Articles Tagged Leadership

Aug 21, 2022
Let old wisdoms guide new leaders

Our tumultuous Kenyan elections are (mostly) done, and a whole spectrum of fresh leaders has emerged across the land—the usual controversies notwithstanding. We have many more women, many younger folks, many new faces in leadership positions. This is to be applauded. We have, yet again, the opportunity to reboot the nature of our leadership. Will […]

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Aug 07, 2022
What is leadership?

Kenyans go to the polls this coming week. After the votes are counted and accepted, a new president will be certainly be in place; so will many new governors, senators, members of parliament, and members of county assemblies. There is, yet again, the opportunity to reset our nation. Far be from it for me to […]

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Jul 24, 2022
How many in your organization would leave tomorrow?

The year 2003, for those who can remember it, was a time of great optimism in Kenya. A new government was in place, installed by the voters after a prolonged period of autocracy and economic stagnation.  That optimism caused me to leave employment in order to seek greater fulfilment in my work; and it also […]

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Jul 17, 2022
What kind of experience do tomorrow’s leaders need?

Experience, we know, is a good thing. Those who have encountered different adventures and escapades, wins and losses, setbacks and learnings, are useful to others. The thinking is that previous encounters build knowledge and even wisdom. Those who have done stuff before, faced situations before, are likely to be better than those who come in […]

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Jul 10, 2022
Why doubt is a powerful tool for enlightenment

Are you riddled with doubt? That’s great. So am I. Albert Camus, famous French author, Nobel laureate, and renowned public intellectual, was also plagued by doubt. In his words: “I do not know what I am looking for, I name it cautiously, I take back what I have said, I repeat myself, I advance, and […]

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Apr 10, 2022
Never forget: war is horror

“The sad thing is that the people who orchestrate these wars feel no personal repercussions. They have never seen combat, have never lain under a bed wondering if the sound of the screaming missile overhead is the last thing they will hear. But they happily despatch their troops to do these monstrous things on their […]

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Mar 20, 2022
It’s time to leave the boss complex behind

Today I want to tell you the story of the boss who screwed up. In 2007, this boss was on a roll, having founded a really successful company. The business, however, faced a pivot. The boss was a visionary who had seen that the future would not be like the past. That meant that a […]

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Mar 13, 2022
If fascists are left unchecked, they will undo us

I never really paid much attention to fascism when I was younger. The notorious fascists of the early 20th century led the human race into a catastrophic world war before being finally vanquished. Given the consequences, I thought we were done with that part of our history. I thought we had all learned our lesson […]

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Jan 30, 2022
We spend so much time on leaders. What about followers?

We fixate on leaders and leadership. The people who are elected by us, appointed for us, who sit above us—these become the objects of our gaze. Leaders, we feel, can make or break situations, corporations, nations. The quality of leaders seems to be the single biggest success factor behind any collective human enterprise. Get the […]

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Jan 09, 2022
Three reflections from Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu is no more. You will by now have read plenty about this storied African’s manifold achievements. The always smiling Archbishop was a man of courage, wisdom—and much irreverent humour. Allow me to share three of his insights that have stayed with me over the years. The first is this very cheeky observation, coming […]

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Dec 19, 2021
How to be a better board chairperson

I am happy to see many good people I know ascending to the position of board chair in recent months and years. This special position needs many more people of wisdom and restraint. If you hope to be a chairperson someday, please keep reading. First, let’s clear up what the person chairing the board of […]

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Oct 31, 2021
If you find yourself in a hateful mob, you’re being played

Here’s what those who believe in Covid-19 vaccinations believe about the “anti-vaxxers:” That they are gullible and swayed by manipulative messaging; and that they will regret their decision. Here in turn is what anti-vaxxers believe about vaxxers: That they are gullible and swayed by manipulative messaging; and that they will regret their decision. No diehard […]

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Aug 08, 2021
Rush-rush, busy-busy – but why?

