Professional training at international business schools helps African managers
Lucy Owusu-Darko is the Director of HIV/AIDS Programs and also the Deputy Country Representative at the Opportunities Industrialization Centers International (OICI) in Ghana. She participated in the Executive Education courses at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2009. These courses form part of the Transformational Leadership Program (TLP) run by The Africa-America Institute (AAI).
Through a partnership with The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation (TCCAF), AAI helps to strengthen and improve professional management skills and leadership in Africa. This program is helping to provide non-degree professional development and business degree training for African managers in Africa-based NGOs working in the fields of health, education, environment (including water management and conservation), and entrepreneurship.
TLP is a best-in-class executive management and leadership skills development program that not only provides training and credentials to individual participants but also to confer far-reaching benefits to the organizations and communities in which they function.
The goal of the TLP program is to spur development in Africa by expanding the pool of African independent and private sector managers with the requisite knowledge, training, and skills for professional and leadership success.
For Lucy, the program was an opportunity to learn more about management and how best to run a non-profit organization. "As a non-profit organization we depend on others for our survival. Obtaining funding is very difficult as the market is very competitive. I wanted to learn how to approach our non-profit organization through the eyes of a profit making organization."
AAI assembled a consortium of African and U.S. business schools with distinguished track records in their respective regions to provide both short-term professional certificates and business degree programs. The participants who benefit from TLP scholarships confer far-reaching benefits (such as new knowledge, skills, techniques and insights) to the organizations and communities in which they work, resulting in both human and institutional capacity building.
Says Lucy: "The TLP program is excellent. It makes it possible for individuals who, under normal circumstances, would not have had the opportunity to pursue such a course to do so. It enables people from developing countries to obtain first-hand experience from renowned academics and to partake in discussions of the new paradigm shift in business and leadership.
"I was quite good at my job before I left for the course but I think I have become better since completing it. I am able to think through issues better, to see all of the different angles and weigh up the options and outcomes before acting, or making inputs. I'm providing more support to my staff and even to my children at home. My management skills have been sharpened thanks to the sessions on strategic, talent and financial strategies. I am able to make better inputs during program budgeting because I see things from a better perspective. I have become a better coach to the young people I am coaching."
Lucy says that she has taken many things away from the course, but the lessons she learnt about
authentic leadership stand out.
"The most important session was about authentic leadership. No matter how much funding you receive, no matter how much profit you make, if authentic leaders are missing from your organization, so many things will be lost. Authentic leaders look beyond the horizon."
A key part of this was the difference between 'leadership' and 'management'. "You can be a very good manager but to get an organization moving in the right direction, you should be a good leader, an authentic one."
Now that Lucy has been back in Ghana and her position at the OICI for a few months, she is using the knowledge and skills learnt to gradually transform her team's attitude of what leadership is all about. She is using peripheral visioning in scouting for new programs for her organization and this is paying off. Her negotiation skills have also been sharpened and so she is better at negotiating on behalf of her organization.
Going forward Lucy says that she is determined to inculcate these new leadership ideas into her children and the next generation of family members. She says: "I believe the change should start with me and my immediate family circle. Like a ripple on water, it will move further out. An impact will definitely be made no matter how small."
Progress thus far
• To date 156 managers representing 105 Africa-based organizations have benefitted from TLP.
• There are training programs in three countries to-date – Kenya, Nigeria, and the United States; with participants from 14 African countries – Botswana, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.