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Want to Find Yourself? Start by Serving Others.
May 15, 2020

Photo of Salissou


Ever the energetic and curious child, Salissou Mourtala knew from an early age that he wanted to be a role model for his peers.

“I wanted to propose new ideas,” Salissou says. “I wanted to positively impact the lives of others.”

Salissou, a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and an assistant manager in the supply chain department of SOMAIR, is still elevating his peers, educating them about the benefits of compassionate, servant leadership.

“In today’s world, we face complex problems,” Salissou says. “We need new leadership skills, we need community engagement, we need a new model to understand how interconnected we are and to address communal problems, together.”

Among Salissou’s favorite leadership principles are those outlined in the open-source leadership framework, which treats personal and professional development as a fundamentally collaborative exercise.

Salissou decided to facilitate a YALILearns session to share these principles with others and found, in working closely with participants, that each had something to gain from the leadership framework.

“A successful session, to me, is when participants are able to share their knowledge with others,” Salissou says.

As he sees it, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a rare opportunity to study and apply these principles in participants’ everyday lives.

“The current situation offers us a chance to develop our digital skills and to meet the challenges ahead,” Salissou says.

For him, leadership starts with personal reflection and growth. Only after these, Salissou explains, can individuals hope to educate and empower their peers.

“The work you have to do on yourself is sometimes more important than the work to be done,” Salissou says. “You can’t meet a challenge without strengthening your skills and knowledge first.”

In moments of challenge, Salissou returns to Mohandas Gandhi’s assertion that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” a concept echoed in the YALI Network Online Course Servant Leadership: The Deciding Difference.

“If I could leave my peers with any advice, it would be to get interested in the needs of others,” Salissou says. “Often it only takes a word, a gesture, a simple action to change someone’s life. No impact is too small.”

Interested in leading your own session? Learn more about the virtual options available to you on our YALILearns page.