Nairobians have made a fetish of being rushed off their feet and of being perpetually busy. We always have to be somewhere else, and we are always late; we always have to be busy, and be seen to be busy, and talk about being busy. Our self-esteem and self-regard seem to ride on it. What […]

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Jul 11, 2021
Who gets to join your 21C board of directors? A provocation

Are you wondering about your board of directors being fit for purpose? If you’re a chairperson, or company secretary, or head of the board governance/nominations committee, the indefatigable Tom Peters has some recommendations for you in his latest book, Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism. Assume a board of ten persons for a large organization. In 2021, […]

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Jun 27, 2021
Can you eat your own dog food?

Many years ago, I was frustrated by an airline’s constant lateness. A batch of clients heading for our leadership programme had again been delayed by many hours, causing big disruption to our carefully laid out schedule. This had become a regular, predictable occurrence. The hotel manager waiting with me told me: “It’s a shame that […]

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Jun 13, 2021
So you can’t find great women for your organization? Really?

A decade ago, there was a question I was regularly asked by chairmen and CEOs. It went something like this: “I need to have more women on my board and senior management team. But where do I find them?” The question was usually asked by males of a certain vintage. It was perhaps forgivable then […]

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Mar 21, 2021
Next-level leadership: leaders who make other leaders

If you work in corporate life, questions of meaning keep bubbling up. Really, is this all there is to a good life? For a few more megacorps to make more megaprofits? To devise even more cunning ploys that yield even more short-term payoffs to an elite band of shareholders and executives? Those questions took me […]

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Feb 28, 2021
Would Messi qualify for your team?

If you have worked for large organizations, you will have come across the competency model. You will have discovered that humans are ranked according to a pre-set group of competencies, or qualities that you are meant to demonstrate in order to excel in your job.  What are these competencies? Things like customer focus, teamwork, goal […]

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Jan 31, 2021
It’s Team Biden, not Biden…

So America has a new president, and wherever I look, I see news about the new administration’s plans and programmes. The Biden immigration plan. The Biden climate policy. The Biden antitrust approach. The Biden anti-COVID programme. The Biden economic stimulus. What’s wrong with that, you ask? The word BIDEN! For some reason we humans just […]

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Dec 06, 2020
Let’s record the heroes of the global pandemic

When there’s a crisis on, sometimes you just have to laugh out loud.  The best cartoon I have seen depicting the pandemic situation (by Arghxsel) showed a hungry wolf facing a herd of sheep, and looking perplexed. “You know that I am a wolf,” he asks the sheep. “Why won’t you run away?” Because “there […]

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Nov 29, 2020
Stand up to be counted during this global crisis

There’s a global pandemic on, for crying out loud. I say this because some of us seem not to understand the gravity of the situation. Some of us seem to regard this thing as a minor irritation, a temporary encumbrance, to be ignored or wished away, so that something called “business as usual” can continue. […]

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Nov 08, 2020
Is your board stuck in yesterday’s successes?

Have you heard of Nokia? Had I asked that in 2010 it would have been an impertinent question. At the time Nokia was the dominant global mobile phone company. In my seminars of those days, perhaps nine in 10 of those present would be sporting a Nokia device. Today, asking if you know Nokia is […]

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Sep 06, 2020
How the virus masked and unmasked us

Face-masks? Who apart from a few knew about them before 2020? Now they are a daily necessity, a wardrobe item. Most of us may think we never put on a mask before this pandemic, but actually we did. I refer not to the triple-layer protection we now sport, but to the masks humans wear by […]

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Aug 23, 2020
How good is your team? Here’s a different way of looking at it

FCB vs FCB was supposed to be one of the interesting matchups in football this year. FC Bayern duly faced off against FC Barcelona in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League recently. It ended in a debacle. The Germans took the Catalans apart, beating them 8-2 – an unheard-of scoreline in the upper echelons […]

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Jul 05, 2020
Meet a leader truly focused on others

By December 2019 I was pretty sure I would be writing this particular column in May 2020. Then a certain virus arrived… Jürgen Klopp just took Liverpool Football Club to its first English Premier League (EPL) title for 30 years. Anyone interested in leadership should take a close look at the unique qualities this particular […]

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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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