Nathaniel Houghton found one of the worst places on the planet and decided not only that it could be fixed, but that he could lead the way in doing it. At age 23, he has a perspective that at least half the population lacks: while he anticipates that it may take the better part of twenty years for outcomes that he hopes to see, he’ll still be a relatively young man then.
At nineteen, Nate first visited The Congo and began building a deep connection to it that has now become his full time occupation. As the founder and CEO of the Congo Leadership Initiative (CLI), he works full time to bring leadership training to a country where students are taught facts not critical thinking and to follow rather than lead.
Nate once said:
The best way to help the world is to find something you love doing and figure out how to positively impact someone else’s life through your talents and interests. I think startups are cool, and that’s what CLI is. I believe in our product - leadership - and its power to change the world.
Nate is convinced that if we teach young people, starting in high school, the art of critical thinking and the science of leadership that they themselves will find solutions to their country’s tremendous problems, rapidly accelerating the pace of development in their impoverished country.
At three times the size of Texas, Congo is the second largest country in Africa. At $348 per year, the per capita income of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) makes it arguably the poorest nation on the planet. Nate notes that the violence that famously ravaged Rwanda in the 90s still persists in parts of the DRC. The country has rich, largely untapped natural resources that some estimate represent the richest deposits of natural resources on earth.
The Congo Leadership Initiative has a team on the ground running a variety of leadership training programs, some of which are open to all who are interested and others to which students must apply for admission. By screening the students, they find those with the highest potential for leadership and teach them not only how to be great leaders but also key principles of social responsibility.
Stephie was one of the first students through the program when she was a senior in high school. Now attending the university and studying psychology, she volunteers at her old high school teaching students there the leadership concepts she’s learned in the CLI program.
Nate describes Stephi’s leadership as an “output” of CLI, but Nate is patiently looking ahead ten or twenty years to a time when CLI graduates have become real leaders both in corporations and governments in Congo and they will be able to drive the “outcomes” that Nate envisions, radically altering the course of events in Congo.
As I visited with Nate about CLI, I was impressed by two things in particicular: 1) Nate’s long view of things, and 2) that at 22, Nate left a dream job with a large technology company where most people only dream of working (he asked me not to say where) to devote himself full time to CLI.
Nate is starting early to leave a mark on the world, inspiring me to give a little and do a little more. There are huge problems in this world, but none so big that we can’t solve them working together.
Where is your mark on the world?