VCU Mandela Fellows Actively Approach Leadership with SEAL Team Physical Training

Mandela Fellows Pose with the SEALS and Members
A group of tired yet exhilarated Mandela Fellows posed post-training with SEAL Team Professional Training staff near Belle Isle. “It boosts the spirit of collaborating, of challenging all situations, all kinds of issues. There is no barrier for me. I can now achieve bigger things, and we are taking this to Africa guys!” said Eric Casinga, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

By Shalma Akther
Intern, VCU School of Business Communications & Marketing

In business, leadership can be approached in countless ways – but none quite like the SEAL Team Physical Training that the Virginia Commonwealth University Mandela Fellows experienced on July 15th. VCU School of Business alumnus Timmy Nguyen connected the fellows with John McGuire, CEO of SEAL Team Physical Training, Inc., who offered the free session. 

Since June 20th, 50 Mandela Fellows have been at VCU learning about entrepreneurship and government through academic coursework and experiential leadership training as part of the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. “I think what is amazing about this program is that I got to be in the same room, for six weeks, with African leaders. We got to unite. We collaborated. We shared ideas. I was with very smart people that inspired me,” fellow Itumeleng Phake (Tumi), from South Africa.

SEALs await the introductions of the fellows
SEAL Team Physical Trainers awaited introductions of fellows

Since 1998 the SEAL Team Physical Training has provided an outdoor alternative to the gym. McGuire said, “Our new mission is to help individuals and teams reach their full potential. And what I love about the program is you get a chance to meet people from all over the world.” McGuire takes his knowledge from past experiences and his time as a US Navy SEAL to implement practice regimens for its diverse members and anyone else seeking training. “We’ve helped division one basketball football teams win fourteen championships in the last six years. Now we’re a small part of that, but I learned in the military there really is nothing like teamwork to bring out the best in people.”

Fellows and SEALs Complete Exercises Together
Fellows, VCU staff and SEAL Team PT staff completed exercises together

In addition to promoting confidence, SEAL Team PT also focuses on leadership and teamwork. Mandela Fellow Ndahafa Hapulile from Namibia stated, “What I like about this is the combination of mental strengthening and physical, so I felt this was a part of building my character because this exercise was very intense. However, it helped me to go beyond what I thought was my limit, so now I’m not even sure what my limit is anymore.”

As an observer I was able to witness their leadership progress. One could see the growth of communication between the fellows and the ongoing motivation each one demonstrated, while striving to achieve a common goal of seeing each other be successful in the various tasks. As a result, the fellows became an efficient and effective team, while taking the concept of what it means to be a leader to new heights, and understanding the world of possibilities available when one can effectively work together with others.

Fellows cheering on and awaiting further instructions
Fellows cheered a united “hooyah!” and awaited further instruction from CEO John McGuire

“I think what come out of this program is that we’ve collaborated. We understand that we are unity and that we need to work together to succeed as a continent, as different countries, and that’s what I’ll take out of this program,” Phake summed up his experience. Of his morning at SEAL Team PT, Phake said “I loved it! I think it shows that working as a team, that’s when you’ll achieve a lot more goals. A lot of times we are very selfish in doing things, and what it just shows is that if we work as a unit, we can achieve things better. And it’s very difficult because people have different personalities. But here we had to stay afloat. And I think teamwork makes the dream work.”

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