About Jeremy

Jeremy Solomons is the UK-born and USA-naturalized founder and president of Jeremy Solomons & Associates, which helps current and future leaders to connect and communicate effectively across all cultures – national, organizational, professional and individual.

The Global Contrarian – Blog 13

Leading Rwanda: Creating, Communicating and Realizing your Vision

By Jeremy Solomons (for the New Times newspaper in Kigali, Rwanda)


“If your vision is for a year, plant wheat. If your vision is for a decade, plant trees. And if your vision is for a lifetime, plant people” (African proverb)

“A large eye does not mean keen vision” (Rwandan proverb)

Vision without action is just a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” (Joel Barker)

One of the key things that distinguishes leaders from managers is their ability to see beyond themselves and their day-to-day tasks and have a broader view of the world around them and their role within that greater universe.

Just last week, the influential Time Magazine named the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, as its 2019 Person of the Year for “showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads … by clarifying an abstract danger with piercing outrage.”

This is what we call “Leading with Vision” or having a clear view of an ideal or desired state and/or of a place where a person really wants to be in future.

Here in Rwanda, young social entrepreneur, Joseph Dusabe, sees Vision as: “the umbrella of all things that helps me to fight for what I want.”

Rwandan recording artist and youth educator, Jean Paul Nduwimana (aka Noopja), sees Vision as: “the thing that gives you life and brings real answers to real problems.”

Jean Paul says this is particularly important for young people in post-Genocide Rwanda where “we all need to conquer fear and give youth hope with a strong vision of a brighter future.”

His personal vision is in the preface to his 2017 book “Keep it Up – A Letter to President Kagame”: “I’m a civically trained artist among the youth; I’m the protector of Gihanga’s heritage; I’m an artist Rwanda is proud of; and I’m at the forefront in rebuilding Rwanda; as well as striving for Africa’s development.”

Some might call this arrogance or even foolishness but Jean Paul sees this as an overt expression of his identity, his passion and his commitment.

So how do you create a vision for yourself as a current or future leader?

Joseph believes that the vision has to start from deep within you, often from your own personal experience. As a young boy near Kayonza, he struggled at school due to malnutrition and low quality education. From that experience, he developed a vision to have at least one pre-school for vulnerable children in every district in Rwanda where “the children will all be healthy, love school and be loved by their teachers and parents.”

Once you have done your inner work, Joseph advises: “Find people to talk to. Travel to get different ideas from people face to face. Learn from others’ experience. See what others have done.”

These people are your “vision helpers”. Some you might already know. Some you might meet. And some you may never meet but can still inspire you.

Such as Greta Thunberg? Or maybe Kenyan runner Joyciline Jepkosgei, who recently won the New York City marathon at her first attempt? Or even Isser Harel?

Who is Isser Harel?!  He was an Israeli spymaster whose daring capture of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann inspired an English teenager to be a committed fighter for human rights and social justice all his life. That teenager was me and I still hold that vision to this day.

When you have created your personal vision, let other people know about it, particularly if you want them to give you feedback, help you refine it, buy into it and help you bring it to life.

“You’re not alone in realizing your vision,” says Joseph. “Find people who share your vision. Create partnerships with different stakeholders. Build a strong team.”

Joseph has done this himself by co-founding two Itetero Bright Academy pre-schools so far and by connecting with like-minded groups, such as Acumen and One Young World.

And US President John Kennedy knew that his vision of space exploration was a reality when he visited the NASA headquarters for the first time in 1961. He met an employee there and asked him what he did. The man, whose job was to clean the building, proudly responded: “I’m helping put a man on the moon!” And that bold common vision was realized eight years later.

How about you, dear reader?

  1. What is your personal vision for the future?
  2. What did you do in 2019 to help realize this vision?
  3. What challenges or barriers did you encounter?
  4. How did you (try to) overcome these obstacles?
  5. What was your biggest surprise in 2019?
  6. What was your biggest disappointment or failure in 2019?
  7. What was your biggest success in 2019?
  8. Where will you be on your “vision journey” by the end of 2020?
  9. What will you have done to help you make progress towards your vision during 2020?
  10. What will you say about 2020 in a year’s time?



The Global Contrarian – Blog 12

Leading Rwanda: Begin by leading yourself


“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. Net photo.
The second bi-weekly “Leading Rwanda” column, published in the “New Times” newspaper on 5 December, 2019


“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” (Aristotle)

“Do not try to fight a lion if you are not one yourself” (African proverb)

“You can outdistance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you” (Rwandan proverb)

When working with top leaders around the world, there is one challenge that keeps coming up in different ways time and time again: isolation.

