I recently attended a panel discussion on this exact subject conducted by the Luxembourg School of Business with Paul Green, Jr. from McCombs School of Business and Jan Muehlfeit, former chairman of Microsoft Europe.

And throughout the talk I couldn’t help but to draw a parallel between the discussion and how we form Leaders in JCI.

So what is JCI anyway?

JCI, or Junior Chamber International, has often been referred to as the “world’s best kept secret” because it is not as widely known or recognized as other larger organizations.

This is primarily due to a lack of public awareness as JCI focuses on developing young (18 – 40) leaders and creating local community impact, often resulting in limited media attention. This is particularly true in the African region.

JCI’s decentralized structure and emphasis on individual development can limit its visibility on a global scale. With limited resources for marketing and publicity, JCI’s primary focus is on projects and member development.

Nevertheless, JCI’s impact is significant as it provides valuable leadership opportunities, fosters positive change through community projects, and promotes international collaboration. While it may lack public recognition, its influence is deeply felt by its members and the communities they serve.

Let’s dive deeper into how JCI provides Leadership development opportunities.

Leaders vs Managers

During the panel discussion, the speakers defined the main difference between a Leader and Manager, as someone (Leader) who has a vision, who can inspire people to look beyond an immediate crisis and have a long term perspective for the business. While a manager is more focused on operational efficiency, meeting targets, and resolving immediate challenges.

But the line is blurred in the real world, there should be a balance between both in an individual. And, in my personal opinion, while management skills are widely taught, Leadership qualities are harder to acquire through conventional education.

JCI is the best way that I know of to teach someone Leadership skills.

Leading projects with volunteers

Running projects in JCI is different from running a team in the corporate world and more like running a startup. The main difference that I referring to is paying an employee to work for you.

Throwing money at a problem(or employee in this case) is a solution that one often tends to during recruitment. In JCI you have to make volunteers work on a project for free while taking time off from their personal lives. This requires a whole different set of skills.

  • You have to clearly articulate your vision and connect with the other members to work on the project.
  • You, as a project director, have to lead by example to show your commitment.
  • Your volunteers might come from different backgrounds. For example, may be you are lucky that you have an accountant as volunteer to handle your budget. But in JCI it can happen that you don’t, and in this case you need to know how to empower that member to handle the budget.
  • You have to know how to foster an inclusive environment. The members will only truly devote themselves to the project when they feel that they are being heard. This in turn fosters a sense of ownership, engagement, and shared purpose.

I use volunteer and member interchangeably in the paragraph above but I am referring to the same thing.

Starting projects with 0 budget

The term lean startup has become popular in the past decade. With JCI we go one step further and define a 0 budget project. Disclaimer to anyone from JCI reading this that this is something specific to my local chapter.

What we mean by 0 budget is to start a project with a simulation of an empty bank balance. That is, we only use funds that we can raise for the project. This means sponsorships, partnerships or selling tickets. And at the end of project we make sure that the project either breaks even or has a small surplus.

Sounds hard? Well it is, but it’s the best way to learn Leadership skills. In a way, JCI projects simulate times of crisis and this is why I felt, when attending the panel discussion, that the attendees wouldn’t really learn how to lead in times of crisis unless they actually practice it.

And one way to do that is to join JCI.

How do I join JCI?

JCI is present in more than 100 countries. I would suggest you search for “JCI <insert local town name>”. For example “JCI Curepipe” or “JCI <insert country name>” like “JCI Mauritius” in Google Search.

If you can’t find any then feel free to comment below and I will help you out 🙂