Articles Tagged Leadership

Apr 05, 2020
This problem is everyone’s problem

We are, all of us in the world, deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some more than others, though. Consider a first group. The members of this small but privileged category fled to safety once the dangers of the coronavirus were clear. They were the first to work from home, because they can. They have […]

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Mar 29, 2020
Now more than ever: the steering wheel must connect to the tyres

More than a decade ago I asked on this page: is Kenya’s steering wheel connected to its tyres? The imagery is half-comical: of leaders merrily spinning the steering wheel thinking they are driving the car; the vehicle, meanwhile, goes where it wants. The issue was very serious, though; I raised it in the light of […]

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Mar 22, 2020
This pandemic will expose the true character of leaders

A leader’s true character is only revealed during a crisis. A lot of people are now discovering this essential truth of leadership. Good times don’t tell you much about the leader. If the economy is buoyant and times are normal and markets are free and institutions are strong, who leads doesn’t matter a whole lot. […]

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Mar 15, 2020
Three reflections on the coronavirus

The coronavirus has upended the world. A few tiny dudus that seem to have emerged from a market in China have taken over our daily discourse. One country (Italy) is in complete lockdown; many others will have to follow. Wherever you look, airports are empty; airplanes are grounded; hotels, malls, stadia and public squares are […]

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Mar 08, 2020
Respect those who listen, not those who bluster

Like many of you reading this, I grew up in the tumult of a large extended family. The social milieu was complicated; many uncles and aunts and cousins and family friends were always milling around. Many diverse opinions on pretty much anything under the sun were on offer, all the time. I was a quiet, […]

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Dec 22, 2019
Those who lead for the few cause perpetual turmoil

Every so often you have to look at the world around you and wonder what on earth is wrong with human beings. There seems to be turmoil everywhere. Massive public demonstrations, often turning violent, are occurring in every corner. Hong Kong, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Lebanon, Spain, Iran, Iraq, India, Thailand – is that a long […]

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Dec 01, 2019
Are you working on anything that will outlast you?

A question for you: do you remember something called the ‘Zune’? Not really, I guess. Another question: do you remember something called the ‘iPod’? Of course you do. Both were MP3 music players. Here’s the thing, though. The Zune, made by Microsoft, was the far superior product, in most respects. And yet it failed miserably […]

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Sep 15, 2019
Why do people keep selecting bad leaders?

Let me tell you about a certain country. A century ago, this country was regarded as one of the most promising of the future. It was richly endowed with a very diverse trove of natural resources, and had a GDP per capita higher than that of France or Germany. It attracted immigrants from far and […]

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Jun 23, 2019
Is your organization doing stuff the exact same way?

Image by Alexander Antropov from Pixabay We are a major bank. We are holding our annual general meeting with shareholders. We need some good photos. What should we do? I know, why don’t we take one of the chairperson, CEO and a shareholder all pretending to point to something in the annual report? Excellent idea. […]

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Apr 21, 2019
So you sacked a manager. So what?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay Last December, José Mourinho was sacked as manager of Manchester United, one of the world’s richest and most trophy-laden football clubs. His firing was almost universally welcomed by United’s faithful fans. A caretaker replacement, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was appointed in his place quickly. He has since gone on to […]

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Mar 10, 2019
Just been promoted? Now stop dealing in excuses

Adam Lashinsky once provided an interesting little vignette about Steve Jobs. According to the reporter, Apple’s founding CEO used to give employees a little speech when they were promoted to Vice President. Lashinsky called it the ‘Difference Between the Janitor and the Vice President.’ Jobs told new VPs that if the garbage in his office […]

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Jan 20, 2019
Here’s to the mavericks who light up organizations

I don’t often do obituaries in this column. And certainly not of chief executives. But exceptions have to be made. Herb Kelleher, cofounder of Southwest Airlines, was indeed special. I have talked about him and his remarkable company many times in seminars and lectures. Now he’s gone, and those who love to see business (or […]

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Dec 23, 2018
If you love bookshops, buy from them

When I was a young boy, I would regularly gather my pocket money and take a bus into Nairobi’s central district to buy books. My perambulations would begin at the famous second-hand shop, Toddlers Bazaar, just off Koinange Street. This ever-busy shop was a prime place to find unusual, affordable novels. From there I would […]

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Dec 02, 2018
Generating the will to win is more important than buying top talent

Photo by Margarida CSilva on Unsplash I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat in boardrooms and heard the assembled say they are engaged in a “war for talent.” The gist is as follows: talented people drive results. We must have the best talent in this company. Top talent is scarce. Top talent […]

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Oct 28, 2018
When was the last time you heard your employees laugh?

