International Academy for Leadership
A Lesson from Germany: Leadership for a Freer Future


Raina Salsabil from Students for Liberty Indonesia at Theodor-Heuss-Akademie IAF in Gummersbach, Germany for attending IAF Seminar Leadership for Young Leaders on 26 November - 8 December 2023.

I acquired my first baby step in Germany when we headed out from the Cologne airport to the Academy in Gummersbach. Aside from the fact this was my first winter, the cold truly hit different as the excitement of meeting young leaders all across the world spiked a chill into my bones far before I took a 17-hour-long flight from Asia to Europe.

Unexpectedly remarkable by the near end of 2023, I met 23 bright leaders from 22 different countries all across the continent. All of the initial meetings with the participants were very pleasant. During our first day of arrival, the liberal atmosphere already held an amazement over me. Everything is so diverse yet so peaceful. Everyone is authentic, respectful, and celebrates each other in the most accepting way. There is nothing more fulfilling than being surrounded by a lot of bright, like-minded, and mission-fulled people all around. Rest assured, I already knew from day one that I will love it here.

However, the challenge personally arises when I get to know each other better throughout the days. As someone who comes from a conservative country, I was held captive by the amazement of how liberalism in other countries, especially in European and African countries has become the norm, not the minority. Liberal politicians, liberal policies, and liberal parties are ruling to bring more freedom to the system. They are winning inside the structure, they create the law, they establish a pro-liberty culture towards the constitution, basically, everything that sounds mission impossible in Indonesia.

This reflection shrink my heart a little bit. Not because I felt isolated and swallowed by insecurities, but due to the realization of how far is my region being left out and held captive from the freedom we ought to have, the amount of victorious freedom that we can actually have. Liberalism is being declined by the majority due to illiberal misinterpretation, illiberal misunderstanding, and any other negative connotation that spreads across the culture in Indonesia. As a pro-liberty political science student in the country, this left a huge sense of guilt inside as I was stuck in the impact of doing nothing significant.


Before coming to this seminar, I was also standing strong in the path of resignation about the local political condition in the country due to my dissatisfaction with the absence of aligned values in the settings. Exactly starting from two years ago, I stopped fueling my ambition in politics, I avoided political networking, and even recalled my involvement in a former political party in the country. However, as the seminar proceeded with our amazing facilitators, Clinton du Preez and Hussam Erhayel, the guilt fades away as I slowly unravel the sets of things that is actually happening inside of me and how to drift it to the better.

The first couple of days are spent within a truly remarkable and fulfilling workshop in the Academy at Gummersbach. We are guided through sets of comprehensive leadership workshop that starts all the way from knowing our friends and enemies of learning, discovering our core values and mission, analyzing stakeholders and crafting future steps on creating impacts as a youth leader. We also being equipped with one another to form a bond called a ‘learning partner’ to share about each of our added insights and value every day to make sure it leaves a lasting impression on ourselves.

The journey continues to embark not only in the theoretical matter, but also proceed to be implemented in the practical core. During the third day in Germany, we set off to Cologne for the given exercise and challenge to connect with our intentions and emotions, as we are being given a personal challenge at the Ludwig museum to find an art that represent our core callings. Thus, our leadership journey also come to a real-time practice as we are being classified in groups to solve some problems together in the new city where everyone is clueless. It was a super interesting opportunity for me as I got to experience different kinds of compromising styles and leadership types from the members of the group who were all great and confident leaders.

Going back to the Academy in Gummersbach, the seminar continues on connecting us with great people that leave a strong impression on us. We met The Speech Republic that teaches us about Authentic Public Speaking, Sven Gerst from IFLRY who dive us deeper into the Liberal Values, Nerima Wako from Siasa Place that help us to understand what does it take to run a successful movement and create changes.

As the seminar coming to a near end, we were also given the opportunity to learn from Berlin, the capital city of Germany with unlimited lessons from history. The first challenge of Berlin arises when us, leaders, who are totally clueless about the city and foremost — are given the task of finding a specific location with limited time, and specific command to execute in those places. The places are not even close to a bit as we need to take the footway for around 20 minutes to go from one place to another in a cold -3 degree of Berlin. It is indeed an interesting experience also as I witness some teams are splitting up to reach more effectivity.

Moments before going back to Gummersbach, Berlin also leaves a big impact on me by meeting me with two powerful speakers in politics, Apolitical Foundation and Josef Lentsch, that sparks my interest back on contributing in local politics with a brand new strategy, vision, and mission to bring in the country as they talk about the amount of support that is available out there, and how changes are possible to reach within innovated strategies. We also had the opportunity to experience Global Stammtisch where we get to met many liberal leaders in one room and get to share insights with them before we finally get back to the Academy first the first the next morning.

I did huge reflections when I was back in my room at the Academy in Gummersbach. Within a mark of consciousness ignited by the sessions, I finally understand my current condition of resignation in local politics, and what that resignation tried to protect me from — the loss of my idealism.

This understanding of fears, equipped with a comprehensive set of leadership workshops, delivers me into a point I have never stood before. A point where a clear mission, fueled with a strong ambition, unexpectedly helps me to understand myself and my callings of freedom better. Thus, this momentum does not only equipped me with an ideological enlightenment but also provided me with a set of powerful maps consisting of future steps, possible directions, layers of confidence, and unlimited numbers of resources.

The awe of the true power of leadership, especially in liberal movements, made me realize about the huge opportunities and roles I can take to ignite a change for a freer future in Indonesia. This realization even answered one of the biggest philosophical questions of my life. Now, I know exactly why I was born in a country challenged by the conservative culture. I know exactly why I don't belong to any political movement in the country yet. Its all because it is still in the future, and I know exactly that I am currently existing at the right time to create that future, and I am ready for it.


Written by Raina Salsabil from Students for Liberty Indonesia.


24 participants of IAF Seminar "Leadership for Young Leaders" 2023 from around the world.