The more senior a “master (or mistress) of the universe” might be, the more isolated they might be from those around them.

This isolation is frequently blamed on a very busy work and travel schedule. And it can certainly be reinforced by physical location and distance in these virtual working times. But this columnist’s 10 years of being a leader himself and nearly 30 years of working with them has shown that the principal reason for isolation is “disconnection”.

Not so much with others but with oneself.

As leaders rise in an organisation or entrepreneurs grow their business, they can often lose sight of their original values, purpose, goals, even identity, as they become institutionalised and imprisoned by the reality and promise of ever greater power, riches, etc.

One senior leader at a top private bank told me: “I was so busy playing corporate games and worrying about my mega-bonus that I forgot who I was”.

Since then, he has quit his highly-paid job and moved to a much smaller boutique firm, which allows him to travel less, be with his family and community more and most importantly, reconnect with himself and who he really is.

Mireille Ineza Karera, who is the CEO of Kora Coaching & Business Academy, believes this Self Connection and Self Leadership are so important because “everything starts and ends with you. This means being aware and conscious about how you lead yourself in all areas of life and being intentional about who you are and how your deeds have an impact on others.”

Mireille gives a specific example of this from her own recent experience: “When I returned back home from the Diaspora about four years ago, I saw a need to take ownership of creating and growing the coaching industry in our nation.

Self-leadership in that context was to keep myself and my organisation accountable in that field. This is something that nobody gave me a mandate to do. I saw a problem in the supply of competent coaches and found a solution for it by creating the first Coach Training Academy that certifies different kinds of coaches in Rwanda and Africa.

So, to the concept of Self Leadership, I believe that you need to be clear about what your impact should be and run with it until you reach the finishing line.”

But before you can make an impact, Mireille insists that you must be clear about your “calling” so that you can then “lead with purpose and intentionality”.

She continues: “there is a difference between a career and a calling. You work for your career to earn money, status, skills and other benefits, but you cannot be excellent at Self Leadership without knowing your calling. Your calling is when you do the work you were born to do. Self Leadership inevitably becomes second nature.”

And sometimes this “calling” can be divinely inspired. German philosopher Friedrich Buechner defined it this way: “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

But how can current and future leaders identify their calling?

I find that solitary prayer or meditation and then quiet reflection time really helps. I encourage even the busiest executives to dedicate at least half an hour on a Friday afternoon or Sunday morning to closing the door, switching off the electronics and sitting with a blank piece of paper, pencil and eraser.

And then they may ask themselves these 10 questions:

1.   What does it mean, in a general sense, to be a “true leader”?

2.   What does it mean to me personally to be a “true leader”?

3.   What do/would I hope to achieve as a “true leader”?

4.   How will it enhance my career and my personal life?

5.   In what ways might it actually impinge on my career and my personal life?

6.   What natural strengths, learned talents, overarching passions, and core values do I already possess to be a “true leader”?

7.   What is still be missing for me to be a “true leader” and what “hot buttons” do I need to be aware of?

8.  What do others say to me and about me as a leader? What do they see in terms of “blind spots” that I don’t see?

9.   How can I best overcome my shortcomings through prayer, meditation, hard work, stretch assignments, travel, studying, mentoring, coaching, etc.?

10.       What else do I need to be successful leader?

And if you do all of this, hopefully you can live up to Mireille’s personal credo: “Whether understood or misunderstood where you stood. Be one who outstood.”

The third column in this new bi-weekly series will be published on 19 December. This column will delve into the key leadership skill of “Vision” and it should help you set your own professional and personal vision and goals for 2020.


The Global Contrarian – Blog 11

March 21, 2019

Final Austin Blog

by Jeremy Solomons

This will be my last blog from the USA on my last official workday in Austin, Texas where I have lived, worked and raised my daughter for the last 19 years. At the end of next week, I will be relocating lock, stock and kitty to Kigali in Rwanda for an undetermined period. Why Rwanda? Why now? Please read on …


One hot Summer’s evening in 2015 I attended an international dinner at my good friend Julie’s house in South Austin. There I met a woman named Lauren Everitt, who told me that she did social media for a women’s university in the East African country of Rwanda.

Like many people outside Africa, I had watched “Hotel Rwanda”, the Hollywood version of the horrific genocide of 1994; I had also watched “Gorillas in the Mist”, the Hollywood biopic of Dian Fossey, who studied gorillas in the volcanic forests on the border of what is now DR Congo; and I had heard that Rwanda now boasted the most women in parliament of any country in the world. This number has just gone up to 54 out of 80 or 67.5%. Nearly triple the number in the USA.

