To Stop a warlord is Shannon Sedgwick Davis’s account of her journey of fighting a notorious warlord spreading mass atrocities in Central Africa and consequently bringing peace to thousands of ailing natives.
Shannon is the CEO of Bridgeway foundation – specializes in helping governments and non-governmental organizations bridge the gap in funding and knowledge required to stop genocide and crimes against humanity. She is also an attorney and a human rights advocate. The story takes one through the tumulus journey she and her team undertook. A heartfelt account of unprecedented partnerships, moves that challenged the status quo, and that of stepping outside their comfort zone to achieve exponential returns.
In the intense geo-political narrative, Shannon gives a descriptive account of the atrocities carried out by Joseph Kony, the rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in central Africa. The LRA kidnapped children and turned them into soldiers and sex slaves, killing their parents and other adults in countless villages.
In her early efforts to fight the LRA situation, she realized that the Bridgeway foundation’s actions were nowhere close to eradicating these atrocities. They were merely carrying out relief work while the mission of the foundation said “to prevent mass atrocities, genocide, and human rights abuses throughout the world”. In her words, they were putting band aids on bullet holes.
This realization led her to rethink the approach and make collaborations unprecedented in the philanthropy space. She travelled to Central Africa and Uganda and hired a private military trainer to train the Ugandan army to counter Kony’s Army.
She then strategized a defection campaign against Joseph Kony by welcoming soldiers, in high ranks of the LRA, back to their villages and giving them a respectful life. The move proved to be the most impactful step in the counter LRA efforts. In her inspiring story of justice, she displays exemplary leadership. While the story pertains to humanitarian work, there are traits that may be relevant for any leader, irrespective of the industry or function.
Align goals with the purpose/mission
As a leader, it if first important to break up the mission into outcomes or goals. Often, the actual outcomes are different from the desired outcomes simply because the goals do not match the mission.
When Shannon realised that the tasks the team was performing, like researching violence and disturbances around the world, analysing mass atrocities, making policy recommendations, designing motivational campaigns etc was not aligning to their mission of stopping mass atrocities, her first step was a course correct. This change then led to a rethink on ways to stop atrocities and not just create awareness around them.
Rethink the approach
Often in our corporate bubble, we tend to rely on ways and means that always work. To achieve unparalleled results, the actions too have to unprecedented sometimes. Recognizing that our perspectives may be limited is a start. As a leader, encouraging ideas even from unrelated industries or functions becomes imperative to broaden horizons.
Where do we look for inspiration though?
- Speak with experts in the area
- Speak with people who have direct experience in the field
- Most importantly, listen to people who are the most impacted by the outcomes
Stepping In Their Shoes
In her humanitarian work, Shannon spends weeks and months in the disturbed villages of Central Africa to understand where the perspective differs. Similarly in our case, conducting a research on the expectations of our clients is an initiatives in this direction. Collaborating with one of our biggest competitors in the market was an unconventional partnership, but a risk we undertook. This is because, at FocusU, we firmly believe in taking risks because being able to do nothing is even greater.
This book not only paints a heart wrenching picture of the struggles of an organisation trying to make a difference in a land tormented by war, but also provides equally relatable insights into handling situations both on personal and professional level.