Find your own style of leadership to change the world

By Elodie Malbois

CL Maria Romero Project Colombia hut


Taking part in the former Caux Interns Programme in 2016 inspired Maria Paula Garcia Romero from Colombia to set up a library in a remote community in Colombia. Elodie Malbois finds out what the experience taught her about leadership. 

‘Before I came to Caux, I used to think that my life was normal and that it was fine,’ says Maria Paula Garcia Romero, from Bogota, Colombia. ‘Caux broke the monotony. I realized that I could get engaged and make a difference in the world.’ 

When she returned home, she knew she wanted to do something. Slowly, the idea emerged of building a library in La Guajira, an isolated community in the north of Colombia, to make education more accessible to its people. She applied what she had learnt at Caux about creative leadership, which is not about having power over others but about connecting with people, respecting them and their ideas, and using their strengths. She co-created the project with the local community, thereby ensuring that their values and culture were respected and that they would be able to run the project autonomously. She also involved her friends and family.  


CL Maria Romero Project Colombia hut inside


There are now about 35 people helping with the project. They all have their strength and therefore their specific responsibility. Before the project started more than 60% of the children were illiterate. Three years later, all the children of the community can now read and write, both in Spanish and in their own language, Wayuunaiki. The project has created a series of books with stories written and edited by the children in both languages. The magic of these stories is that they transmit the children’s culture and change their way of looking at life. Maria hopes to replicate the project in other communities.  

If you copy someone else’s model of leadership, it’s not going to work. You have to find the one that suits you and the situation.

If you would like to start making a difference too, Maria says the first step is to identify what a community most needs. This will give you your aim. Then you need to develop a realistic plan: What do you want to do? How will you involve the community? How will you get the resources to carry out the project? For that, you will need support. Find people who have strengths that you don’t have and co-create the project with them and the community. She explains: ‘Don’t be afraid to create a project. Imagine these projects as bridges of opportunities so that the people you impact will become changemakers themselves.

Most importantly, you need to create your own model of leadership. ‘We are all different. If you copy someone else’s model of leadership, it’s not going to work. You have to find the one that suits you and the situation. You have to centre it on your qualities.’ Finally, she says, ‘be consistent in your work and keep your commitments’. 




Photos: Maria Paula Garcia Romero

Video: Biblioteca Suuralairua - Comunidad Wayuú

Featured Story

related stories

Zeindab Dilati

A journey, not a destination

One year after the devastating explosion in Beirut, we meet Zeinab Dilati (also known as Zee) who took part in the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme in 2017, 2018 and 2019 as a participant, practiti...

CL 2021 Hope square

A Journey from Uncertainty to Possibility

2021’s Creative Leadership conference took participants on a six-day journey ‘From Uncertainty to Possibility’. Between 25 to 31 July around 150 online participants living in over 50 countries engaged...

Betty Nabuto

'Thank you for bringing Caux to us'

'I have never been to Caux, because of visa issues. So when I received an email asking about the impact of the conference, I wrote as part of my reply, ‘Thank you for bringing Caux to us’. - Betty Nab...

Shrouk Gamal

'A better version of myself'

'The conference showed me how much I really love to socialize with people. The members of our dialogue group asked me questions I never been asked before. This made me think about lots of things, in n...

Valentina CPLP Talks 6

'How do I talk about peace?'

'How do I talk about peace in what feels like the most unequal country in Latin America? How to generate social and sustainable development in a country with an internal war lasting more than 60 years...

Manuela Garay 2021

'I could see that my contribution was meaningful'

Manuela Garay from Canada was part of the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme in 2017 and reflects on the impact her participation has had on her and her perspective on life and other people ever sin...

Hani Abou Fadel

'Humans are made of stories'

'This extraordinary conference has changed me to be more ambitious, intellectually honest and more consistent', said Hani Abou Fadel from Lebanon after his participation at last year's Creative Leader...

We love from Packages

We Love From: Making a difference in someone else's life

'I wouldn’t have imagined that with a piece of paper, a pencil and a little bit of your time and effort, you can really make a difference in someone else’s life!' - Georgina Flores and Lorena Mier y T...

Harmen van Dijk

How to pursue personal development: 'Just start somewhere!'

Why would a diplomat throw in his career and give up a prestigious job to do something completely different? Find out what made Harmen van Dijk leave the Dutch diplomatic service to pursue a new dream...

Maria del Pilar, credit: Maria del Pilar

Maria’s battle to end suicide in Manizales

Two years ago, Maria del Pilar went out dancing with one of her friends, Laura, who was ‘the funniest person’ she knew. Two weeks later, Laura committed suicide. Maria couldn’t understand how such a y...

All I could think was ‘Am I safe?’

'I wish the world had more safe spaces for women and for men, to work together to build safe communities', says Temantungwa Ndlangamandla in her article about gender and safety and explains how her cu...

Men, Paula Mariane 2019.jpg

A conversation between men around gender and safety

How can we all contribute to building a sense of safety for everyone within our communities? The CPLP Talks team convened a dialogue space where they asked men for their perspective on the topic of ge...


Getting comfortable under my skin

'I now look at myself in the mirror differently. I am slowly getting comfortable under my skin.' - Tinotenda Dean Nyota from Gweru, Zimbabwe, took part in the CPLP in 2018. He is an Economics graduat...

CPLP Charlotte Rémié

The best of both cultures

'I realized that having two cultures is not a burden but a richness and that I am lucky to be able to take the best of both.' - Charlotte Rémié discovered Initiatives of Change through her parents in ...