Aida Ghazaryan (UNSSC Learning Portfolio Manager) recently sat down with Isaac Ofori (Chief for the Integrated Security Solutions (ISS) at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan - UNMISS), to discuss his learning experience, and leadership development journey on the UN Emerging Leaders e-learning (UNEL-e) 2021 March edition. He shares insights on how UNEL-e became a career altering learning experience that has helped him become a better leader.

Aida: Isaac, tell us a little bit about yourself and your career journey at the United Nations.

Isaac: I left the Military and joined UNMIS (United Nations Mission in the Sudan) as a Security Officer in 2010, where we were recruited for the United Nations Interim Referendum Division (UNIRED). This was during the referendum that brought independence to South Sudan. Since then, my career has involved operating in hazardous and complex conflict environments. I often had to coordinate, and advise senior management on issues related to security and safety policy. My career journey has changed significantly since then, and I have gradually assumed several leadership roles. In 2014, I Joined the Office of the Quartet Representative (then former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair) in Jerusalem as a security team leader. I later rejoined the United Nations Mission in the South Sudan (UNMISS) in 2016 as the Deputy Field Security Coordination Officer for the Jonglei Field Office in UNMISS where I was responsible for providing security related advisory to the Area Security Coordinator. In 2018, I was appointed as the Deputy Supervisor for the Security Administration and Logistics division at UNMISS. In February 2021 I was appointed as the Chief for the Integrated Security Solutions (ISS) at UNMISS, where I manage the Physical Security Unit (PSU) and the Electronic Security Unit (ESU) under the Security Section.

Aida: At the beginning of the UN Emerging Leaders e-Learning programme, you had us think about whether leaders are born or made. What are your views now that you have completed the programme?

Isaac: I have come to understand that leaders are both born and made. Coming from a military background, I have come across individuals who are naturally inclined to lead. The kind who, if an unfortunate event occurred, would be the first to seize the opportunity to take charge and offer some form of direction. This has taught me that perhaps, traits like charisma and zeal can be explained biologically. The art of leading however, particularly in today’s complex environment, requires more than birth traits. The synergy between technical knowledge and soft leadership skills — inspiring vision, shaping teams, building trust and confidence, and emotional intelligence are all qualities that are shaped by continuous learning, and experience. The UNEL-e course has helped me to acquire new leadership traits. I learned a lot about the importance of integrity, effective communication, vision, self-confidence, emotional intelligence and delegation. Because of UNEL-e I am more motivated and empathetic, I also actively practice a healthier work life balance.

“Because of UNEL-e I am more motivated and empathetic, I also actively practice a healthier work life balance.”

Aida: Since taking the UNEL-e programme have you put in place any new leadership behaviours, practices, skills, and competencies? Which aspect of the UN Emerging Leaders e-Learning elements, did you find most helpful in addressing your leadership development areas. How has this contributed to your leadership development milestones as someone working ON the field?

Isaac: The UNEL-e programme has helped me shape my views on leadership and the behaviours that leaders need to emulate. My leadership style is now firmly grounded on integrity. I make an effort to build trust with colleagues and nurture relationships. I have also started using the “buddy system” to inspire vision, develop solution-oriented decisions and encourage collaboration, innovation and transparency in my team. These are all new techniques that I learned through the programme.  

On the second part of the question, I would say the entire design and content of the course has been, and continues to be of utmost benefit to me as a professional Field Security Coordination Officer of the United Nations Department for Safety and Security. I have come to appreciate that “leaders are readers”. By learning swiftly what motivates team members, I am now able to practice inclusivity by seeking the views of my team members on numerous issues that arise at the workplace. I can analyse trends and anticipate short, to medium-term work challenges and develop contingency plans.  I have also acquired the requisite knowledge and skills to shape teams. The new skills have helped me set the standard and build reliable, well-motivated, and competent teams. The programme’s “Back to the Future” challenge allowed me to reflect on my career, and the type of leader I want to be now and in the future.

“I have also started using the “buddy system” to inspire vision, develop solution-oriented decisions and encourage collaboration, innovation and transparency in my team.”

Aida: Could you tell us what you found extraordinary about your learning experience on the UN Emerging Leaders e-Learning Programme? What were the most memorable lessons from the UNEL-e programme?

Isaac: The aspect of the course that discusses and teaches emotional intelligence, leadership culture and charisma are what I found extraordinary. This is because I learnt and acquired knowledge on how to be aware of my emotions and how to balance and manage them in stressful and extreme complex emergency situations. I learnt a lot about self-awareness, flexibility to adapt to situational dynamics, and how to make adjustments for unforeseen situations. The knowledge I have acquired will go a long way in benefiting my career and life. I am now equipped to better manage my temperament and understand the emotions and different attitudes that people exhibit. The most memorable lessons learnt is the art of communication and public speaking as leadership tools. I have learnt that to gain confidence in public speaking, you must practice the act of speaking publicly. I also enjoyed the ‘Ego-Ergo’ session where we had the opportunity to go into break-out sessions to discuss topical issues with fellow UN Colleagues.

Aida: Would you recommend this training programme to other emerging leaders and why?

Isaac: After the course, I have grown in self-confidence and I am now able to conceptualize leadership behaviours and apply them in my daily work. I have come to appreciate time management as an essential tool to reach greater heights. Just after completing the programme, I repeatedly recommended this course to most of my colleagues. I believe it can enable them to sharpen and acquire leadership skills and knowledge for their career growth. I will continue to encourage all to pursue this all-important programme on leadership. The course is so detailed and covers every aspect of leadership development. It is important for everyone, especially in this challenging environment where we need to strive to build a better world for all.

“The course is so detailed and covers every aspect of leadership development”

Stay tuned for upcoming UNEL-e Spotlight interviews from UN organizations and alumni that benefited from the UNEL-e programme. If you are keen to step up your leadership in the UN, and align your leadership behaviours to the principled and visionary leadership in the UN, we are happy to welcome you to our 2022 editions of the UN Emerging Leaders e-Learning – dates will be announced soon. For testimonials from UNEL-e alumni please watch the trailers and testimonials here or search for #UNELE2020#UNELE2021, #UNELEeca across social media.

You are welcome to have a look at the open house webinar recordingpresentation and programme e-book. For any inquiries on UNEL-e and customized programmes for emerging leaders or to reserve a seat on the upcoming editions in 2022, please email leadershipandmanagement@unssc.org.

Watch the video below to get a full view of the programme.



The opinions expressed in our blog posts are solely those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of UNSSC, the United Nations or its members.