The one who told you that you could fly must have given you the wings.
The one who told you that you could fly must have given you the wings.
There were once two fishermen who lived by the sea. Fishermen always live by the see because it is easy to take care of their nets and ships and get to the sea. These two fishermen were great friends and did everything together on the sea. They worked together when mending their nets and set out at night to catch fish together in their boats. They even helped each other to repair their boats when they were broken. They helped each other take care of everything they owned. They were such good friends that their wives and children were good friends too.
But one day they caught a big fish in the net. When they came to the shore, each of them wanted to take it home. They sat in silence for a long time. Then they began arguing. Then they began shouting. Soon they were fighting. The other fishermen came and watched. Then the market people came and watched. Soon the whole village came to watch. Everyone was so shocked to see the two friends fighting that they too began shouting.
At last an old woman asked them why they were fighting. When they told here about the big fish she thought for a moment and then said, "It seems to me that there are many big fish out in the sea, but only this one, as far as I can see, has caused such a melee". When she finished speaking the crowd went silent. First the villagers went home. Then the market people went back to sell their goods. Then the fishermen went back to their nets. Finally the two friends stood there and were so ashamed that they threw the fish back into the sea.
The most important life skill you must develop in life is to face adversity, rise above failure and recover from tragedy. These three have one thing in common. You have no control over them. However, life is made up of challenges you cannot avoid, fears you do not decide, and tragedies you may not make. Nevertheless success is not in the situation, but in your response to them. By engaging a challenge is your victory. By courage and overcoming fear can you rise above failure. And by hope and faith you can move on from tragedy. You may have no choice of the matter, but the choice you make decides the matter.
THE POWER OPTION
There is a notion that power is limited. This theory says that if you have more power in a situation then I have less. Power in this sense is limited. This notions forces people to argue and win positions (and possessions) and take advantage over others. If this is your belief of power then everything to you is a fight. I know you can think of a number of people around you who believe everything has to be a fight. The most I can say about such people is that they are very uncomfortable to be around.
The other option you have is to think of power as a lighted candle. What a candle gives away in terms of lighting other candles does not diminish its flame. But lighting other candles does increase its influence and yet does not take away their heat or new light. People who use this power option do not have to have more power, but revel in the joy of sharing power. No this kind of power is not democracy. It does not come by taking power. It comes by giving it away. This is the power of leadership. Leaders know that power is not limited. It is in all of us and that we can work together better if we all know that we have it and can use it to light our world. The least I can say about such people is that they are very comfortable to be around.
But there is another power that is a very depressing affair. It is the people who do not know they have power. These powerless people love to play the victim. While those who believe power is limited love to fight, these people love to hurt, whine and complain. They are the kind of people you don't want to be around. They are spiteful, blameful and just awful company. The world revolves around them, against them and they are powerless to do anything for themselves. They suck sympathy from a candle like oxygen from a room. All they can think of is doom.
I was at a party recently where people of all races had gathered to enjoy the season when one person sitting in a group suddenly called out to his tribesman in his personal dialect above the din of the group conversation. They launched into a discussion of some matter that none of us could understand nor contribute to. The discussion in the room gradually quieted down to near silence as these two, who appeared to be enjoying themselves, completed their discussion then turned to their neighbors with no sign or sense of remorse. This overt display of "us and them" may not have been intended to communicate apartheid, but it did.
I wondered why I was so offended when the two were not even talking to me or near me. I wondered why a cold sweat and dry feeling of contempt attacked me. I wondered if anyone else felt the way I did or if they had simply run out of things to talk about. After all, it was a small thing. I tried not to feel excluded from the dialogue but I was. For a minute, I was not part of that community. This little displaced display of disunity in community sent distressing signals. All of a sudden, people moved away from the area and found other things to do. That outburst, intended or not, had put a damper on the proceedings in the room. Ethnicity had won again or had it?
Ethnicity can create unity, but not common unity or community. While ethnicity can build unity, only leadership can build community. Leadership reaches out to the common elements of unity in a group, knowing full well, that disunity is easy to achieve. Ethnicity thus provides a perfect platform to display leadership in public. Next time you are in the community, you will have a chance to show disunity or lead common unity.
