A Pathway for Continuous Learning

How the Benaa Group in Saudi Arabia is Creating Leadership Development Opportunities for All Ages

“Leadership development is self-development” and “Leadership requires deliberate practice”—two of the core concepts at the heart of The Leadership Challenge®. For over 35 years, these essential practices of exemplary leadership have helped shape the leadership development journey of adult participants in The Leadership Challenge Workshop, legions of readers of The Leadership Challenge, and anyone who has experienced the LPI® :Leadership Practices Inventory®.  And with the introduction of The Student Leadership Challenge® some eight years ago, these same concepts of self-development and deliberate practice began to be introduced as guiding principles to college students as well. 

For many trainers and consultants helping people across the globe develop their capacity to lead, young adults and professionals already in the workforce— aspiring leaders and experienced veterans alike—have remained the focus of their leadership development efforts. A notable exception is Dr. Ghassan Al-Saddiki. Along with his colleagues in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, he had experienced great success using The Leadership Challenge and The Student Leadership Challenge in helping leaders on their journey, which prompted him to wonder, “When is the right time to begin learning about leadership? When we look around at the challenges that future generations face, are we starting soon enough to help young people understand and explore their capacity to make a difference in the world?” After much contemplation, the answer was clear: “We should start as early as we can and never stop.” And with that as his personal challenge, a non-profit organization was formed, the Benaa Educational Consulting Group, to address the need for creative leadership development opportunities for the young people of Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East. 

From the beginning, the group’s key goal was to build and support a “Culture of Leadership” using The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® as the foundation and the belief that Leadership is Everyone’s Business. Dr. Ghassan and his team of educators and leaders have creatively put the power of The Five Practices model to work in age-appropriate ways, ultimately creating a continuous path of leadership development opportunity for emerging leaders ages 5 through 26 and beyond. 

 
While the level of sophistication and language is adapted for each age group, content for all programs include a focus on a consistent set of themes: 
  • Know yourself, what you care about, and what others around you care about
  • Think about the future, and dream for yourself and your world
  • Try new things and help others explore with you
  • Help others and trust that we all have something of value to contribute
  • Have fun and be proud of what you and your friends accomplish together for the good of others
Flexibility, creativity, and a keen focus on the age-appropriate learning styles of children and youth have been the hallmarks of the work the Benaa Group has done. For example, the very first program the group developed was initially designed for Intermediate School students, ages 8-15 years old, to help them focus on their potential as leaders and the importance of giving back to their communities. With early lessons learned, great feedback, and the realization that so many changes take place between ages 8 and 15, the group ultimately created two separate programs, each with activities and customized content that was more targeted and age appropriate. 

 
A one week or a full semester program called Future Leaders begins to help 11–15 year olds think about themselves more formally as young leaders, with values and goals they could act on. In this program, students are challenged to push themselves to go beyond a simple understanding of their potential as leaders, to acting on it. 

An I Draw My Own Future program also was developed, addressing the needs of 8-10 year olds with a focus on, among other
 
things, the importance of team, loyalty, and accountability in leadership.

Having built a record of tremendous success and growth in these two early programs, the Benaa Group sought out new ways to bring the power of The Leadership Challenge and The Student Leadership Challenge to more young people. Their aim was to reach further—both up and down the age ladder—with leadership development opportunities that would help young leaders in Saudi Arabia prepare for their roles tomorrow.  And the catalyst for their next venture returned them to a key component of their original mission: to start developing leaders as early as possible. That meant putting their creativity and passion for developing young people into tomorrow’s leaders into a program for the very young. I’m a Pioneer and My Values Raise Me Up were developed for both boys and girls, ages 5 – 7 years old,  to explore their potential to help others and be leaders in their communities. 

Students in this program are encouraged to discover who they are and to develop visions of themselves as future community leaders. They explore career
 
opportunities and receive coaching to help them think about what might be appealing—or not—as they continue to build their self-confidence and their hopes for the future. 

The Yes, I Can!  Program is designed to young people ages 16-17 develop the important skills needed to build and sustain healthy relationships: respect for self as well as respect for others. This year-long program brings together a cohort of 30 participants for a one-time retreat and ongoing sessions (every six weeks) to focus on building competencies in five critical areas, called Keys to Success: 
  1. Harmony 
  2. Organization 
  3. Building trust 
  4. Perseverance 
  5. Resilience 
Participants in Yes, I Can! complete a variety of assessment instruments, including the LPI, attend a five-day The Leadership Challenge Workshop, complete
 
online work with an assigned mentor, and receive in-person and online coaching support to formalize an individual leadership development plan. 
 
One of the last programs on the Benaa Group’s continuum of leadership development is Youth Leadership, designed to help emerging young leaders at University, ages 18-19, continue to discover and practice their leadership “presence.” To further customize these programs for young adults, Benaa’s leadership team helped create translated workshop and assessment materials so that this unique leadership development experience could be delivered in the students’ second language, Arabic, as well as in English.   

The Benaa Group’s Commitment to Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders

Woven into all of the Benaa Group’s leadership development training is a dedicated focus on personal development. All programs are grounded in a strong belief that young people must have time to discover who they are, what they value, what their strengths and skills are. They must have the time and support to discover what their commitment to leadership will be and in what ways they will give back and contribute to their communities. They also must have time to develop a meaningful career and a meaning personal life. And the Benaa Group makes this pathway clear to all who participate in its programs—students and faculty alike—so that everyone is aligned with a common vision of success. The group’s focus on continuous development includes its most recent efforts to develop a strong team of Certified Facilitators for both The Leadership Challenge and The Student Leadership Challenge who are dedicated to bringing The Five Practices into the organizations they serve throughout the Middle East with ongoing professional development opportunities for those just beginning, mid-way, or well established in their careers. 

The Benaa Group sees a compelling dream of the future—one where all people are given a clear path to explore and discover their innate capacity to lead and serve others—and it continues to be committed to building the bridges necessary to connect one opportunity to the next…to the next. 

Beth High is President of HighRoad Consulting, an organizational consulting and program design company. She also is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge, an LPI coach, speaker, and Managing Partner of HRC Partners LLC, a company focused on virtual delivery and follow up of LPI-based programs. She can be reached at highroadconsulting@gmail.com.

Dr. Ghassan Al-Saddiki,
owner of the Benaa Educational Consulting Group, is a Trained Facilitator and a Certified Master-in-Training of The Leadership Challenge and a Certified Facilitator of The Student Leadership Challenge. Formerly Associate Professor at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, he has long been passionate about discovering and nurturing future leaders for the world. He can be reached at saddiki@hotmail.com

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