So when Lauren told me about the Akilah Institute for Women – https://www.akilahinstitute.org– I was immediately intrigued about their story within the context of a rapidly changing, diversifying society. I also began thinking about going over to Africa for the first time and finding out more about what they were doing to educate and empower young women in Rwanda and beyond.

Natasha Sukiranya and her colleagues at Akilah were very open, gracious and welcoming to me and just over a year later they invited me to visit the main campus in Kigali, learn more about Akilah and gender equity in Rwanda and do some volunteer communication training and leadership coaching for Akilah’s admin staff, faculty and students. 

While I was there, I also got to visit the astonishing museum at the Kigali Genocide Memorial and trek up to see the gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park on the Congolese border.

While I was in Kigali that first time, I also talked with many locals and expats and as I have written before, I was very impressed by what Rwanda has done to recover from the genocide – which killed about 800,000 people in three months – unify the bitterly divided country and recreate a sense of common national identity. Rwanda is far from perfect but President Kagame and his government have done a lot to spread peace, prosperity and stability throughout this landlocked nation, which now contains more than 11 million people.

As such, I could not wait to return but it took another two years before I could get back there in October 2018. This time I did not travel there as just a tourist and a volunteer. I was now exploring Kigali as a possible place to live and work. The second visit was even better than the first and it was definitely a place I would happily move to.


But why would I even think of leaving Austin, Texas and USA after such a long time?

Like most major work/life decisions, it was for both professional and personal reasons.

I love what I do in terms of independent coaching, facilitating and training in Leadership Development, Inclusive Teams, Gender Equity and Difficult Conversations in the academic, business, government and non-profit sectors in Austin and beyond.

But after 27 years in DC, Santa Fe, Prescott (AZ) and here in Austin, I had become a bit stale. I needed a new challenge for what I hope will be the next third of my life. I will be 60 in May and my Dad lived to 95. Even my chain-smoking mother made it to 81.

In addition, my beloved daughter Emma will be graduating next year and embarking on her graphic design career. I am not in a long-term personal relationship. And I really need some distance from the ugly, hand-to-hand political combat between Donald, Nancy and Chuck and others in Washington, DC.


As for the future, I already have some exciting new freelance work with the World Bank and UNDP in Kigali in late April and I hope to be partnering more closely with the Akilah Institute for Women, the Kigali Genocide Memorial and the Rwandan Management Institute, amongst others.

I also plan to expand my professional outreach to my own growing network in Rwanda and across Africa but I will certainly not be out of reach for any of you (groan).

I am still planning to do virtual work – such as research, virtual coaching, and webinars – from Kigali. My first global webinar from there is booked for mid-June.

I will also be available to fly around Africa, the Middle East and maybe Europe and South Asia to do contract work for existing North American and West European clients. My first such gig might be in early May in Nigeria.

And I am intending to return to the USA and Europe for extended stays once or twice a year to service existing clients and see family and friends. Probably during Rwanda’s rainy seasons in March/April and October/November. My first such trip to New York, Austin and Atlanta is planned for early October.

And of course, if you want to come out to East Africa for work or pleasure, I would be happy to help you plan your trip and even host you in Kigali.

So au revoir for now but not farewell!

Cheers, Jeremy




The Global Contrarian – Blog 10

No Room for Complacency on Gender Equity – What Men Need to Do 

by Jeremy Solomons

It has been about 18 months since I last wrote and posted my “monthly” blog on societal and organizational steps to end Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying and Masculine Imbalance. Since then the #MeToo and Times Up movements have taken hold in the USA and other countries around the world. Much progress has been made after decades – if not centuries – of gender-based violence, abuse, inequity and secrecy. And there is still a lot more work for everyone – including empowered men such as me – to do …

I recently renewed the lease for my Honda HR-V car here in Austin. My dealer Rob asked me what color I would like on the new car? My first instinct was to go, as before, with a safe and boring gray that would not stand out. Or maybe black? Or a more daring navy?

Rob then showed me a brand new color: Milano Red. It was bright, distinctive and full of verve and passion. It also reminded me of my two favorite football teams: Manchester United and AC Milan. And it would certainly stand out in a crowd.

I was sorely tempted but then I thought about all the stories that the police tend to stop red cars much more often than other colors of car. “Only if you are speeding …”, Rob smiled.

So I signed the lease for the red rebel. Finding it in parking lots is easy. And I have not been stopped for speeding … yet.