Evil makes you angry, a rebel and a victim in order to make you happy. It kills your conscience and makes you to do things that you would not do willingly. It is antisocial, greedy and makes you jealous and not content. It has no long-term benefit or sustainable return. Someone must continue to suffer as the price of your happiness. This is a sore burden to place on a soul whose life is limited. However, it often takes a long time for people to realize that evil is a cruel taskmaster.
Small thinking is me, big thinking is we, great thinking is others.
We spend much of our time as children thinking about ourselves. As adults, we spend most of our time thinking about us. Very few leaders any time thinking about others, yet others is the key to our own success.
...to enlist wise counsel.
The other day someone asked me to mentor them. I was a little surprised that someone should ask me to be a mentor. After all what did I know that someone else should ask me to be a mentor? And anyway, I need mentoring myself! I may have felt honored but deep down I knew I was inadequate and technically incompetent to carry out the request. After all, I consider myself a professional – I only do what I know. However, since the person persisted that I be it, I decided there must be some science to the process.
I have been a teacher, trainer, lecturer, facilitator, coach, leader, entrepreneur, author and consultant. In all those roles, I have always made it clear that there is a significant difference between all of them. On occasion, I have said that mentorship involves some if not all of those roles but is also separate from all of them – even though I had never defined mentorship on its own.
After reading a few books and evaluating my thoughts on the subject, I settled on defining mentoring as "enlisting wise counsel" or "enlisting the counsel of the wise". This differs from the other roles I have been comfortable with in one significant regard. Mentoring is NOT driven or even determined by the mentor. Mentoring is engineered by the "mentee". Mentoring cannot be imposed. The mentor is really a secondary part of the mentoring equation. The difference between a student and a mentee is that a student may not choose the teacher, but the mentee always has the privilege to choose a mentor. This leaves a mentor somewhat flawed, awed and confused, because the mentor has literally no power of control in the relationship. A mentee says "tell me what I need to know, but I will decide if I will act on it or not". The mentor is powerless to enforce or coerce. I think this is why people don't like being a mentor. It may be prestigious, but it is a totally powerless position. You can take no glory from it. You are on the sidelines and can be ditched at any time.
The mentoring process is not only the mentees initiative, but it is also ascribes wisdom on the mentor. This causes the feeling of inadequacy and trauma because by the time the mentee asks to be mentored, they have already taken the proposed mentor through a pre-selection and evaluation process of which the mentor is totally ignorant. This can be very unsettling. The mentee decides what is "wise" or who is wise. How do you describe, determine or define who is "wise". Wisdom has no technical or professional competence. It is more of a personal quality. A mentee may choose to draw wisdom from a clerk rather than the senior engineer.
Mentees generally select people with more experience to mentor them. They choose someone who has more exposure to a thing. However, not every experienced person is chosen to be a mentor. The mentor must show cause why they should be personally chosen to mentor. The only difference between two experienced people is what they have become as a result of that experience – that's character.
The third qualification for a mentor I find is understanding – NOT knowledge. Mentees generally have a lot of knowledge, indeed it takes one to have significant knowledge before it dawns on you to seek out a mentor. A mentor is supposed to help you sort out issues and interpret difficult situations. If mentees lacked knowledge, they would easily enlist a teacher. Amazingly ,the one thing all mentees seek out is someone who will listen.
So where do you find people who have experience, character, understanding and can listen? That is the six million dollar question because no one I know goes to school to study and excel in these things and neither do they set out in careers to achieve these things. These qualities are things you pick up as you go through your career. Some people acquire the first but not all four. In other words, a mentor is who you are, not what you aim to become or qualify to be. If someone choses you as a mentor it is a great honor, and very flattering, but you really have very little choice in the matter. All you can do is agree or respectfully decline as it is not possible to give adequate reasons (for yourself) to be or not to be a mentor.
Politics has absolutely no relationship to history.
Some things may sound reasonable, but they are not always rational. Financial affairs fall into this category of things. To get the most out of your finances, it is better to be rational than reasonable. It is perfectly reasonable to pay a fair price for a good car. However, do you need the car?
Work with your enemy?!
