Training Prep vs. Spreading Soil :: Leadership Development

I have now been back in Kenya for three days – it would take an entire website to list the ways that this country challenges my understanding of normal. Daily I’m asked to look at all my fancy change theories and put them into practice.

While in the States I went to the Learning Change Network’s annual learning conference. During one of my small groups I sat with Andrew Morris – Singer of Primary Care Progress and Matt Lewis of Emory University. We discussed the tension between depth and breadth in leadership development – how do you make a wide impact while investing deeply enough to see lasting change? The answers seemed to come easily in our fifth floor conference room at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Today, I faced that choice in real time. One of Be the Change’s young adult leadership teams organized a seedling planting at one of our Partner Organizations, Nyumba ya Tumaini. It was an incredible event that lasted all day. I arrived at 12 and planned on eating lunch and leaving by 2.  I had some teaching materials to tighten up for a training we’re leading tomorrow.

However, I soon realized that wasn’t going to happen. I ended up spending 5 hours at the event. I played games with the residents at Nyumba ya Tumaini, lamented about the deep roots of Kenyan poverty with Ben (founder of Nyumba) and watched Tony lead his team. I took the time to as Andrew said, “run with the group.”

Today, I chose depth. Those training materials lost out to spreading soil with Joseph and Kevin. I don’t know if this was the right choice – maybe I should have left early so that the 30 leaders at the training tomorrow would get a better experience. I’m honestly not sure. What I do know is that this work takes both – it takes me willing to prepare materials that reach the crowds but it also takes the time to connect and walk together with those involved in the dirty work. If you’re ever able to calculate the balance between those tensions – pass it on. If not, you’ll find me here with you, trying to figure it out.

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