they live, work, and fellowship together. Culture is an environment that nurtures and shapes the various personalities of those who dwell in it. As a person with a medical background, let me give you a metaphor using culturing microorganisms in a laboratory to explain how a nurturing culture is. First of all, each microorganism requires a certain dose of feeding substances and composition of some chemical compounds. Using media such as plates, cultures are built in the lab to harvest some useful microorganisms. The final nature of a given organism is dependent upon the content of the culture it was fed.

Likewise, we are the products of those cultures (s) that fed and nurtured us. For that matter, the progress and competitiveness of organizations and nations depend upon their cultural elements. For example, Harrison & Huntington compared the economic data of Ghana and South Korea in the 1960s and found out that these two countries were having similar GNP and almost on an equal footing. However, after some decades later, South Korea became an industrial country with lots of economic success. The authors attributed this contrasting difference to South Koreans cultural values, which embraced ideals such as working hard, educating their citizens, investing, and promoting discipline, and the likes.

Whether it was the hunting-culture or today’s cyber-culture, culture shapes the personality of the individual as what he eats and drinks shapes his physical appearances. Culture plays a significant role in cultivating the individual who would have gone nowhere without the collective knowledge, identity, and guidance he has got as he grows from nobody to somebody. Throughout the years, we are fed and cultivated to become who we are today. Our thinking patterns, decision-making processes, and the way we behave and act deal with time, relate with others, interact with nature, view the future, perceive the invisible world, etc. are highly influenced by our respective cultures.

Though at times we may have counter-cultural stands and refuse to get molded all the time, the sum total of who we are at present is the product of those cultures we have been exposed. We should be grateful for the opportunity we were given to find ourselves embraced within those environments that finally helped us on our way up. We started naked, alone, and empty, and look at where we are now. We read the books, observed the arts crafted, used the system built in a given culture, and so on. Therefore, we owe our cultures. Yet, culture plays some negative roles against individual uniqueness and leadership.

If you don’t wrongly mistake me, almost every culture has some elements that discourage individual uniqueness. Some cultures, especially those individualistic, produce many unique individuals while others discourage individual uniqueness altogether. I call the latter communal cultures that are common in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and South America. In these cultures, individuals are ‘forced’ to group thinking. Very few break through and become leaders of their unique destiny while the majority is led into lifetime obscurity in the name of showing loyalty for group identity and destiny.

Though communal cultures discourage individual uniqueness and leadership the most, almost all other cultures within the individualistic culture have some cultural elements that undermine individual uniqueness and leadership. There are cultural myths, taboos, and sayings that discourage people from taking leadership. Let’s look at some sayings from representative cultures.

In my country, there is a saying: “Silence is gold”. There is a similar saying in Spain: “A closed mouth catches no flies”. Without talking, there is no way one becomes unique and takes leadership initiative to share with others his message and vision. These kinds of mottos are disincentives for individuals to go out and pursue their uniqueness through leadership. There are similar myths in western cultures too such as “Don’t blow your own horn”. In the Far East, “The nail that sticks up will get pounded down”. In the Middle East, “Woe to leadership, for it buries those who possess it”.

Surrounded by the noises such as the above and many similar discouraging myths, since childhood, it is very hard for many to venture and go out to pursue their uniqueness by leading their own destiny towards fulfillment. As leading is considered making noise, self-promoting, troublemaking, we can imagine how many individuals find no incentive to claim their uniqueness, communicate that to their respective peers and communities, and stride forward to bear the fruits of leadership.

What is tricky about culture is that many of us may not even know that the way we think, the pattern of our behavior, the way we decide, and act is the result of our cultural orientation. We may not question those things that don’t promote individual uniqueness and allow us to claim our birthright of leadership and lead a distinct path towards fulfillment. These things operate at a deeper level without much awareness and control from our conscious side of the brain. That makes it a very dangerous barrier against leading an original life and pursuing a distinct path.

