No, not silence again!

By Acumen on June 25, 2014

The Acumen Fellowship’s Cambridge Leadership Associates (CLA) training is notorious for digging deep, breaking Fellows down to reveal their deepest fears, identifying the sources of resilience that will fuel them with the tenacity to continue along the path to social change. Kahabi G. Isangula is an East Africa Regional Fellow living in Tanzania and recently participated in our CLA training. Get an idea of what it is like, below! 

I wake up fully motivated, reflecting on the learnings from the first day of Acumen Fellowship Seminar #2. My vocabulary has been enriched with terms like ‘Business Model Canvas’, ‘Monologues’, ‘SBI Feedback tool’ among others. I mentally prepare for the second day of Seminar 2, an Adaptive Leadership session facilitated by Cambridge Leadership Associates.

My experience with adult learning principles and models drives my expectations. CLA will set the agenda; set norms and pour knowledge into our heads as if they were ‘empty vessels.’  An open discussion model is not easily tolerated, as it often leaves the facilitator’s control. With participants from a cross section of an organization, this could be an avenue to point fingers at one another.  

We all enter the room and settle down to await instruction on Adaptive Leadership. After introducing himself, our facilitator Mr. Hugh asserts “Let’s begin.” Suddenly, the room goes quiet; an ominous and uncomfortable silence dominates the room, reminding me of elementary school days when we referred to such moments as ‘a devil passing by.’ Immediately, I look for a devil in the room.  After a 30 minute unsuccessful search, I find myself pissed off by the continued silence. I begin to wonder (and I’m certain I’m not alone) how the cohort should show ‘leadership’ and take over the training, given the obvious absence of ‘leadership’ in the room. After a while, one cohort member assumes a ‘leading role’ asking us for our expectations, although we were not instructed to do so. Mixed ideas erupt in attempt to define what to do next. This illustrated what Mr. Hugh later described as ‘hunger’ for leadership as part of human nature.


I expected Hugh to teach us about Adaptive Leadership through PowerPoint slides or group-work related to the pre-reading. Instead, Hugh’s engaging style of facilitation actually turned silence into a most insightful discussion that had me gain greater insight into how I behave in the real world – I must say this was way beyond the expectation I woke up to.

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