People of Influence – Priscilla

Priscilla - 1
Priscilla M. Serukka. Regional Director, SF East Africa

My first interaction with her was towards the end of 2012. I was being interviewed for a job at Stromme Foundation and she was on the panel. Oh, how I used to dread interviews! This was my first job interview ever. After several talks between myself and God, I understood that this was beyond just getting a job, it was a start of something bigger. Another season of Him refining me for His Kingdom purpose. But He needed me to take the first step.  My interview was nothing like I imagined it to be. It turned out to be one of the best interviews I had ever been a part of. ( I had interviewed a few people before). It was more of a conversation where I shared about my work, aspirations and why I thought I was the best fit for the job.  I recall that the moment Priscilla smiled at me as I entered the room, I gained the confidence and momentum that I needed to pull me through.  

First forward, I got the job. She wrote to me to confirm my appointment and asked if I agreed with the terms of employment stipulated in the contract. At this point, all doubts I had before had been cleared out of the way. So, I accepted the offer.  Later, she asked me to visit her office for a quick one on one. She wanted to know me beyond the boardroom. The quick, well, turned out longer was amazing. She made me feel so comfortable. It almost felt like chatting with an old friend. I went away feeling super excited, I bet it could show on my face in the weeks that followed. In February, I started my working at SFEA under her leadership.

I learned over the months, that a few people were kind of skeptical of my ability to handle the role. “She seems so young, will she handle the role?” They chatted among themselves. Some outrightly expressed this fear to me as we got more acquainted with each other.  But Priscilla believed in me even more than I did. I made several mistakes but whenever I was so quick to beat myself, she reminded me of the good. She encouraged me to instead learn from the mistakes and use them to grow. For sure, I had never met a leader so accepting as Priscilla is. She has really helped me gain confidence in my work.

As I have related more with my other colleagues, I have realized that I am not the only one who can say this about her.  Many of us under her leadership have appreciated the way she reaches out to each one of us. We admire her style of leadership and have deep love and respect for her. Priscilla as firm as they can be and yet so caring. I have watched how she pulls out her tough card when necessary. She perfectly lives out the balancing candor and care behavior of Servant Leadership. We all ask ourselves one question; how/where in the world does she get the time to care for everyone on her team uniquely (sometimes making us feel individually important), be a mother to her boys, serve in the Church and be a great wife who brings praise to her husband. A few times I have probed to discover her secret, she has always answered with her gentle laugh, “It’s by the grace of God. It has taken years of learning.”

I knew that I had to keep her in my circle for life, so I strategically placed myself under her guidance for mentorship in leadership. She graciously accepted to take on this unfinished work and be a part of my transformative story. We have gone onto a journey of learning and unlearning. Let me share six of the things I have picked from her so far.

Lean on God; She has taught me to keep God part of the equation no matter how confident I get in my craft. She comes into the office early so she can spend time in prayer. I remember once we shared a room with her during a field visit. I woke up at 6 am and I found her up praying. It was cold, and we were in the middle of the game park but that did not stop her from doing her routine. I got challenged and embarrassed. Even with her success and progress in life, she still sought God like never before. To be honest, I could not pray because I was just so mesmerized by her devotion to God. There’s also this one time when we needed to submit a funding proposal online but the network was being interrupted. She asked me to work as she interceded in the background. Talk adding action to our faith.

What we get by the knee, we must maintain by the knee.

Practice Integrity: There have been difficult times in the organization where if it wasn’t for Priscilla’s integrity, one would have assumed something else altogether. You know the kind where people may begin to question but immediately say: “But no, she is not this kind of person.” There have also been times when this has been difficult like when they one of our international exchange participants was arrested on his way to work because he did not have his work permit on him. When I went to meet him at the place he had been detained, the officers were asking for ‘Kintu Kidogo.’ I looked at the participant and saw how scared he was. The Work Permit was yet to be issued but we had submitted all required information to the authorities. We tried to explain it to the officers who were quite adamant. When I called Priscilla and briefed her, she immediately came to the station. She repeated what I had just told them and when they did not listen, she suggested they call the Commissioner at Internal Affairs. Turns out the commissioner not only knew our case but also knew Priscilla. I do not need to mention how quickly the officers let us go. We walked away with even tips on what we could do for our participant in the meantime, all bribe free. I learned that if the situation is beyond me, engage God, he breaks walls that seem unbreakable but for goodness’ sake, do not go back on your integrity. It will save your name someday.

Celebrate life: Not a birthday, anniversary goes by without Priscilla celebrating. She has brought this right into our work culture and I love it! I think she also loves cake quite a lot. But, this is alright too. She deserves the celebration. Life has way too many hard knocks that if we do not stop, reflect and celebrate our highs, we will miss the blessing that it has to offer.

Learning never stops: Her quest for knowledge is admirable. She has also taught me that everyone has something to teach me regardless of what level society has placed them in this thing called hierarchy. Priscilla gives us, her followers, almost the same level of attention she could give to those she follows. I love sharing my lessons with her, but I feel so flattered when she pulls out her notebook to write them down. Sometimes she asks me to teach her something and am like, “Lady, I am learning from you.” I look back to our generation of millennials, characterized by ego and tendencies of pride, it is difficult to learn when we put our self in this block. She challenges me to snap out of arrivism” that has enslaved many young people today. Leadership just as growth in life is a journey. We can never be too good to learn something new. Keep your mind open to the opportunities of learning.

Be diligent in your work: There’s this phrase; “Monkey do what monkey see.” If you worked around Priscilla and did not pick up this diligence attribute, then I would assume that something is terribly wrong. She is not the kind that would micro-manage but you would feel terribly ashamed if you did not play your role.

Serve others: So, one of the things I often tease Priscilla about is that she hardly has time for herself. At least in the past few years. When she is going for a day off, she can vow how she is not going to leave her home for anything. But when we catch up later, she tells me about a courting couple she and her husband had to meet, about a speaking engagement that had slipped her mind, and so on and so on. I really admire how she serves people. I have seen how serving others enriches me.

Of the many things I admire about Priscilla, I celebrate her total surrender to God and His Kingdom cause. I believe this is one of the reasons she ably lives selflessly. I am so grateful to God that He led me here, in her time. As mentioned before, I have strategically placed myself in her life. I hope that one day, I can be half as great as the leader she is.

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