The frustrating thing is that the majority in a given culture defends the above discussed and similar counterproductive myths, taboos, and sayings without questioning and knowing why they were installed in the first place. This reminded me of the most popular psychological experiment of Harry Harlow’s. This experiment involved a couple of monkeys, a banana, a stair, and cold ice water spray. The banana was hung on the ceiling and the stair put under it. When one of these monkeys stepped on the stair to reach the banana, all of the monkeys were sprayed with cold ice water. After a couple of trials with the same brutal cold ice water sprays on all the monkeys, the monkeys developed group-thinking and stopped trying. Not only that, they attacked newcomers who tried to step on the stair even when there was no more cold water spray. This continued even if all the monkeys who witnessed the cold-water spray firsthand were substituted with new ones.

The insight from this experiment was that even if the initial monkeys substituted with new ones, which hadn’t been there when cold ice water was sprayed, continued to attack newcomers who tried to get the banana. What these monkeys knew was that they were beaten the first time they tried even if they didn’t know why. They also watched while other newcomers were beaten. Soon after, they joined the group-thinking and started to defend the banana from newcomers even if they didn’t have any clue why this beating started in the first place. The same with culture; people zealously defend unproductive cultural myths without knowing why they were installed in the first place. I have been beaten and watched others beaten because of similar group-thinking without fully understanding why these group-thinking were put in the first place. What I am saying here in this section is that ‘there is no more cold ice water spray in place that we should stop beating one another but rather let’s enjoy the banana’…”

Knowing how many people are blindly loyal to their respective culture, I don’t expect a lot of people to immediately break through cultural barriers to taking leadership initiatives just because they read this article. This is my hope, however, that this article sparked curiosity in you if in case you’re one of the victims of your own culture; if in case, your culture discouraged you from venturing out to take lead in the area of your passion.

Don’t misunderstand me. Yes, communal cultures like ours have so many great cultural attributes we need to keep and promote. However, our culture needs to be reformed if our desire is to come out of poverty and enjoy sustainable development, which cannot happen without raising enough leaders at all levels. Please understand that I’m not suggesting copying and pasting a foreign culture from somewhere. That doesn’t work. I’m talking about indigenous reform- reforming the existing culture by keeping what has been productive and substituting those cultural attributes that have been counterproductive without losing our Ethiopiawinet.

Countries like Ethiopia must pass through a deep change to enjoy prosperity, stability, peace, and harmony. Unfortunately, deep change is impossible without cultural reform. The culture we have had brought us this far. If we would like to go somewhere better than where we have been so far, we don’t have any other choice but to reform our culture so that it empowers us to have the right mindset, attitude, discipline, principles, and standards, which in turn enable us to transform Ethiopia once and for all and in one generation.

Remember the metaphor I shared above. A given organism is a product of the culture that fed it. Using one and the same bacteria but two different cultures, you can harvest two totally different bacteria colonies: A very deadly bacteria that can be used as a deadly biological weapon, and another benign bacteria that can be used for vaccination. The difference between the two is the culture that nurtured them.

Culture- whether individual, corporate, or societal, matters. It’s one of the most important competitive advantages. You cannot experience true and lasting transformation without reforming your culture. Period. Deep change that doesn’t entail reforming the existing culture doesn’t lead to somewhere better.

Let’s reform the culture that predisposed us to the troubles that inflicted us for decades, if not for centuries. Let’s create a culture that nurtures our people and enable us to defeat poverty, despise corruption, incentivize cleanliness, promote hard work, embrace discipline, and encourages excellence and quality. Let’s have a culture that allows our people to identify their uniqueness and venture out to take lead to serve their respective community with leadership excellence in the area of their passion. Ethiopia cannot compete regionally, continentally, and globally successfully without tapping into the full potential of her people. Sadly, no one can release his/her potential without knowing who they truly are, their unique lane and passion, and without developing some key leadership attributes. What is more? Ethiopia cannot unleash her greatness without unleashing the greatness within each citizen. Let’s create a culture that adequately produces great citizens that can transform Ethiopia into her greatness and enable her to play her unique leadership roles regionally, continentally, and beyond.