I think it is not so important to know your enemies as to know you have enemies. The important thing is to be able to achieve your objectives in spite of people working against you. It may mean that you will have to work with your enemies to achieve your goals. You may have to maintain uncomfortable relationships for the greater good. It takes superior vision, insight and humility to submit to an enemy to achieve the greatest good. However, there are powerful historical precedents that show it is not only possible, but practical too.
The first part of your life is spent preparing for work, the next phase is working. The final phase is spent retiring from work. You will never get away from work in your lifetime. It makes sense to ensure you job is worthwhile.
THE LEADERSHIP CRUNCH
The leadership crunch is the agony an organization goes through when it lacks the ability to realize its goals. A business can experience shocking failure even after a successful change of its top leaders. The leadership crunch is not about the lack of leaders. It is about the lack of leadership. Leadership is enabled by the people and process needed to achieve goals. Many leaders know what needs to be done, but not enough know how to do it. A business may have a clear purpose, but lack the structure to ensure that its goals are met. Though a business, under a new leader, may appear to be on the right track, it begins to stall when staff are expected to put the new plan into action, take on significant responsibility and work independently to realize results. At this point, it becomes frustratingly clear that the business lacks the ability to meet customer expectations. This sends the business into a tailspin, downward performance spiral and, if unchecked, eventual crash. In short, a change of leaders does not change an organization.
On the surface, a business can have all the right leaders in the right offices, but lack the people and processes to get things done. Such a business can limp along for a long time. When the crunch comes, the public questions the integrity of the leader, but lack wisdom to identify the depth, root and cause of the problem. The popular solution is to change the top leaders in the hope that new leaders will provide the much-needed leadership. However, it is not hard to see that the leadership crunch will happen again unless systems, structure and suitable staff are developed to take on the vision and mission of the business. It takes time, effort and a well thought-out plan to create new organization leadership. Such a plan is needed whenever a business or environment changes state.
The economy and governance in Kenya has experienced fundamental change under the new constitution. There are no experts on the unfolding drama as the country, counties, courts and companies struggle to find their feet in the new reality. Many of the challenges business and leaders face in the coming days will have less to do with the leaders themselves than with the lack of development of leadership within their organizations. Those that do not have a well-defined leadership development plan stand little chance of survival, leave alone success, when the crunch comes.
A pill that took a lifetime of research can cure you in a few days. What some people call a miracle, others call planning. What some call luck, others claim to be hard work. What some call punishment, others call character. Whom should I believe?
LEADERSHIP IN KENYA: THE LOST DECADE
Thirty-five years after independent, Kenya embarked on an ambitious scheme to reorganize the demographic structure of its productive workforce with dire consequences. One generation after independence, the nation got rid of its (senior) employees and deactivated their participation in the economy. At the time, few people realized the socio-economic impact of slewing off the cream of Kenya productive and most experienced workers would have on the nation's future. In one short decade, the country dismissed its entire leadership potential, talent and competence developed over nearly 30 years and put them out to pasture.
Most of the employees who were retired, retrenched or rendered redundant between 1995-2005 had started work in independent Kenya in their early 20s. They would face the sack 35 years later. By that time however, they had worked hard to develop work, employment and leadership skills to take over jobs held by foreigners in government and private business. This generation carried Kenya through the Kenyanization programs of the 1970's and 80's. Through strategic leadership development training occupied senior positions in government, private enterprise and national leadership. This generation that struggled to give the nation socio-economic feet, and a national global identity would be shunted out of office under the guise of a "golden handshake" to make way for a younger more talented workforce.
Despite the assumed financial "savings" made by retiring senior staff, the cost of the loss of top leadership to an organization may be irreversible especially if it happens entirely and suddenly – as it did in the lost decade. A whole generation of top leadership was evicted in a masterful stroke of economic logic. The cost of that lack of wisdom is painfully evident today. There is a dearth of national leadership competence between 50-75 years old in national life. This has distressing social implications as life expectancy rises dramatically over time. What happened to the lost generation?
