A Summit of Thanks

I am once again at the end of another magnificent, awe-inspiring, convicting, challenging and out of this world Global Leadership Summit. Every summit, I go through a range of emotions – I want to cry because of all the brokenness in the world and I want to cry tears of joy that there are people, leaders that make a difference in the world.

I have great admiration for leaders like, Immaculée Ilibagiza, Bryan Stevenson and Gary Haugen – who are, or have been so proximate to suffering and fight in their own way for equality and justice – and do so with openness, faith and forgiving hearts.



I am inspired by the absolute humble, secure and magnificent leader, that Sam Adeyemi is. I am in awe and admiration for Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook’s CEO) that brings up big questions about women’s role in society and the narratives in place; and how she so openly shares about her heartache and grief. Then there is the funny and insightful account of Frederik Härén and the importance of creativity. And, I haven’t even mentioned Juliet Funt, Andy Stanley, Lazlo Bock, Marcus Buckingham and of course Bill Hybels.



Zoom in closer to home and witness the absolutely, inspiring dream of Nthabiseng Legoete, who when tragically lost an uncle decided that she was going to start Qualihealth – and now this is growing and expanding through South Africa – ensuring widespread healthcare for the people in society that need it the most.



Anyway, I am not doing the Summit justice; it’s one of those “you have to be there moments”; so just make sure you are there in 2018. Summit registrations are open…


Something About The Summit:

There is just so much inspiration and so many challenges for me (and others) to be a better leader and to change the world – AND NOT RUN AWAY from suffering. But to run towards it. And I am excited to do just that; but for now, I want to focus on what is at the tips of my fingers – literally – writing this blog.


In the opening segment, Bill Hybels speaks of a flashback moment, when a substitute teacher punished him, after he organised and orchestrated that his whole class, slam their desks at the same time; while her back was turned. This substitute teacher punished Hybels, but also said that he had leadership skills and that he would have to choose whether these skills were used for bad or for good. The point Bill made is that – this substitute teacher changed the way – he saw himself.



He asked each attendee:

– Who is the person or the individuals that saw us as potential leaders?
– Who gave each of us the opportunity (whether qualified or not) to lead?
– Who saw something when others didn’t?


The challenge was to thank the individuals that believed in us. So here is my thank you “letter” – because, unfortunately half of the individuals I am no longer in contact with (so I can’t send the letter) and the other half deserve at least a blog of thanks (actually, much more).


The interesting thing I would like to highlight is the power of your words. It could have significant impact. We all should watch the words we speak over each other; and use it only as a tool to edify one another.


Anyway – here are the stand out people I would like to thank (that aren’t related to me!):


1) Mrs. Michelle Savage; DSG



I was in primary school, cheeky, which I thankfully “outgrew” and a child whose parents recently divorced. Before the divorce, I was a very over confident, borderline arrogant, happy, active and a popular child. When my parents divorced – I became well let’s say more… humble – THANKFULLY! But at times, a little insecure.


Mrs. Savage was a brilliant teacher and amongst other things taught me English. Did she declare: “Sparkle Ellie – you are a leader my girl…” – no. What she did do was not make me feel stupid for asking questions when I didn’t understand the comprehension test or whatever; she didn’t care if I was the only one asking questions. And at the time that made me feel like a 100 bucks (now a billion #inflation).


A moment that stands out for me is when it was time to get another comprehension test back. She asked the class who found the test hard; I put up my hand – come on… I asked so many questions; I would be Pinocchio if I didn’t raise my hand. But I was the only one. Mrs. Savage smiled like the Cheshire Cat and said that I was the only one to get a 100%.


It may seem like an insignificant story to most people – but it changed the way I saw myself. And, I learnt just because you struggle doesn’t mean you are doing the wrong thing – success usually comes after a struggle.


There are many more Mrs. Savage stories – but for now all I can say is thank you from the bottom of my sparkle heart.


2) Mrs Dalene Swanepoel; PHSG



Move on a year or two to high school. Grade 9, Form 2, Standard 7 (whatever floats your boat) – we were the naughtiest class. 9 H was notorious amongst the teachers for our “spirit”.
The amount of times that I had to write out “I will not disturb the art class again” – is equivalent to the stars in the sky.


I digress… I always thought I was terrible at art and hence I didn’t even want to try. But did anyway. Mrs. Swanepoel looked at my drawings and said “wow, you show a lot of potential”. And all the teachers know that’s code word for – “oh meatballs, we are going to need to work extra hard on this lady; but she tried so heck …”


But what I heard as a student is that someone believed in me. Someone looked at what I could do and thought I am worth it. She also told me that drawing is a skill that can be developed if you practice. Never before did I realise this – I just thought you either have talent or you don’t. Mrs. Swanepoel  helped me develop a love for photography and I even won several awards.


Like Mrs. Savage there are many Mrs. Swanepoel stories …But, for now… all I can say from the bottom of my sparkle heart – is a sincere, thank you.


3) Pastor Christie Koekemoer (CK); HCC



I grew up in the church but then took… well, let’s call it a ten-year-gap-year from it. 2014, was my year of enlightenment. Disillusioned by the world, my circumstances and my life really, I tried my local church again. But this time – I plugged-in. Ps. CK created various opportunities for the young adults to serve in the church and the community.


She inspired me and taught me several things:

1) It’s okay to make a mistake and break something;

2) Don’t loan something that you are not willing to part with;

3) The relationship is never on the line (if anything hairy happens – know that nothing will affect the relationship); and

4) True leaders are servants; and so much more.


But for me it was the fact that Ps. Ck not only believed in me – she stretched me. She gave me tasks that I needed to grow into and tasks that failure could be a possibility, but she pushed me to soar anyway. She gave me opportunity, after opportunity to grow and test out my leadership skills. Like the others – it felt like someone believed in me. And for the first time in my life I connected leadership with servanthood – serving others is true leadership.


Thank you Ps. Ck for all you have done for me. You helped me discover – a new life filled with sparkles and so much more.


4) Pastor Gideon (G) and Pastor. Olivia Swart; HCC



Ps. CK got called to pioneer “down-under” in South Africa. But Ps. G and Ps. Olivia stepped in where she took off. I was given even more opportunities to serve, develop and sharpen my leadership skills. I have been, and I am being taught that leadership is about creating a relationship with the people. I have been taught the concept of community and that it is my responsibility to move myself and others from here to there, and inspire the people that I am leading to do the same.


Once again… someone (“some-two”) believes in me and uses words like “anointed”, “powerful” and “impactful” to describe me. How inspiring is that? And Ps. G, stirred up by Mark Batterson has taught me if my dream doesn’t scare me, it’s not big enough.


Ps. CK and G are also the reasons why I attended my first GLS Summit in 2015 – they sponsored my ticket. Since then I have been hooked and buy the tickets in December already for the next year.
Thank you, Ps. Gideon and Olivia, for believing in me.


Thank you!



I offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks to these individuals (and of course others) who believed in me; gave me an opportunity to grow and make mistakes; encouraged me; taught me invaluable lessons and through their selfless leadership and sacrificial love, changed the world for me.

Each of you are welcome to cash in on a tray of my triple-chocolate brownies whenever you want.



And here is where I find myself – still studying, still discovering and soooooo much to learn about leadership. But I know that this is only the start, the beginning of a massive rollercoaster ride… and GLS is one of the major drivers in helping bring significant change to my life and consequently the lives of others.

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