“People used to say ‘You? You’re the executive director?’” Rogério Júnior says, recalling his work with the Citizens of Mozambique Association, an organization aimed at promoting accountability in the nation.
“They were surprised at how young I am,” Rogério, a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow, says. “But, as young leaders, we have to be the change in our communities.”
In Mozambique, where the International Monetary Fund estimates the cost of corruption totaled $4.9 billion from 2002 to 2014, Rogério sees a lack of information at the root of the mismanagement of public funds.
“If you have information, you will make good, quality decisions,” Rogério says. “But when young people don’t have access to information, they can’t participate in decisionmaking and transform the culture.”
The turn toward transparency is especially important in the workplace, Rogério explains, “both for helping employees feel valued and for cultivating group ethics and stimulating creativity.”
Rogério advises other young leaders to start with what’s missing in their workplace or society and take steps to fill that gap.
For instance, when Rogério observed that young adults were comparably uninformed about the nation’s political affairs, he developed PoliMoz, a website dedicated to providing accessible political and civic information in the country.
“It’s very important to do something, irrespective of how many people you reach,” Rogério says. “Do the right thing to help the voiceless.”
In his own work, where, as Rogério explains, young employees often skirted the rules, he made a concerted effort to educate his staff about the importance of ethical behavior in addition to modeling it himself.
“I remember the irresponsibility of some younger team members,” Rogério says. “But by holding internal trainings and through my own conduct as a leader, the youth began to change their behavior and are now increasingly interested in business ethics both in the organization and within the wider community.
“If we want a society that isn’t corrupt, we cannot work in corrupt companies or overlook corrupt business practices.”
In his work, Rogério makes an effort to listen closely to the needs of others and keep an open mind.
“A great leader is a kind of sponge,” he says. “He’s not superior, he’s a listener and creates consensus.”
When Rogério reflects on his early years he recalls, most poignantly of all, his tenacity in the face of obstacles.
“I was always looking for ways to conquer and achieve my dreams. I was persistent.”
It appears, in a review of Rogério’s work, that persistence paid off.
Interested in Rogério’s work? Learn how you can stand for integrity on our #YALIUnites page.