There is nothing more practical than good theory
This past December the 2nd was indeed a very enriching day.
Early that day, had the privilege to attend an open event where no other that President Jimmy Carter spoke to the Yale community at large about stories and themes of interest to both the global citizen that populates New Haven and to every member of our university: Inequality, violence and the deep roots of injustice that women and girls suffer in many places around the world… places like Africa.
But the learning did not stop there as I had the opportunity to continue the same dialogue later that day with two great women from "the continent", as these professionals refer to Africa, a region to which they have devoted their lives and work.
Biola Alabi, 2014 Yale World Fellow, and Rachel Nyaradzo Adams, Associate Director for Africa at Yale, were our speakers for the Colloquium Series that candidates for the Master of Advanced Management at SOM have the opportunity to meet in very private, intimate settings.
So, it is by connecting these sequence of events that I invite you in this blog post to reflect on the sentence that serves as its title, thanks also to the advice from Rachel Adams to read a book from Adam Kahane called “Power and Love: A theory and practice of social change” that speaks about the importance of the desire to achieve one's solitary purpose.
When during our conversation that night our speakers were asked about how the world is telling Africa's story, they (and some of my classmates from those countries) firmly stated that they did not like the narrative that is being presented about this region.
Even knowing that there is always a gap between our western news and what really happens on the ground in that part of the world, I was surprised to see that I did not listen from Biola or Rachel any soft or politically correct complaint about the matter but rather I heard strong and powerful directions for all of us over the need to change the lenses by which we watch the realities of Africa. What I heard were firm, even corageous declarations from these professionals about how we need to stop our traditional approach if we really want to understand their continent.
Adam Kahane speaks in his book that for real change to happen in our societies, you need to combine or alternate the exercise of love and power to develop our pathways to better interactions in our families, our work and communities. And he clarifies that this power is needed in its generative change, not as a force of destruction . Therefore, it is under that framework and understanding that I come to appreciate the comments from our speakers, and the value of other experiences shared by them during our encounter, as the anecdote that one of them told us about being hired by a prestigious firm because she was angry enough to speak up about racism in South Africa.
I believe that we also fall prey to the biases and the propaganda elaborated by others for the masses. And sadly, entire generations go about without noticing the lost opportunity of "presencing" where we truly stand as a society, a state of awareness that Adam Kahane identifies as the pre-condition for real and lasting change and innovation.
So I wonder now: Who tells your personal story? As business graduate students look attentively into the recruitment process and a job offer for after our academic programs, this “personal story” question is in fact the inquiry that we are presented a lot with. May it not be that, while preparing ourselves to work in X or Y company around the world, we fall prey to accepting the story about us that is told by that someone else whom we want to please.
If this is so, it will be a tragedy for us and for the social groups that await for us as potential leaders for the future.
But if you dare to be a bit angry, brave, courageous, resilient and powerful enough to tell our own story and not letting others decide it for us, the results will be extraordinary.
Victor Padilla-Taylor is Director of Networks at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale. He was the 2021 recipient of the Linda Lorimer Award for Distinguished Service, conferred by Yale’s president on staff who have demonstrated their commitment to innovative thinking and the educational and research missions of the university. He also serves as board leader at Global Consortium for Entrepreneurship Centers, Long Wharf Theatre, Yale SOM Alumni Advisory Board, and Saint Thomas More Chapel and Center at Yale University. For his accomplishments as alumni volunteer, he received the 2023 Yale Alumni Leadership Award for his service and innovative leadership as nominated and selected by alumni relations staff members.
A global soul with MBA experience from GNAM schools around the world