Fear at work is a good thing, right? If employees are not afraid of you, they will just take advantage of you, no? They’ll slack off work, they’ll run side hustles using your time and resources, they’ll even steal from you – correct? A question, though: many business bosses have been making their employees feel […]

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Sep 30, 2018
No, visionaries don’t have to be jerks

Elon Musk is widely recognized as a visionary. He cofounded PayPal and then moved on to a dizzying range of businesses: electric vehicles, energy generation, machine interfacing, even space travel. His aim always is to completely revolutionize every industry he turns his hand to. None of the new ventures is a concrete success just yet; […]

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Sep 16, 2018
To be really successful? Say NO

I’m about to write something down that may be one of the most important things you will ever read. It was said by Warren Buffet, and here it is: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” If that sentence immediately made perfect sense […]

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Jul 29, 2018
The taxi driver with advice for presidents and prime ministers

Kamran is a taxi driver in Dubai. I met him on a recent trip and found him a little different from the norm. Despite doing a difficult and demanding job, and one that does not offer the best reward, he stays upbeat and positive. So much so that I engaged him exclusively on a daily […]

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Jul 15, 2018
My 800th Sunday column: the importance of writing well

This column records my 800th appearance on this page. It’s been a great ride, for more than 15 years now. I thought I should commemorate the milestone by focusing on something that seems to be losing its importance in the modern world: good writing. By this I mean good writing coming from you. We all […]

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May 20, 2018
All that rain, and yet no water

An observant visitor to Nairobi over the past few weeks would have noted an interesting paradox: it has rained and rained and rained and then rained some more in the capital city; and yet the metropolis remains locked in water rationing, quite severely in some areas. If this was your visitor, how would you explain […]

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May 13, 2018
Hail the monomaniacs!

Photo credit: EPA Pep Guardiola lifted the English Premier League trophy last Sunday on behalf of the club he manages, Manchester City. I think we should all applaud, regardless of team affiliation. For me, the most interesting part of Pep’s season came during a game in November. He began berating a player who just been […]

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Mar 18, 2018
Are you succeeding, or just looking like you’re succeeding?

When Jeffrey Immelt, long-time boss of giant conglomerate GE, held his annual address to investors last May his corporation’s stock was trading at close to $30. He painted a rosy picture of his long tenure, and retired as CEO soon afterwards. Today the stock price is around $15. His successor decided to bare all and […]

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Feb 11, 2018
Here are some of the invisible mentors who have shaped my life

Last week I told you about invisible mentors – those inspirational figures who are present in our lives and prominent in our successes without ever mentoring us formally or practically. Sometimes we meet these people; sometimes they never know we even exist. And yet they leave their indelible imprint. Think about it: invisible mentors are […]

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Feb 04, 2018
Who is your ‘invisible’ mentor?

Mentorship is all the rage. As young people struggle to come up in the world, they feel they need someone of accomplishment to take them under their wing, guide them, open doors for them. Success, they feel, is much easier to achieve when someone successful shows them how. We grow up being guided by parents, […]

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Dec 17, 2017
The new leader’s purge

As a leadership advisor, I am often left pondering a common phenomenon: when a new leader arrives in office, what inevitably follows is a purge of the followers of the old one. I have seen it many times over the years: a new leader is appointed; and all those associated with the old regime must […]

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Dec 03, 2017
Why do leaders cling on to power?

Watching Robert Mugabe cling on to power at the ripe old age of 93 was perplexing. He had clearly outstayed his welcome by decades, not years; the army had been forced to move in to prevent him handing over power to his own wife; and hundreds of thousands of his people had poured into the […]

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Nov 26, 2017
How easily should a public figure be sacked?

Michael Fallon, the United Kingdom’s Defence Secretary, was forced to resign. He did this shortly after he was forced to admit he had inappropriately touched the knee of a female journalist fifteen years earlier. Priti Patel, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for International Development was forced to step down in the same week as […]

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Sep 17, 2017
The madness of believing in charlatans

A rapist was found guilty. The rapist had supporters, though. Millions of them. A mob of thousands, upon hearing the court’s verdict, went on the rampage, attacking journalists, setting vehicles on fire, attacking train stations and government buildings. Dozens of people were killed in the mêlée. The army had to be called in to quell […]

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