Linda Kushinga Sibanyoni

2019 Fellowship Alumna, Zimbabwe

YALI10 Competition, Semi-Finalist: Purple Hearts Never Fail

In celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with the Wilson Center, opened a competition under the theme“YALI at 10: My Life, My Community, and My World.” Selected submissions were showcased at the YALI tenth anniversary virtual summit in May 2021, where a decade of YALI change-makers and their achievements were celebrated.  Submissions included a variety of media, including videos, short essays, poems, songs, spoken word, and sketches.

We’re proud that several Fellowship Alumni were among the finalists and semi-finalists in the contest, including 2019 Fellowship Alumna Linda Kushinga Sibanyoni of Zimbabwe, who studied Leadership in Civic Engagement at Kansas State University. Read her competition entry below.

Please note that competition entries reflect the thoughts and opinions of Fellowship Alumni and may not reflect views of the U.S. Government.

Purple Hearts Never Fail

“People matter. Relationships matter.”

Dr. Mary Hale Tolar, Kansas State University

The words above have profoundly impacted my leadership journey.

When Dr. Tolar said them during a class on ‘Ethical Dimensions of Leadership’ at Kansas State University, a sense of somewhat profound clarity engulfed me. Her words gave me the validation that the value I place on my family, friends, and community is important; and equally so, is behaving ethically and upholding integrity in all situations.

In 2019, I applied for the Mandela Washington Fellowship after losing an election for public office in Zimbabwe in 2018. Through it, I hoped to gain and enhance my technical skills in leadership as a young woman in order to maximize my impact in the Zimbabwean predominantly male political arena. Coincidentally, the Fellowship was exactly a whole year later towards my final six weeks of election campaigning in July-August 2018. I realised that I had heart-mind matters that I hadn’t dealt with regarding my election loss. My time at K-State provided me a safe and supportive environment to unpack my election loss. The support and guidance from the faculty staff and the K-State Mandela [Washington] Fellows (2019) ensured that I began a new journey-a journey to heal and understand myself anew.

Although I was intentionally focused on gaining technical leadership skills, the Fellowship was the gift that changed my life and my leadership trajectory. People Matter-Relationships Matter is the hallmark of good leadership for it encompasses compassion, empathy, healing and self-awareness. I strive to treat everyone around me with dignity and respect even when disagreeing or disappointed by their actions. I strive to behave with integrity to the best of my ability as I don’t want my name to be associated with anything unscrupulous even when the political field in Zimbabwe is marred with lack of integrity and unethical behaviour as benchmark entry points. Further, I am inspired and have a deep desire to constantly exercise ethical fitness in all my decisions; bringing me into awareness that being ethical should be second nature to us all.

Learn more about the other YALI 10 Competition winners.

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