by Ulf Jakobsson

On Tuesday, Susan Collin Marks and Serena Rix Tripathee of Search for Common Ground, together with the participants, completed the two-day session on Leadership Development. The trainers engagingly shared with us some of their immense insights in the realm of leadership, what it means, why it is important, and what it takes to acquire leadership skills.

The session was based on the premise that leaders, due to their ambitions to hold positions of power, are often key players in violent conflicts. Conversely, it was made clear that leaders, in promoting peace and security, can also play a vital role in preventing violent conflicts from occurring. Marks and Tripathee defined the practice of leadership as “the ability to inspire and align others to successfully achieve common goals”. They argued further that leadership “is about knowing who you are and what impact you have on others”.

The day proceeded with a number of practical exercises. These involved, for example, mapping out your own leadership qualities, those which you want to acquire, and those which an ideal global leader might possess. Participants came up with numerous qualities, ranging from “vision, courage, charisma and integrity”, to more concrete skills such as the ability to communicate, listen and collaborate effectively. We also engaged in visualization, and an “I am, you are walkabout”, sharing our impressions of each other in mingling-party fashion.

Personally, I found the day extremely rewarding. I particularly liked the trainers’ broad approach to leadership, that it exists on many different levels and that it comes in many different shapes and forms. To be sure, if the world is to develop a culture of conflict prevention we need good leadership at all levels. Another highlight for me was the evening’s peer-to-peer presentation by Nirmanusan Balasundaram, who shared very moving, yet highly informative insights into his life as a Sri Lankan human rights activist. An extraordinary leader indeed!