Mafule Moswane | Nelson Mandela Washington Fellowship Experience

Mafule Moswane takes us through the journey of becoming a Nelson Mandela Washington Fellow.


Mandela Washington Fellowship Experience

I was selected for the prestigious 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship. I spend 6 weeks from the 20th of June 2018 in the U.S based at Kansas State University, The Staley School of Leadership studies. I also attended a three-day conference in Washington D.C. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). This programme is designed to empower young African leaders through academic courses, leadership training, and networking. Fellows also receive professional development for a year after they return. In addition to being 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow, I am a Master of Science graduate (2018) from University of the Witwatersrand, a Research Associate at Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute ( (ASRI), an author of two books, Executive Chairperson of Faculty of Best Advisory ( (FBA), ambassador of Club Readership (  (CR), and recently one of the 2018 News24 100 Young Mandelas of the Future.


At my host institution, Kansas State University, Staley School of leadership, I was learning about Leadership and the mission guiding our discussion was: “Developing Knowledgeable, Ethical, Caring, and Inclusive Leaders for a Diverse and Changing World.” Since completing the programme, I have been posed with the fundamental question of how my experience was. My honest response to the foremost questions is that it was an experience I will wish for every person in the world. The close I can get to the expression of the experience in the fellowship is that “it was out of this world,” every moment of every hour of every day was filled with learning, challenging experiences and growth opportunities, as well as pure joy and satisfaction. I will cherish the experience for most, if not for the rest of my life. I will cherish this experience for many reasons which include but not limited to the fact that I have developed at a personal level and professionally. I am now more than ever before more clear in terms of my personal and career goals.

In the programme, we attended lectures to cover theoretical concepts about leadership from leading “experts,” on weekdays. We were also given academic readings and books to understand the concepts we were dealing with during lectures\discussions. There were breaks in between which we used to arrange meetings with institute staff and community members of Kansas and organizations which we wanted to learn from or collaborate with in future. We visited many organizations which included but not limited to Harvesters Warehouse, Operation Breakthrough, Boys and Girls Club, Non-profit Connect and Kansas Leadership Center to mention but a few-they were all based in and around Kansas. We also had time on our own to explore the neighborhood. On Sundays, we had community meals whereby we experienced diverse cultures through food and music from different countries and continents. It was during community meals where we experienced the cultural food of America, Asia as well as Africa. Sometimes the institute staff will cook and sometimes as fellows we will cook our home food from our respective countries and share as a “family’.


In what follows, I will share some of the major lessons and highlights of the experience from the respective institute staff in no particular order of importance:

Tamara Bauer, an instructor at Staley School of Leadership took us through a lecture on how we can use a personality test to understand ourselves and others in exercising leadership. We took the personality test online before the lecture as per her instructions. The personality test is called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). MBTI is an instrument that was developed by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers. The purpose of the MBTI is to make the theory of psychological types described by C.G Jung understandable in people’s lives. I took the MBTI with all other fellows and the results revealed that I am ENTP. The results meant that I focus my attention on Extraversion (E) instead of Introversion (I). When it comes to taking the information I use Intuition (N) instead of Sensing (S). I also use Thinking (T) over Sensing (S) when making decisions. Finally, when dealing with the external world I use Perception (P) over Judgement (J). It was ultimately highlighted that a leader has to be intentional about knowing the people they work with.

Trisha Gott, the facilitator throughout the Institute consistently reminded us to be intentional in everything that we do. She emphasized that “leadership is about being intentional”. She added that our experience is “the beginning of a new beginning.” I learnt to live a more intentional life ever since the encounter with Trisha Gott.

We also took a strengths test facilitated by Mike Finegan. Mike was very instrumental in this learning process. The ideas were that, if we know our strengths, we will improve on them because is “better to improve first-rate performance to excellence.’ I discovered that my top 5 strengths are; learner, developer, input, responsibility and futuristic and overall, I am a strategic thinker. This was an important discovery as it made me more self-conscious. I equally enjoyed the reflection group discussions with Mike which helped me focus my future plans post-fellowship.


