The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

YALI at the Rockefeller Center: Uncovering Your Strengths with Whit Mitchell

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This is part of an ongoing series of articles on the Rockefeller Center's participation in the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI.

Chioma Agha
2015 Dartmouth Mandela Washington Fellow
CEO of Swish Ideas
Nigeria

I discovered more of myself on the 7th of July at the Rockefeller Center. I remember being asked to do a lengthy survey prior to attending class, which required that I be totally honest. The results were astonishing.

Speaker Whit Mitchell arranged YALI Fellows around the room in a continuum of their strengths and helped them better understand what those strengths are. Photo by May Nguyen '18.

As the class began, we started off with a paper game for which we were all given 6 simple instructions on what to do with the paper. You will not believe that all of us yielded different turnouts. ALL! That made me realize that people interpret instructions very differently. I mean, here I was with arguably some of the brightest people in Africa and we all produced different results!

It made me reflect on instructions given to my staff and how, more often than not, results produced were usually different. Was I communicating wrongly? Did I understand their behaviors? Did I make it clear to them how I wanted to be communicated to and vice versa?

As I reflect on these questions and more throughout the YALI program, I will work on understanding my strengths and weaknesses more to be a better leader, mentor, child and friend. This, I believe will keep pushing me in the right direction.

Hyasintha Ntuyeko
2015 Dartmouth Mandela Washington Fellow
Founder and Managing Director, Kasole Secrets
Tanzania

I would never have thought that knowing my personal weaknesses and strengths is a key factor for honing my leadership skills, until I attended the leadership session, “Uncovering Your Strengths” at the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth with Whit Mitchell. It has been a challenging experience to uncover my weaknesses; it made me reflect seriously on myself and hence thinking of better ways to work on weaknesses that I can fix while finding good ways to accommodate those weaknesses that I can’t fix. I realized if you don’t really know yourself in the context of strengths and weaknesses, it is hard to utilize the potential you have and even harder to work with other people.

After being told a uniform set of 6 simple instructions for a white sheet of paper, the YALI Fellows discover a wide range of interpretations and outcomes. Photo by May Nguyen '18.

The leadership session with Whit Mitchel made me think about the many times I missed wonderful opportunities just because I didn’t understand where my strengths were and what kind of team players I really needed to work with to complement my weaknesses. How many times have I wrongly communicated with my team members and hence limited their potential and affected their performance just because I didn’t understand what works best for them? How many times have my team members and stakeholders limited my potential and performance just because they didn’t understand what works best for me?

It is not too late for me to fix it and make use of my leadership experience at the Rockefeller Center. It is necessary to uncover your strengths and weaknesses, but it is also very important to accept your weaknesses so that you can give better chances to play your game well. Not knowing or accepting your weaknesses is the same as boarding a wrong bus and continuing to hope that you will reach your desired destination.

-Written by Chioma Agha, a 2015 Dartmouth Mandela Washington Fellow from Uganda, and Hyasintha Ntuyeko, a 2015 Dartmouth Mandela Washington Fellow from Tanzania. 

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