Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
So we are in the third month of our 3 month Peace and Conflict studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. When I first heard that I was chosen and heading to Thailand for three months, I was not sure what to expect so I did some research, but I was still not prepared for what the last couple of months has taught me. First I must acknowledge the informal learning that has occurred through all of the Peace Fellows that I have been with. I have learned so much about the various cultures, countries, and the work that our Peace Fellows do, which has increased my respect exponentially for all my colleagues. The work that the Fellows are doing and have been involved in is impressive and motivating. The formal learning through lectures from front line experience and class discussions all increased not only my knowledge but also my need to do more.
As I thought about what to write about for this blog, the concept of servant leadership constantly came to mind. Not only is it something that I am passionate about, but something I see in every one of my Fellows of Class 27. Not only that, but it is something that stood out with the villagers and fisher folk that we met. Servant leadership is leadership philosophy in which the goal is to serve those around you. Servant leaders lead with others in mind. They value diverse opinions and build trust with those around them. They think long term and do it all with humility and humanity. These few sentences not only describes the leadership that I value but the Fellows in class 27 as well as some of the community leaders we met in Songkhla and in Hat Yai.
Servant leadership to most people is a foreign concept. When we think of leadership, we often think positional. A CEO of a corporation perhaps or a government Minister. These people are certainly in leadership positions but that does not necessarily make them leaders. Leadership is not just a position, it is also a decision, and it is about making choices. From Simon Sinek, “if you have decided to look after the person to the left of you and look after the person to the right of you, then you have become a leader”. These few sentences best describe the people that I had the honor of spending the last three months. I met a person who has several jobs and not only looks after people in his day job, but created a non-profit organization to take care of others and educate to create peace across borders. I have met journalists, who give me hope because they believe in solution journalism, a concept to create peace. Educators who teach young people, not only providing them knowledge, but arming them to go out in the world and make it better. Justice professionals, social worker, engineer, nonprofit leaders, government workers and police officers all who practice servant leadership, they practice with heart and they practice with empathy. Their knowledge, passion, abilities, ideas, empathy and yes even their humor, leave me in awe and humble me. If this is the future of peace and conflict resolution, then we have a considerable amount of hope.
I would remiss if I didn’t speak about our visit to Songhkla and Hat Yai and the servant leadership practiced by the fisher folk, villagers and those that organized the groups. The two people that come to mind was the president of the Fisher Folk and Dr. Supat. Dr. Supat’s passion to help protect the interest of the villagers and his community activism was so very impressive and something we should all be doing more of in our lives. I spoke with him briefly about the impact that he has had on his community, and he not once accepted that this was his to own, but gave the credit to those villagers that work tirelessly in their community interests. The president of the fisher folk association spoken often about not being educated, however showed more leadership than most of those with five degrees behind their names. He spoke about working collaboratively and team work and how nothing can be done without those two concepts. Both Dr. Supat and the president of the fisher folks empowered others around them to achieve collective goals. These people create change through their servant leadership.
This experience has been one that challenged me, made me cry, made me laugh, and made me question my own reality. This experience has assisted me and will assist me in the future in creating a larger dialogue with a larger audience about creating peace and incorporating it in discourses about leadership. The axiom of ‘be change that you want to see in the world’ rings so true and even more so after the experience here at Chula and learnings from Fellows of Class 27. “Your impact is not measured by volume or by numbers. Your impact is to improve the life of another individual in some way – and what a beautiful opportunity that is” – author unknown
Menasha Nikhanj – Canada
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 27