In addition, we also had a workshop on the Art of Risk Taking with Catie Whelan who came in as a guest facilitator. She challenged us to take at least one small, one medium and one big risk. Due to the experience. I have developed muscles to take risks for all that I wish to become.

I learned about the power of storytelling from Paul Maina and digital storytelling from Scoot Voos. I learned that stories are powerful yet easy to remember and can be very useful to influence society and changing narratives. I also learned that since we are in the digital period it remains pertinent to tell stories online. Andy Wefald and Scott Voos also shared about coaching. The duo took us on coaching, in terms of how it differs from facilitating, mentoring and counselling. We learned that the core values of coaching are: confidentiality, non-judging, curiosity, truth-telling, and lack of attachment to outcome. We were also introduced to a coaching model we can use for coaching others. Andy Wefald further shared the significance of political skills in leadership. Political skill defined as “the ability to effectively understand others at work, and to use such knowledge to influence others to act in ways that enhance one’s personal and/or organizational objectives”

Jackline Aridi unpacked post fellowship opportunities to us. She explained to us how previous fellows collaborated with institute staff and other fellows, and also the reciprocal exchanges between US and YALI fellows as well as opportunities for career development.

Another facilitator of the programme at Stately School of Leadership, Brandon Kleiwer who spend most time with us always encouraged us “to leave the dance floor stand on the balcony.” Simply put, he encouraged us to reflect on everything we were learning about so that it can sink and make sense to us. He also helped us understand the difference between a Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset. “Someone with a growth mindset has the burning desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of a setback, and see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism and draw lessons and inspirations from the success of others. As a result, they reach ever-higher levels of achievements. In contrast, a person with a fixed mindset desires to look smart and therefore has a tendency to avoid challenges, give up easily, see efforts as fruitless waste, ignore useful positive feedback, and feel threatened by the success of others. As a result, they may achieve less than their full potential.” Brandon asked a very powerful question throughout the institute: “If not now, when? If not us, who?”

The experience will not have been a peaceful one if we were never taken through a diversity workshop by Mary Kay Siefers. Beyond the workshop, Mary said something very profound that, as we depart to our respective countries, “we must believe in ourselves, we must listen and respond to what our hearts and souls are crying and yearning for.” And for me, it was important to help me remain committed to my true calling. I will always remember the profound words she shared. Mary Hale Tolar who is also an institute staff at Staley School of leadership shared with us that, “to be an ethical leader, it takes time and practice. One becomes an ethical leader through constant practice.” Time and again, Mary Hale Tolar said to us that, “leadership is relationship.” After the workshops, I learned to be more tolerant, to care more about myself, to be an active listener, to reflect often, to practice ethical leadership and to believe more in myself and other people.

We closed the sessions with Dr. Gama Perecci who further emphasized that “leadership is a process and is contextual.” Furthermore, we engaged and deliberated robustly on global challenges affecting humanity. The deliberations constituted of many cases studies from Africa and the world. Despite the fact that we were learning at a different context, we can deploy the skills and the knowledge we have acquired to address the most pressing and fundamental challenges faced by Africa and her people.

I also attended an intensive 2 and half day conference about leadership at Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) between the 10th and 12th of July 2018. I attended with the fellows from across Africa who are leaders in their own right as well as leaders from Kansas and across the United States of America. We were learning extensively about leadership. My theoretical understanding of what leadership means was expanded. In all honesty, I was stretched and challenged mentally. The set-up at the conference was conducive for me in particular because it created an intimate environment for interaction. We learned in small groups (6 people), Medium group (about 30 people) and as a large group of 150 people in total. We were granted a massive opportunity to grow our networks. In this setting, we were learning about leadership principles adapted from a solution book titled “Your Leadership EDGE” written by Ed O’ Malley and Amanda Cebula. The principles of leadership adapted from the book include but not limited to the idea that:

1.”Leadership is an activity and not a position.”
2. “Anyone can lead anytime, anywhere”
3. It starts with you and must engage others”
4. “Your purpose must be clear”
5. “It is risky”

