Learning to lead in a global world
The long-term impact of the IFES Global Leadership Initiative
Balancing time. Managing tensions. Making decisions. Keeping going.
Leadership is hard. Especially when it’s all new.
At IFES we believe in investing in our young leaders. We want them to be empowered to exercise their leaderships gifts with boldness, integrity and godliness. We want them to love and lead their teams well. We want them to have wisdom as they navigate the complexities of cross-cultural campus ministry in a fast-changing world.
That’s why the Global Leadership Initiative (GLI) exists. 26 March 2018 marked the end of the first GLI program. 18 young IFES leaders had been selected from each of the regions across the world to participate. The group met together three times over the course of 18 months. It has been a formative experience for all of them. One reflected:
“This has been a life-changing experience for me. I have grown so much not only as a leader but as a believer in Christ.”
Three of the participants shared what impact the GLI program had had on them and on their ministry.
Mary Olguin — Compa Mexico, Head of the national office & regional staff worker
I’ve always enjoyed working with IFES, but a few years ago I was ready to quit. I just felt that I had finished what I needed to do; and there were already new leaders who could take on my role. I wanted to do something new. But then I joined the GLI program. During our first meeting together we spent some time considering what our strengths were, what gifts God had given us. I realised that God has made me a pioneer; it’s what I love to do and what I’m good at doing. Maybe that’s why I often get the urge to move on and do something new! Soon after that an opportunity opened up for me to stay with IFES but to focus on pioneering within the national office. And I knew it was the right thing for me.
I also oversee some of the field staff of the movement. After learning about teamwork strategies at the GLI program, I met with my field staff in one city and shared with them what I’d learned. They were excited and decided to try out the new strategies together as a team.
So when they met six months ago they agreed on some changes. They agreed that they’d hold each other accountable. They agreed they’d make plans and help each other to keep to them; that they’d turn up on time. They agreed to give feedback to each other after every event. They agreed not to talk behind others’ backs but have those difficult conversations openly.
The change has been huge. Not just for team morale, but also for the students. The team being more committed has made the students more committed. The students know the events planned are going to happen; it will start on time and finish on time. That makes a difference.
Team relationships have improved significantly too. They used to struggle with the same issues many teams face: team members not pulling their weight; people turning up late; people feeling annoyed with each other but not saying anything; making plans that never materialise. One of them was so unhappy she wanted to leave the team.
They are a much healthier team now. They communicate; they support each other; they really enjoy working together. New staff want to join and old staff want to stay. They’ve realised how much they need each other if they are to do the best they can for God’s kingdom on campus.
Lawrence Gomez — FES Gambia, General Secretary
At the start of this year, I became the General Secretary for FES. GLI has been hugely formative for me as a leader. Taking the time to work out what my gifts are and what they’re not was such a helpful exercise, and one that I’ve brought back to the office. We’ve since moved people around a bit so that they’re in roles where they can play to their strengths. Discovering your strengths at an early stage of life saves you from a life of mediocrity.
GLI has helped me to be a better leader. In the past if someone wasn’t doing their assignment, I would just do it. But now I try to encourage and empower them to do it. We check in every day. How’s that project going? What’s holding you back? How can we help?
If you do it alone you might do it fast; but if you do it together you will go far.
Christian Pichler — ÖSM Austria, General Secretary
As a new General Secretary, one of the big challenges is discerning priorities. There are many good things to do, but which one is the best? Which one should you start with? It really needs wisdom and patience to lead a national movement in the right direction, one step at a time.
And that’s particularly true given that we live in such a global world. The teams we lead are often cross-cultural; the students we try to reach are both local and international. We need to deal with global issues. We need to learn to be leaders in a global context.
That’s why GLI is such a strategic and unique program: the participants are from all over the world, from different cultures and backgrounds. We all do leadership differently.
Learning in community with the other young IFES leaders really was the highlight for me. I learned so much just through conversations with them over coffee or lunch. Hearing about the challenges they face and the way they address those challenges made me reconsider my approach to leadership in my own cultural context.
GLI helped me to have a global vision. That’s so important for leaders today.