I am I can I will

By Bruce Wade

Last week I got to spend 5 days in a small town just north of the tip of Africa: Bredasdorp. We were facilitating the annual Honey Badger Leadership camp, an initiative of Tiberah Learning Centres.

The programme immerses a group of teens (Badgers) who have shown promise as leaders on the honey Badger Boot Camp and are now being primed as team leaders for the next camp cycle in December.

Badgers are taken on a journey linked to the mantra ‘I am, I can, I will, I will show others’ whilst developing their personal and leadership skills.

Several activities are used to unpack various internal lessons that are then debriefed into practical lessons of leadership. One of these was the concept of communication whilst blindfolded. Removing the ability to see from someone, automatically shuts their mouth and strangely the ability to listen to commands. At first, they seem dumbfounded at their inability to see and just stand still waiting for something to happen to them before any action is taken.

This exercise has always been a favourite of mine and rarely do I leave home for workshops without my bag of blindfolds. As the Badgers stood silently, blindfolded, waiting, others were instructed to lead them around various obstacles to collect a variety of items assigned to their team. At first, it was confusion, people knocking into one another and pushing for position. Then as if suddenly switched on, the instructors began to give instructions, softly at first, then loudly, then when the goals were not met, by shouting and even stomping of the feet and frantic waving of hands.

So many lessons here to unpack and so many analogies to how managers and leaders operate in the real world. We start stunned by the enormity of the problem, then start with a burst and end up shouting to be understood, then when things go wrong the arm waving and stomping starts.

How many times have you witnessed this in the corporate office: in others, in yourself? When good leadership requires a calm head and clear communication, especially when things get chaotic. Maybe more people should join me for the next Leadership camp?

One Comment

  1. Bill Brander 27 June 2024 at 11:35 - Reply

    Bruce, this reminds me of IBM’s Outward Bound courses in Lesotho. We had a few IBMers from Cape Town.

    Among the experiences, we also used the “blindfold” exercise. My favourite was the abseiling. Can I trust the person holding the rope?

    I still recall one chap saying, “I know what leadership skills you’re looking for, so I will show you.” My response was, “Yes, you can. But can you keep it up for seven days?” He did and was later promoted to manager, where he did well.

    Those were the days.

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