Likewise, it would be very easy for an empowered man like me to play it safe in relation to gender issues; restrain my natural verve and passion; stand back instead of up and out; take no risks and excuse my inaction by saying that women have now “got it” in relation to gender-based violence, abuse, inequity and secrecy.

After all, Starbucks recently trained its whole staff on diversity and followed the lead of Iceland and elsewhere in guaranteeing gender pay parity for all staff. The #MeToo Movement and seven other women feature in the Top 20 of Fortune’s latest list of the “World’s Greatest Leaders”. Miss America has finally ended its controversial swimsuit competition. Prominent male abusers continue to get their comeuppance, such as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. And a porn star may actually help to bring down another prominent politician, who has boasted of “grabbing women by the …”.

Unfortunately, such a celebration of victory would be premature and complacent at best. And counter-productive and dangerous at worst. The struggle is far from over.

Supposedly “developed” countries like Germany and the UK have actually fallen in The Economist’s latest Global Glass Ceiling Index. Norway’s bold experiment with gender quotas on boards has not produced the desired results so far. Likewise in Australia where family violence against women has increased despite such noble initiatives as the annual “White Ribbon Day” when men are encouraged to speak out against gender-based violence.

Much more disturbingly, an eight-year-old girl was gang-raped and murdered in Northern India and her attackers are now being defended and protected by an unlikely coalition of religious nationalists and legal professionals. All men.

And on a personal note, I have rarely met a woman anywhere in the world, who has not faced some kind of discrimination, harassment or assault at some point in their life. It has usually happened in the past at home, in college or near the start of their careers. But sometimes it has happened more recently, even in positions of power.

For example, there was a recent incident at a large global company, which features on most lists for “Best Companies to Work For”, “Diversity and Inclusiveness”, etc.

A few years ago, a senior female leader was attending a corporate meeting in another state where she was sexually assaulted and harassed by a peer, apparently with two silent male witnesses just looking on. Despite an outcry to other senior leaders, nothing happened to her assailant; her health and career were seriously compromised; and she finally filed a lawsuit a few months ago.

The company’s response was to fire the attacker; pay the victim off and then oust and silence her; and essentially declare the case “closed” as if nothing happened. After all, it was an isolated – if shocking – incident, right?

Probably not.

I had been training at this company for over five years. I was proud of the work I did there before this incident came to light. But I clearly had a quick choice to make as I was meant to be working there soon afterwards with some people who probably knew the parties involved.

In terms of Karen Stinson’s Diversity Awareness Spectrum (below), should I try to continue to be a change agent from the inside or a fighter from the outside?

I debated with myself and some trusted colleagues long and hard about whether the company and its leaders were serious about: doing all it could to investigate and explain what did and didn’t happen in this case and probably others; holding all of those involved truly accountable; and then making sure that nothing like this would ever happen again.

In the end, I concluded that they weren’t and I resigned with immediate effect. So did another colleague. My action sparked incredulity and silence from most of my former colleagues and clients. It also cost me tens of thousands of dollars in immediate and longer-term income (which have fortunately since been more than recouped through other new work).

I have no regrets about becoming a “fighter” in this instance. And I will not hesitate to do so again in future.

Everyone – including empowered men like me – still needs to be vigilant and proactive in making sure that such incidents never happen again and if they do, they are dealt with swiftly, fairly and justly.

We men cannot just be passive bystanders or allies anymore. We need to be committed advocates and activists, taking consistent and sustainable action.

And sometimes we need to be Angry Men. Whether we are black, brown, white, red, green, yellow or blue. Not in the Charleston and Charlottesville way. But in the #MeToo, BLM and Never Again mold. We need to feel and show our passion and emotions in a healthy, constructive manner.

Actor and activist Terry Crews discussed his own gender-related experiences again on TV recently and admitted his own culpability around equity issues in the past.

But he ended on an optimistic note: “This is fixable … 20 years ago you could never talk about things like this … now we have made it more comfortable to do so … and once you have the conversation, everything can really change.”

And so I now call on all other men to do these 10 things to help promote real, sustainable change in gender dynamics (and other areas of inequity and oppression in our society):

  1. Know who you are and what you stand for. Clarify your own values and goals. Identify your own hot buttons and blind spots
  2. Embrace complexity, ambiguity, inconsistency and fallibility in your life (and others). We are all human
  3. Recognize and then swiftly and sincerely take responsibility for any transgressions you may have committed in the past. An authentic apology is never too late
  4. Seek out and connect with other allies, advocates and activists of all genders for solidarity and support
  5. Always try to walk your talk and if you are in a public position of power, be a proactive role model for others
  6. Stand up, speak out and act up for gender equity, working with and for people of all genders in a caring, practical and non-patronizing way
  7. Have the difficult or awkward conversation with others around gender. Usually in a private, safe place
  8. Really listen to the stories of victims, Ask them appropriate questions. Avoid the temptation to launch into problem-solving right away
  9. Do the same with those who have actually been abusive, complicit or oblivious themselves. Try to build bridges with them, however repulsed or frustrated you may feel. And forgive them if they are genuinely remorseful
  10. Be strong, compassionate and consistent. And keep going!


