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King's alumnus takes up leadership position as Ambassador for his home country

King’s alumnus, Togolani Mavura has been appointed as Ambassador to the Republic of Korea for the United Republic of Tanzania. In 2019, he graduated with a Leadership & Development MSc from the African Leadership Centre. Now in Seoul, he took the time to reflect on his new role and why the leadership skills he honed during his studies are fundamental to all students.

Togolani Mavura has been assisting leaders in his home country of Tanzania for almost 15 years. As he puts it, he’s been working in “the corridors of leadership” for quite some time, first as a Foreign Service Officer in the Foreign Affairs Office, then as an Assistant to the Foreign Minister, as a Speech Writer for the President and as an Assistant to the Former President His Excellency Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.

Today, he finds himself in the seat of leadership, having been appointed as the Ambassador for his country in South Korea.


King’s alumnus, Togolani Mavura in Seoul

Reflecting on your career, how do you feel about becoming Ambassador?

I arrived in Seoul two days ago and I’m still very much excited, and very much looking forward to starting my work here. I’m excited to represent well my country and make sure the relations between Tanzania and the Republic of Korea are improving, from the good position they are already in, to an even better position.

Up until now, my life has revolved around leaders – assisting, supporting and observing them – during crises and during great times. You learn how they function when they’re stressed and how to support them to deliver their work. This may be through writing speeches or through handling their itinerary and preparing their briefs.

So you can tell that I did not have weekends – because leaders deal with situations that are complex and which occur at any point in time. This means they always have to be on alert.

This has been my life for the past 15 years and now I’m looking forward to my new role – now as the leader myself. I’m coming to the front from the backstage.

Why did you decide to study at King’s?

I took a year’s break to study at King’s because after having enough years of experience in leadership – I mean, I’ve seen the practical side of leadership – I thought, maybe I should study the theory. I thought it was about time to try and better understand this subject. And of course, I was interested in becoming a leader someday.

Studying with the African Leadership Centre was a very eye-opening opportunity. I learnt a lot – my understanding of leadership is more enhanced and my studies helped me to be able to name and make sense of my practical experience. You know, you may be working on things but you don’t have the names for it? Now, when you go to the world of academics, you get meaning to situations.

And of course, it gives you much more confidence as you now do things, not by guessing, but by knowing – by having an understanding by how they play out, how to navigate better, how to understand better my leaders. I would say it was one of my best experiences ever.

King’s is the place to be – I love it!

Would you say that incorporating leadership into studies is useful for students?

If you ask me, leadership skills should be part of every course, along with communication skills. I say that because when you go to the field, success or failure will depend on the kind of leadership skills you have. Because in the workplace, most of the time you will be working in a team – either you are a team leader or a team member. At any point in your life, you either lead or you are led. There is no situation where you are out of that.

This concept of ‘followship’ is something I picked up at King’s. Often when you think about leadership, you only think about people who are in front leading the rest but followers are also part of leadership. The followers allow leaders to either succeed or fail. The followers can influence change from the back – you don’t necessarily have to lead from the front all the time, sometimes you lead from behind.

I think this is so important because there may come about situations where the leaders who were expected to lead may not be able to lead and the situation warrants that you are the only person that can take charge. So, all people have to be prepared, because you don’t know when and how and in what situation you’ll be called to stand up. So, we better prepare students for that, whether they are engineers, doctors, scientists – we must all have the basic leadership and followship skills.

King’s alumnus, Togolani Mavura on campus

What was it like studying with the African Leadership Centre?

I enjoyed much my time with the African Leadership Centre. I enjoyed the fact that the Centre is multicultural – in terms of the diversity of its faculty and the diversity of its students. I had a very wonderful opportunity to interact cross-culturally, and I came to realise that we see things differently and there is nothing bad about that.

We also had a lot of visits from lecturers from outside, which helped me to link what we were studying to the outside world. We had practitioners come who had gone through the situation we were learning about and were able to share their own personal experience. That was very life-changing for me.

Also, we had roleplays, whereby we were put in a situation and we really could see how it works. We were given a role and even with a group of maybe five people, we could almost come to fighting – you get emotional and you see the dynamics of when you put people together. The roleplays I think were very good for me to realise what I’m capable of and which situations I’m good at. I think I wouldn’t get that somewhere else.

Do you think these skills have helped to reach where you are today?

Oh yes! Now I confidently say I’m capable of A, B and C – I can do this. I can chip in at this point. I have this backing now, this confidence. It’s not guess work anymore.

Do you have any advice for future students?

I would say when you’re thinking of studying, it’s good to first examine the faculty. For me, the African Leadership Centre has the best faculty and the diversity I wanted. Not only diversity in terms of the faculty members, but also the experiences they have. There are people that work in conflict areas and then there is ‘Funmi coming from the UN – that to me was very important.

I think future students should also consider the diversity of culture where they are studying. The students must be multicultural because the way we view things is so different. In my class, there were some South Korean students. I spoke with them and I never knew that my fate would bring me to Korea one day. Through them, I had an image of how South Korea looks like and now I’m here in Korea working. I’m still in touch with my fellow students and I will see them while I’m here.

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