After exploring the principles of leadership, we then tested the four competencies of leadership in relation to our own leadership challenges we are facing as well as personal challenges. The first competency is the capacity to “diagnose situations.” Secondly, to “manage self.” Thirdly, to “energize others, and finally the ability to “intervene skilfully.” We dealt with practical and real-life examples based on the challenges we are confronted with in our personal lives as well our respective institutions. The challenge is to apply some if not all of these ideas which some are new and fresh to me. Ed O’Maller, President and CEO of Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) said that “we cannot be simply satisfied if we entertain and delight our audiences. We must see ourselves as attempting to mobilise others-the learners-to learn and change important things about themselves. To do so means the act of teaching leadership must be an act of leadership in and of itself. In closing the conference, Kansas Leadership Centre Director of Research, Tim Steffensmeier said to us that, “what we think about leadership or anything else for that matter, has a half-life, things that we thought were true get disproven over time.” I indeed left a conference a completely transformed person in my thinking.

I am looking forward to testing the tools and strategies I learnt from fellows, institution staff and organisations as well as community members I interacted with. I will test the ideas in my attempt to produce quality results as well as having a meaningful impact in society at large. Yes, of course, I will problematize some of the ideas and tools, I will read more and learn more. It will also be a dishonour and injustice not to mention that among other things we participated in social programs; we did things of clubbing, we went for swimming, played soccer, watched soccer, we went for site seeing, and we went for movies and so on and so forth. Let me not forget that we sang our lungs out and danced in the process of our becoming. This was overall a holistic experience. Throughout the institute, we reminded ourselves that, the joy was, still is, and will forever remain in the journey of our becoming.

Now more than ever before I feel encouraged, energized, upskilled, motivated, inspired and empowered. After six years of service and building institutions, this was much-needed experience and exposure. I am excited to join the ground forces of FBA, CR, and ASRI as well as related stakeholders. I am excited to continue with the spirit of service and commitment to Africa and her people.

I had not anticipated that at some point in my life I will have to travel to America to meet some of Africa’s greatest minds tackling Africa’s challenges head-on, the leaders who are fighting for peace in their countries, those who are fighting to bring to end genital mutilation, gender inequalities, economic inequalities and all forms of oppression as well as those who are bridging the educational and technological divide. What an honour to have met potential and current political leaders, business leaders and civil servants of Africa and her people. For the 2018 Fellowship, it was 700 of us young African leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa, although I did not meet with all of them, I met most of them and my network has expanded across the majority of African countries.

I am inspired by all these leaders who are contributing to the advancement of the human race and closing the existing gaps. In the same breath, I appreciated the most, the care and commitment of the institute staff, in particular, the Staley School of Leadership at Kansas State University, the peer collaborators and members of the community, I have learned a lot and my life has been touched in a special way by all those I came across during the fellowship. I am excited and looking forward to future collaborations. The people I have met in the fellowship will remain the most beautiful and life-changing aspect of the fellowship. These are the very same people who continued to encourage us that, we can be better, that we can do better and we must not dare to give up. These are the people who have committed to lend a helping hand in our pursuit of greatness and the journey of our becoming. Prior to my departure to the U.S, I had anticipated growth both in my personal life and career. Looking back, I am grateful to have experienced total transformation and progress at a personal level and as a becoming leader. It was indeed a wonderful personal and career growth experience that exceeded my expectations.

In this journey of my becoming, this time calls for me, in particular, to reflect and look back, to organise the ideas, to share, to test, to engage,  to respond to the greatest call, which is but to serve. After all, that is what true leadership is about, it is about service. In as far as the story is concerned, this is but just the beginning, the best is yet to come and the best pages of our lives are yet to be written. The story is, of course, the narrative of our journey. In general, the joy was, still is, and will forever remain in the journey of our becoming

By Mafule Moswane


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7 thoughts on “Mafule Moswane | Nelson Mandela Washington Fellowship Experience

  1. This is in so many words, ways and thought; the kind of leadership that we should not only strive for but learn from and strive for more. Danx for shearing.

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