RETIREMENT, RETRENCHMENT & REDUNDANCY
The retrenchment programs started as a dribble with multinational corporations drawing first blood by sending home senior employees aged forty over. The thinking may have been that they were becoming too expensive to maintain. The movement grew in steam and status as more local organizations began to believe that their monetary problems could be solved by getting rid of old, high cost, top management. By the time the government felt the pressure to comply with restructuring demands, they produced the famous "golden handshake era to facilitate, fast track and cushion the ejection of the victims from leadership. By the time, the government was done; voluntary retirement schemes and pre-retirement programs had become the vogue in the private sector.
By the time the lost decade was coming to an end, employee sense of job security was at an all-time low as some first time employees experienced retrenchment on their first job, while not a few older employees had been retrenched two or three times. It did not help that major national corporations at the time began their "privatization" and downsizing programs that deprived thousands of employees their jobs and deprived thousand more of potential jobs. The net effect of this period in the economy was to literally throw away the most experienced human capital investment and provide little hope for generation Y employees.
THE LOST GENERATION
Unfortunately, the lost generation were not prepared for retirement. They certainly did not feel old, retired or redundant. Many of the lost generation were retired when their children were still in school. Many still had mortgages to pay. Many had not built homes in the village, nor owned homes in the city. Many had no savings to speak of. Most had no knowledge of enterprise and spent most of the retirement money within a year on meaningless economic activity. Many of the lost generation retreated from the socio-economic mainstream into the village and were sidelined from social leadership issues. Without economic power, many of the lost generation lost their voice, authority and respect in family and social affairs, giving rise to the challenges of generation Y and a new constitution.
Suddenly, all over the country, in every village, returned former employees who made an attempt to start life afresh. Many families received disempowered fathers and mothers, who were suddenly unable to provide for their needs. After the gravy train of the golden handshake ran out, the lost generation began to sell lands and properties to recover their self-esteem only further disenfranchising the next generation. There can be no greater cost to society than a forty year old parent unable to find employment and incapable of enterprise whom society has rendered redundant!
Millions of non-productive shillings were pumped into the economy as former employees tried their hand at enterprise after a quarter century as employees. The event was comically catastrophic as many employees bought matatus, shops, and started building houses they never finished in a desperate bid to salvage their social status and secure their future income. There is very little more costly to an economy than wasted resources that increase the debt burden of the people.
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT LOSS
By far the greatest cost the country incurs by "early-retirement" programs is the loss of mature national leadership. In the first 25 years of a citizen's life, he (or she) grows up in a family and consumes national resources. In the next 25 years the (working) citizen generates wealth through employment and enterprise to feed his own family. Between 50- 75 years, citizens having completed brining up their families, generate wealth for the nation. In other words, if the employment and enterprise is well managed, the most profitable citizen in a nation is the one who remains productive between 50-75 years of age! Such a citizen produces more value than he consumes. If this citizen keeps busy, he also has the moral authority and economic power to provide and determine social leadership.
LESSONS FROM THE LOST DECADE
First, retirement at 50 makes a complete nonsense of a nation's investment in education. It takes 20 years to educate an employee (or entrepreneur). By the time they have generated enough wealth to cover the cost of their education they are already close to 50 years old. Retiring at 50 is NOT in the public interest neither does it make economic sense.
Second , employees urgently need enterprise skills. Employees generate national wealth, but are also the main consumers of that wealth. The lack of enterprise skills among employees perpetuates poverty as they consume ALL they produce and create no personal wealth at all.
Third, national leadership policy requiring senior citizens to retire even when they have the capacity and competence to generate wealth needs to be revoked and revised to keep senior citizens included and active in the economy and able to engage and facilitate stability in society. If this policy is not reviewed, it will mean that Kenya (as may now be happening) will perpetually be ruled by young leaders with economic sense and professional competence, but completely devoid of the wisdom of elders whose traditional role was to safeguard the welfare of the whole society.
The nation may need to urgently review its leadership development strategy to facilitate transformation. The events of the lost decade may not have been economically sound, but may also lead to a leadership catastrophe the nation may struggle with for many years to come. Today's leadership challenges (in Africa) may be a result of insensitive treatment of leadership development strategy in the recent past. However, one myth the lost decade has helped to explode is that (national) leadership is cheap, easy to make and can be quickly produced by a set of certificates.
Allan Bukusi, 2013