Esther Mwaniki’s passion for nurturing leaders made her quit her job in order to start a leadership programme that equips young adults with relevant leadership and entrepreneurship skills.
There is an age-old adage that ‘leaders are born, not made’. Though some people are born with distinctive leadership characteristics, it has been proven that ‘great leaders are made’. Successful leaders such as Bill Gates and Narayana Murthy substantiate the fact that good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study. Authors such as Stewart Friedman have argued that leadership skills can be developed through training, observation, learning and practice – as this grows your leadership skills on a whole new level. In his book, Leading the Life You Want, Friedman talks about skills of great leadership and how they are developed.
In this context, Esther Mwaniki, a youthful Kenyan took the responsibility of developing the next generation of African Leaders. In 2014, Mwaniki quit her job from Guaranty Trust Bank (Kenya) where she was the Head of Risk and Compliance, to establish Lapid Leaders Africa. She also chaired a mentorship programme at the bank. Besides, she has strides in PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Africa Management Initiative where she worked as a part-time facilitator.
A graduate of Kenyatta University with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting, Mwaniki joined PwC in 2004 as an associate. She says she went through intensive training and mentorship at the organization, a process that helped in cultivating her skills.
Lapid is a value-driven leadership programme that equips young adults to be the twenty first century leaders and entrepreneurs that Africa needs. “Our aim is to prepare university students for the transition between campus life and the market place,” says Mwaniki. The programme is a blend of training, mentorship and experiences.
The mission of the organization is to create value-driven leaders. “We expose them to the African continent, market leaders who live a value-driven life and provide entrepreneurship training in order to make them solution providers,” she observes. According to Mwaniki, an educated man without values makes an educated devil.
Lapid Leaders Africa is guided by three pillars. To start with is the lead self, which helps participants to know themselves (who they are) and the impact they can make on society. This pillar increases one’s level of self-awareness, given that leadership starts from within.
Secondly, is the lead market place, a skill based programme through which graduates are equipped with relevant skills required in the market place. “We develop skills such as work ethics, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.” In Kenya, there has been a persistent mismatch of skills in the labour market. A 2015 report by the World Bank titled “Kenya’s Education Achievement and Challenges” revealed that the country’s education system is failing to produce graduates with the knowledge and skills essential for Vision 2030.
Lastly, is lead Africa, which helps in raising the next generation of African leaders. Mwaniki is optimistic that African youth will help in changing the continent’s story by taking Africa’s marketplace to a new level.
Mwaniki believes in working with the “talented tenth” as they are able to replicate the change. The primary target is university students aged between 20 and 26 years.
Recruitment is done through open days, seminars and word of mouth. “Our focus is to recruit committed people as the programme is very intensive,” avers Mwaniki. “Successful candidates are required to engage in three hours of community service every week, solve practical problems facing companies and carry out entrepreneur projects,” she adds.
The programme takes three and half months after which participants take part in the African experience. They accomplish that by visiting a country within the region and learning from government and business leaders. After graduating at the end of the fifth month, participants may choose to join Lapid Leaders Council (LLC) which exists to activate Lapid Leaders into servant leaders, by enlisting them in the recruitment and delivery of extraordinary experiences to future cohorts.
Since establishment, Lapid Leaders has been able to create awareness and build confidence among the participants besides helping them get out of their comfort zone.
Recently, one of the students started the Tuelimike, an initiative whose aim is to transform lives. It entails collecting books and making them available to the most vulnerable children.
Lapid Leaders team won the Start up Weekend Education Challenge and were no 3 (finalists) in the Global Management Challenge (GMC), the world’s largest management and strategy competition that has been running since 1980. It is currently present in 35 countries worldwide and has more than 500,000 university students and company managers participating globally.
“Plans are underway to build an employment programme through which graduates will be able to get jobs,” observes Mwaniki.
Lapid also focuses on initiating county experiences as a way of giving back to the community. Participants will embark on visiting different secondary schools and sharing their experiences with students.