Saturday, November 16, 2013

Finding self- a two-week journey with world best leaders!

It was almost 4’O clock in the evening- an hour to end the business week. I was sitting in the Embassy of Japan in Islamabad waiting to hear the result of my visa application! Any further delay would have ended my hope of going to Kiyosato at all. Not sure, why I was so confident and satisfied that nothing would go wrong and I will make it! Perhaps for the first time in my life, my breath was calm in such situation when the visa officer finally called for my turn. Visa granted!!

Later, I learned from my training with WYSE this was one of my sub personalities which kept me calm and confident!

“Ok boss, I am going to Japan”, I finally disclosed the confirmation with my supervisor in the office who was waiting if I don’t get visa, we will make the next week plan how to deal with upcoming delegation from Australia. Anyhow, I had to manage many things, given the fact I had only 48 hours left to leave for Japan and with zero preparation! Reaching back home late night, attend a condolence prayer at home town next day and returning back to home for final packing!

And then I found two things are missing, other than the normal packing I could do- someone had broken the wheel of my bag J J and I still don’t have travel insurance!

Oh Sonoe had said travel insurance is must. Hehe! Anyway- ring ring… hello! And thanks to my colleague in Admin- Shumaila who did all the arrangements next day for my travel insurance before I could leave for airport.

But the bag without wheel was still troublesome. I had no time to buy a new one, but only to put the heavier bag over my shoulder. Still ok J

It was Sunday and all the money changers were off! Let’s leave the story now how I exchanged for Yens before I caught my flight to Narita!

That was Part-1; how to manage many things within 48 hours to get to one of the most important journey of my life- to participate in International Leadership Programme (ILP) in Japan! I had heard a lot about it..

The journey starts and I finally touched the land of Japan- a completely marvelous country with its rich culture of hospitality and care everywhere! The more this country got developed, the more its beautiful people have become the most civilized and down to earth nation of the world! This gave me one of the learning how to lead with the value of respect!

I read somewhere that a develop country is that where rich people travel in public transport! I recalled it when I sit with other Japanese in a comfortable bus from Narita airport to the Ryuo station- a stunning four-hour journey where land-hiding building gradually turned into beautiful landscape of hills, clouds and blue sky!

Here in the bus I met with two amazing fellows of ILP- Mohanad (Sudan) and Hassane (Niger) who were joining this programme with me and travelling all the way from China.

We three were almost a day long late for training programme! It was almost dinner time we entered the venue. The young smiling participants who were already present in the hall were so excited and happily mixing up with each other and I thought for a while if they have been here for so long to get relax and know each other! For me, it was a big surprise how can facilitators and host create such friendly environment in less than 24 hours for those who come from different regions and completely different cultures.

Hmmm… my thoughts straightaway went to the capability of facilitators for creating this environment! “I am sure they are the world best trainers”, I said to myself!

The way all the new friends and facilitators accepted us- the three later comers, made me feel like early comersJ Strange thought but that’s what my mind said that time. Second learning- how to welcome those who, for any reason, might have left behind but wants to accompany you!

Ashe- our amazing group in the ILP!! 
And then all of sudden, within the sea of smiling faces, Zainab- a fellow from India comes and welcome me in the group! Hi Asif, Zainab here… I have already put your name in our group “Ashe”, said Zainab, giving me much attachment in this new environment that I started feeling comfortable! In my two week of stay in ILP, Japan, I had much to learn from Zainab’ personality! The more she was engaging and available for everyone’s help with her all-time fun, the more she was simple and focused in life- a secret to disclose what leadership is!

The very next fellow was Barkat- everyone called him “Barkat- the power” with all their love and appreciation! Barkat- my country fellow from Pakistan who had been so kind with his attitude, asking me all the time if I enjoyed my breakfast, did I sleep well, how the session was J It reminds me one of the values- Care we can build on to become a true leader!  

My two week stay during ILP was full of excitement and learning with every minute we spent with the world most amazing people! Sometime I thought all these participants, in some way, are facilitators of the programme J giving their best to help each other what leadership is in our simple or most complex lives!

One of my sub personalities (a new concept I learnt about myself) kept on thinking about a charming girl I met in the training. Where did I saw or meet her before, somewhere! And then one evening, Andrew- one of our facilitators, while watching a youtube clip on his cell phone said to me, don’t you recognize this girl?? Oh my God! She is the heroine of my favorite movie “Black Water”! How come I didn’t recognize her!! For a while I thought, I can’t be a good leader, but on the very next second my sub personality rushed me toward Maeve! “I last time watched your movie at home with my entire family”, I said with a mix of excitement and apologies, confessing to Maeve that I didn’t know you are the same awesome heroine!

The beautiful Kiyosato! 
The two weeks long training in a completely isolated place from the lights and fun of Japan initially looked like a challenge. We were told we have to come with full preparation with no chance of evening shopping! This was going to be a different time in my life, I thought! However, looking around the beautiful scenery and awesome Nature in day light, my thoughts got changed. “I have made the right decision to come here”, I said to my heart.

