Articles Tagged Leadership

Jan 14, 2024
2024 might be a very tough year. That could be great for you

What kind of 2024 are you expecting to have? Across the world, the prognosis is grim at best. Economies are ailing; costs of living have rocketed; business failures are looming; debt burdens are onerous. It’s not going to be an easy year to navigate, even for the most fortunate. But there is something that a […]

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Dec 03, 2023
What this CEO’s chaotic sacking revealed

Picture this scenario: The board of directors of an iconic organisation decides to fire its well-known CEO, without warning, issuing a cryptic announcement to that effect and appointing an interim CEO from within the organisation to hold fort. That stuff happens often, so nothing too extraordinary thus far.  All hell breaks loose, however. It turns […]

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Nov 26, 2023
How to bring the humanity back to your business

I have been saying to businesses large and small for decades now: there’s an affection button that you must press. It’s the button that, once activated, creates the emotion: “I like these people.” That is one of the most potent feelings in business, yet it’s also the most ignored. Last week I showed how small, […]

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Nov 05, 2023
My encounter with a life of modesty after power

Last year I happened to be visiting the United Kingdom. I found myself in a department store, looking through the clothes section. A lady passed by me, and I caught a glimpse of her face. It seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. Had I seen her on the news in years past? […]

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Oct 15, 2023
Being held to high standards early in life pays off

I recently commended a food & beverage manager at one of our leading coastal hotels on the efficiency with which her staff were handling a packed-out dinner service, and the attention to detail they were demonstrating. Rather than bask in the praise, she immediately told me that she had an early mentor to thank for […]

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Sep 03, 2023
How engaged are the employees where you work?

Employee engagement is a very big deal. Much of what differentiates mediocre organizations from excellent ones is this very simple thing: do the people who work there care about their work? Will they give of their best, and will they go the extra mile? High employee engagement, though, is very rare! The people at Gallup […]

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Aug 27, 2023
What would you do if you faced this business dilemma?

Gary Vaynerchuk, serial entrepreneur and digital marketing evangelist, begins his new book, Twelve and a Half, with an interesting anecdote. GaryVee, as he is known on social media, runs VaynerMedia, a creative agency. He tells us he once had to attend a very difficult meeting with a leading client. This stemmed from a bad mistake […]

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Aug 20, 2023
This young woman spoke for us all

Well done, Mercy Tarus. The young woman from Uasin Gishu stood up at a public meeting in Eldoret recently and said her piece, with no filter. She had every right and every reason to do so. She was on the attack because of the county’s botched airlift education programme. Parents paid big money under the […]

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Jul 16, 2023
It’s not just the drivers who lost control—we all did.

Kenya’s road carnage continues unabated. It has always been thus, since I was a child. Thousands die every year in unnecessary road crashes. Innocents—passengers, pedestrians, roadside vendors—have their lives cut short year after year. A survey run by the Kenya Red Cross a decade ago told us that most of those who die are vulnerable […]

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Jul 09, 2023
Lessons in humility and humanity from a departed CEO

I learned with sadness of the unexpected passing of Sir Ivan Menezes recently. I only met Ivan, Diageo’s global chief executive, once—last year, during East African Breweries’ 100th year celebrations. I sat next to him at dinner and we shared many interesting reflections on business, leadership and strategy. I left that dinner thinking: aha, so […]

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May 14, 2023
Why letting go of power and position is so hard for so many

Last week I discussed the problem of leadership transitions in family firms. Many founders are unable to make meaningful handovers to new leaders, from either within or outside the business. This problem of refusing to let go of the reins, however, is not confined to family businesses. Let’s take a wider look at the issue […]

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May 07, 2023
The tricky challenge of evolving the family business

Look at this list of companies: Walmart, Ford, Bosch, Aldi, Tata, Toyota, Hermès, Maersk, Samsung, Dangote, Bidvest, BMW. Quite a roll-call, huh? What do they have in common? They were all family founded. Family businesses are a really big deal in the world. Surveys around the globe regularly suggest that they contribute close to two-thirds […]

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Apr 30, 2023
The power—and limitations—of role models

I want to tell you about a certain gentleman today. This person lived in a lower-middle-class estate back in the day, where there were many houses and children packed together, but little by way of recreational facilities for the kids. As a result, the children played mostly on the road—marking out “goals” with chalk to […]

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Apr 09, 2023
Nairobi’s unending rain dance: prayer without preparation

More than a decade ago, before Nairobi had governors, I wrote here that we need a governor that makes rain the blessing it is supposed to be, and not a curse. Many governors have come and gone, but the rain still beats us. I wrote then: “In this city, rain is anything but a blessing. […]

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Mar 19, 2023
Why do we still tolerate bullies in our organizations?

We all know about bullies at school. They seemed to be ever-present when we were being educated. The kids who were bigger and more aggressive than others, who then intimidated and tormented their smaller and milder-mannered schoolmates. Bullying was rampant when I was in school, and it led to some severe issues in those unfortunate […]

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Feb 12, 2023
No, essential government deliverables are not “goodies”

For as long as I can remember, some Kenyan editors have insisted on calling essential government deliverables “goodies.” They are fond of telling us that some high-ranking functionary “announced goodies” for a particular region or group of citizens. What are these “goodies”? Oh, just things like feeder roads, port facilities, schools, clinics, and the like. […]

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Dec 04, 2022
Pour some praise, not just cold water

You are a young child, nervously taking your report card to your parents. You have done quite well, a few ‘A’ grades; some ‘B’s; one ‘C’. Your father looks at the report. He scans down with his finger, stopping at the single ‘C.’ He frowns and puts the piece of paper down. He admonishes you […]

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Nov 13, 2022
What’s your net human worth?

Kenyans recently became fixated on the idea of net worth. Those nominated to join the new cabinet had to undergo something called vetting, and it seemed like the most interesting part of that process was the nominees’ declaration of their net worth. The cabinet in toto declared an eye-popping sum in excess of Sh. 15 […]

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Oct 30, 2022
Want to join a board? You’ll need to be able to think in these three ways

Lots of people want to join boards. Who wouldn’t? To be a member of the board of directors of a reputable organization bestows great esteem, does it not? It’s an impressive line in your resumé, an eye-catching feather in your cap. Of course you want that. Wait, do you really? Being a board director is […]

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Oct 16, 2022
The comfort revolution has already happened

Soon after landing my first job located in London’s financial district, I found myself being indoctrinated in the dress codes of the day. Shoes, in particular, were a bugbear of the ruling classes. A gentleman, it seemed, had to be shod by a traditional British shoemaker, one that crafted traditionally handmade leather shoes. Brands like […]

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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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