My colleague (Kevin Blossfeld) and I were able to meet with about 30 young women in Lutsk. At the beginning of the day we thought the topic would only be Leadership. However, it did not take long to notice that Kevin and I were the only men in the room. It was obvious what we needed to do… Turn our Leadership Workshop into a Women’s Leadership Workshop.
The exercises were no different, but the theme of the conversation changed. I was able to start with a few exercises focused on cross cultural leadership. Participants were given a blue and yellow sticky note. On the blue note I told them to write a leadership trait which is coveted in Ukraine. On the Yellow note they had to write a trait which they perceived would be desired in western leaders.
After this 30 minute dialog we talked about the importance of leaders to empower others. We focused on the negative effects of a leader who is incapable of believing or empowering his or her team members. I gave them all a playing card and told them to hold it out where I could see it. Then, I proposed a fictional scenario. We were all on a team, we were just given a million dollars to develop our community, and I was the boss. Each young lady had 2-3 minutes to come up with an idea for our new project. After which, they had to pitch me their idea. The more enthusiastic girls wanted to go first. However, they were holding a low numbered card and for this exercise I would treat them like they were useless and give the most attention to those with higher suited cards (no matter the idea). After about 3 minutes the ladies caught onto what was happening, but I continued the exercise for about another 5 minutes. I even got on one knee and got wide eyed in order to listen to two of the ladies’ proposals who held Aces. This was followed by a 5-10 minute discussion on the ladies perception of the exercise and what my actions relieved to them.
I had about 5 minutes left before Kevin was schedule to facilitate his World Café section of the Workshop. So, the last exercise I facilitated needed to be quick. Each one of them needed to trade cards with at least three girls (all while not looking at their new cards). They next need to put their card on their foreheads, stand up, and begin to network. Again, the high cards were the “important people” in the room. I let the woman talk for about 3 minutes. At that moment, we ended the exercise with a quick 2 minute discussion.
I left them by sharing my thoughts on young leaders. It is not a matter whether you have influence now, it does not matter if you are a manger or mayor, and it does not matter if you are a student. You will never reach your full potential as a leader, if you do not believe in your ability to influence others or question your virtuous nature.
*These are the thoughts of Richard J. Roman and do not directly reflect those of the Peace Corps, or its affiliates.