“What did I get the most from this training”, while reflecting on this question with our group “Ashe”, I felt this is the first such long training where I never got late from a single session! And this was the case with almost everyone participant! Despite the fact, we had been starting each day with 10/10/10 exercise at 8AM and closing our day at 10PM, sometime after 11PM, it didn’t impact the energy of participants. The way our facilitators engaged us with the combination of joy, music, fun, interesting debates and sufficient rest could make it a tireless journey of leadership.

Ok let’s dance!!!

How come this counts as a leadership skill J Why not! And this is what I knew from Christian- one of our charming Ashe members! Music and dance is sharing happiness. When we share happiness we create harmony in community we work with!

I could see a real energy and happiness on face of Christian whenever I saw him dancing! He can dance over African drums (of course, being the very African) and he danced over the tunes of Coke Studio with Arif Lohaar’ “Jugni”- a famous Pakistani folk singer! I learned that connecting our self with others through music and dance can create a strongly interconnected community with a high potential of dedicating to some valuable cause!

By the time, we had been completing our leadership course in Kiyosato, I made a good progress to learn African dance from Christian, Japanese traditional dance from Misaki (our Japanese fellow), English one from Katie (our US fellow) and an organized dancing steps from Zainab! By the way, in return some of the fellows also performed over traditional dance we, in Pakistan usually do during marriages in Northern part of Pakistan!

Being pragmatic and mystic brings lots of values when we are in some sort of leadership role in our life! Having time with fellows like Stephen (from Germany) and Go (from Japan), I could connect the secrets that efficiency and objectively targeted life is not always kind of machinic lifestyle! It gives us much targeted approach to achieve our life objective with clear vision and path!

Oh this reminds me the super mystic Kevin (our fellow from the US and Ashe member)! Kevin got the magic in his hands and fingers. The way he plays with drums is just awesome! He, being a person with mystic thoughts, continued to inspire me all the way how music can polish a leader to inspire others. I learned from Kevin how amazingly he helped his music students perform extra ordinary in academic career.

Kevin also helped me learn how precious is the way of giving someone recognition of his/her values by gifting them with different shapes of stones! I could learn how a stone connects with values of determination and with the value of care. And the best I could learn from Chris (our facilitator) that such gift is not just a time-bound appreciation, but a way of connecting our self with such values and act upon in rest of our lives!

I could see a true taste of culture for learning during the ILP. Interconnecting culture gave me a strong sense of values we as global community own! I heard a lot about Japanese culture of hospitality, hard work and care for others. But I personally witnessed this all while spending time with my Japanese friends like Mio who believes on sharing happiness and care among fellows- being one of the strongest leadership qualities.

This was the first training for me where every day and night we got the food presentation which not only gave us good calories but also familiarity with the food tradition of Japan. On the other hand, we had friends like Katie from the US, who brought the values of knowledge, sharing and perfection during the programme!  If she had been kind to fellows in free time of chat, she also showed pro-activeness in every session of team success.

Almost every participant during the ILP came up with a new story of appreciation and leadership! Mostly they were simple in normal life but they gave me a new vision that our role models are not always someone who have changed the entire world! Our role models can be anyone around us with simplicity in their lives and perfection in their small world. I now believe that “big personalities” perhaps inspires us for one reason but common people around us may inspire us for many reasons”J 
The leaders for better tomorrow! 
I recall the confidence of Dan from Nepal in his night of passion, the best of Apoorva from India when she performed the role of male fellow, the confidence of Mohanad (Sudan) who acted as a female in the role play! And I recall the performance of Kei from Japan, Harald from UK, Nue from Bangladesh and Takahero from Japan and our very own Hero J who had been so inspirational to me and most of us throughout the programme! Perhaps I can write a book of leadership if I start writing about every participant I met with during the ILP. My apologies if I miss your name my friends!

Leadership is realization of fun and moments of joy we can give to others and help create a community of action. We could get this fun and pleasure from our two participants who came all the way from Afghanistan- Parwiz and Shafiq! They have been the source of recreation throughout the two-week programme. The way they had been voicing “Ahaaaaan” and “Barkat- The power” made everyone happy. We often underestimate the value of fun in leadership. If fun can give the group happiness, it ultimately makes the group stronger, connected and energetic! This is what our fellows from Afghanistan did in addition to their own capabilities and strong will of leadership!  

For many, the ILP was a unique learning. For me, it was more about our Inner world! In my entire personal and professional life, I thought more about outer world in the concept of leadership. The ILP enabled me think of myself, my values and my inner strength to become a leader. The way we can manage our self help us lead in the world and do something for a better tomorrow. How much we appreciate our self, analyze our sub personalities and find our center is all about leadership in its own. The ILP, in fact changed my way of thinking and absorbing the concept of leadership.

With no doubts, I would give credit to Sonoe and her team of facilitators for their extra ordinary work. Of course you are the world best quality mentors who know the secret of leadership! The training has ignited much of the energy in many of us to take up leadership role in our lives. For me, it goes with the idea of Climate Change Leadership programme I intend to start for our Youth in Pakistan in near future! 

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