Jane Omanga has been working as the District Manager (DM) with the Leadership program since April 2013. Although she is fairly new with us, one of the first things you may notice about her is her approachable nature. She is always smiling and willing to listen intently to anyone who may cross her path. The second thing you might notice is the way she works with the rest of the Leadership team. Jane always makes strides to build relationships with the team, whether it’s through eating lunch together, offering individual counseling, or making jokes to build rapport with the staff. Jane cares about the success of every team member both in and outside of the workplace. Because of this, she has already formed strong bonds and a relationship of mutual respect with them. She puts the needs of others before herself and continually ensures that the needs of the program are the first priority. While it may sound simple, Jane is leading by example.

Within each program, the role of the DM has the ability to set the tone with the rest of the staff. They have the responsibility to illustrate servant leadership, to lead staff and the program in a positive direction, and to help their staff learn and grow. While this role can be challenging, having a DM who is a highly qualified Kenyan leader has the ability to transform and enliven staff. All of this contributes to staff motivation, willingness of team members to share ideas, and ultimately helps programs achieve their goal.

In our program, we have felt the positive influence of Jane as a strong but approachable DM in very profound ways. Since her arrival, the entire team has taken more ownership of their work and also continually takes initiative to complete tasks in more effective ways. Many staff members who were previously quiet during discussions, have now begun to blossom and speak without fear of asserting their opinions. The Zone Managers are also becoming more efficient at managing their Field Managers and have been teaching them new skills to continue to build their capacity. Overall, the team is steadily moving in a successful direction. A major part of these positive changes is in no doubt, due to Jane’s influence. Like the rest of the Leadership team, Jane grew up in extreme poverty. She finished secondary school and although she wanted to continue her education, lack of resources made that dream challenging. Instead, she got married and began a family. However, because her husband valued education, she was able to eventually go back to school and achieve a multitude of certificates, a higher diploma in psychological counseling, and a Bachelor’s degree in counseling studies. While Jane’s story does not reflect that of all of our staff members, she represents a success story that the rest of the Leadership team can look up to and emulate. Jane comes from a place where she understands the struggles of extreme poverty since she has experienced them first hand, but she also possesses the technical skills necessary to push the Leadership program forward in a positive direction. The fact that Jane once grew up in extreme poverty and is now in a position of management has motivated the team. They see her success and her example of leadership, which in turn helps them to see the possibilities within themselves. In short, the positive example that Jane has been able to exhibit to the team truly speaks to the importance and influence of the DM position. 

Leading by example may sound simple, but in practice it has the ability to take a team towards success or lead them astray. As we work towards exit, watching Jane lead the team has reminded me just how achievable our goal of leaving the project is. With such a positive impact in a mere two months, I am confident that the Leadership team is moving in the right direction and that sustainability is well within reach.