The Global Contrarian – Blog 9

Ending Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying and Masculine Imbalance – Part 2

by Jeremy Solomons

It has been eight months since I last wrote and posted my “monthly” blog on societal and organizational steps to end institutionally sanctioned bullying and masculine imbalance.

I was intending to focus now on what individuals can do but that will be in my next blog as I want to devote this one to a country that I visited recently to see how it has faced up to something far worse than institutionally sanctioned bullying.

jeremy-blog-9The country is Rwanda in East Africa and its challenge has been to deal with the consequences of a genocide that killed about 15% of its population in only three months and displaced a further 30% just over 20 years ago.

Under the firm grasp of its ex-military president, Paul Kagame, Rwanda has focused on societal trust rebuilding; economic stabilization and prosperity; and women’s education and representation.

Similar to South Africa after Apartheid, Rwanda engaged in a form of Trust and Reconciliation work to help heal the emotional and psychological scars of the genocide. This is now embodied in the awe-inspiring Kigali Genocide Memorial where CEO James Smith and others are mapping about ambitious Peace Education plans throughout the country to make sure the horrors of 1994 never happen again.

There is a long way to go but as my philosopher-driver Fred said on our way to the memorial: “My father is Hutu. My mother is Tutsi. But that doesn’t matter any more. We are all Rwandans now.”

Rwanda’s communities are thriving again, as evidenced by the unique practice of Umuganda. On the last Saturday morning of each month, the whole country shuts down and neighborhoods come together to do community service, such as street cleaning and house repairs.

Security is tight but not oppressive in the capital Kigali, which is now one of the safest cities in the world. And one of the cleanest. No trash on the streets. No stray dogs or even cats anywhere. No plastic bags allowed. No trespassing on the grass. The traffic lights are timed. Drivers are patient and polite and in two weeks, this blogger did not see a single fender-bender or worse.

blog-9-2Not surprisingly, Rwanda is now called the Singapore or Switzerland of Africa.

According to the World Bank, the Rwandan real GDP growth averaged about 8% a year between 2001 and 2015. This has enabled high growth, rapid poverty reduction and, since 2005, reduced inequality.

As part of this focus on reducing inequality, more than three-fifths of the parliament is now women – the highest in the world. Reported rapes have gone down from about 10 a day to virtually none.

And the private Akilah Institute for Women is the first institute of higher learning exclusively dedicated for women in Rwanda. In only six years, it has produced nearly 200 graduates in Hospitality Management, Entrepreneurship and Information Systems and plans to quadruple enrollment next year.

But that is not all. As Akilah Country Director Aline Kabanda said: “We thrive to ensure that we equip our students with market relevant skills that will enable them to find employment and achieve economic independence. We see our students as future leaders and as such, we build their understanding of the role that they need to play in the development of Rwanda.”

Does this seem too good to be true? Maybe. Maybe not.

There are some who question President’s Kagame’s relationship with the media and whether he should run for a third term next year even though it was approved by a constitutional amendment and it seems he will be almost certain to win due to near universal support for his social reconciliation and economic reforms. Some are concerned, however, about the lack of a coherent and viable opposition.

Although President Kagame is only 59 years old, he has been in formal and informal power for over 20 years. What would happen if and when he steps down? Are the institutions strong and fair enough to continue his legacy without interruption?

And there are still marked imbalances in male and female access to quality education – especially in rural areas. Edouard Munyamaliza, Executive Director of Rwandan Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC) cited the 2014 Demographic and Health Survey which reported that 40% of women and 20% of men have experienced gender-based violence of some form.

This blogger’s conclusion for now is that nowhere is perfect – not even Singapore or Switzerland – and that Rwanda is certainly moving in the right direction in most areas and has achieved an awful lot in only 20 years.

And many of its best practices, such as Umuganda, female representation and peace education – can serve as vibrant models for other “more developed” countries – including the USA where there are tangible concerns about equitable treatment and community healing after the recent election – and how they deal with such challenges as institutionally sanctioned bullying and gender imbalance.

More on how we can respond as individuals next time …