Articles Tagged Leadership

Dec 21, 2014
Do people really change that much?

Back in the nineties, Kenyans were really fed up of their leaders. The country was in dire straits, and there seemed to be no light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. In those days, our only symbols of hope were a group of people not in government: opposition politicians, young activists, […]

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Dec 14, 2014
If you want true leadership, first know what it is

What does it mean to lead human beings? Last week I wrote that in the wild, leaders are often just the biggest, most ruthless animals. And they take most of the spoils. Here in the human race, a race in which I can write these words and you can read them, an entirely different model […]

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Dec 07, 2014
Learning the wrong lessons from nature

A few years back I was sitting in the balcony of a famous game lodge in the Tsavo reserve, taking a short break while running some executive education seminars. I was gazing upon a watering-hole, against the magnificent backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro, unveiled. Suddenly, the bushes next to the watering hole parted, and a massive […]

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Aug 24, 2014
Use this golden rule to make people matter again

Can we run this world as though people matter? Of course we can. Henry Hazlitt showed us how, way back in 1946: “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely […]

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Aug 17, 2014
We are running our world as though people don’t matter

What’s the most common thing you hear political and business leaders say about Kenya’s insecurity problem? That it’s having a bad effect on the economy. That as tourism implodes, economic purchasing power heads south. That as fear pervades the nation, the investment climate suffers. What’s wrong with this picture? All of the above is true, […]

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Jun 29, 2014
Ever wonder why we make way for the Big People?

You’re stuck in traffic. If you live in Nairobi as I do, there’s nothing special in that statement. We’re mostly stuck in traffic jams, most of the time. It’s the way we’ve become, numbed into the acceptance that wasting time in a vehicle is a natural state of being. Kenyans talk about jam so much […]

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Jun 22, 2014
Divided, we fall

Let us not just count the dead. Let us see that it is someone’s loving father, someone else’s only child, a family’s income-earner who has been snuffed out. Terrorists ran amok again in Kenya last week, massacring the residents of Mpeketoni in Lamu County for hours. The full death toll is yet to be confirmed. […]

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Jun 01, 2014
Why the fights for flags and titles?

Why do so many of our leaders in this country fight tooth-and-nail for titles, like “your excellency” or “the honourable” – even when they are worlds away from being either excellent or having any honour whatsoever? Why are there ugly squabbles perpetually happening for the right to fly the national flag on vehicles, or to […]

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May 18, 2014
When governments spend big, taxpayers do not

The grand projects are in full flow, and the media applaud enthusiastically. A new railway, laptops for the children, roads for the counties, WiFi for the towns. All of this is described as largesse, generosity on the part of enlightened government, freebies from our favoured development partners. The money is flowing, and boom times are […]

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May 11, 2014
If you want nothing done – form a committee

I had a problem with my jaw recently. I was following Nigeria’s problems with the Boko Haram terror group, and the recent truly horrific abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls. The girls have been missing for weeks, and fears abound that they have been sold into slavery in neighbouring countries. Few of us can truly appreciate […]

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Feb 16, 2014
Let Kenya finally focus on the causes, not the symptoms, of hunger

I was flicking TV channels a while back and came upon the spectacle of assorted GoK bigwigs flagging off something. They weren’t launching a race or opening a road; they were flagging off a convoy of relief food. For the long-starving people of Turkana. I tweeted at the time: you don’t flag off relief food […]

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Dec 08, 2013
In honouring Mandela, please don’t do these two things

Nelson Mandela is no more. You have read gushing tributes, noble quotations, effusive obituaries. Bear with me here; I come to bury the great man, not to praise him. Great he undoubtedly was. For one man to have demonstrated the resolve, patience, dignity, forgiveness and unselfishness that he did is a most unusual occurrence, one […]

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Nov 24, 2013
The elite are not spared the effects of a society in decay

There is a piece of writing that has been on the wall in front of my computer for a decade. It is a succinct poetic depiction of the inter-connectedness of things. Every bit of life depends on every other bit. The piece of paper (or device screen) on which you’re reading these lines contains everything […]

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Oct 06, 2013
It’s time for this nation to press the ‘Pause’ button

There comes a time when an entire nation needs to pause. Two weeks after the Westgate atrocity, this is such a time. That savage terrorists could plan such a complex attack with such ease, and execute it with such disdain, should give us pause as a nation. For that cannot be done without willing internal […]

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Sep 29, 2013
Forgive me for the Westgate atrocity

For once, I don’t know what to write in this column. I’m not normally at a loss for words, but last week’s Westgate atrocity confounds analysis. That we can come to this leaves me wondering what more needs to be written or said. So heavily armed people can walk into a shopping mall and start […]

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Sep 02, 2013
My final ‘Thought Leadership’ column: the business of doing business

This will be my final column in the Thought Leadership series in this newspaper. The column began life in August 2007 and tried to bring you the best business insights from leading books and publications – and elaborate on those insights in a Kenyan and African context. In this valedictory piece, I would like to […]

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Jun 23, 2013
Leadership lessons from a retiring manager

A certain someone became manager of an institution when I was still a greenhorn at university. He retired last week, having clocked a full 26 years in the job, at a time when I myself entertain thoughts of retirement. In those years I have changed jobs, even occupations, several times; the gentleman I refer to […]

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Jun 09, 2013
A poorly managed government is an oppressive government

Imagine you are convicted of a crime, one which you remain adamant you did not commit. Imagine that the court system eventually allows you to post bail on appeal. The bail is set at the equivalent of modest US$ 180. But you are poor, and such a sum is beyond your reach. What would happen […]

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May 19, 2013
Let us not be seduced by false consensus

The mood was upbeat. Speaker after speaker had highlighted the fact that Kenya is on the move, that the direction is right, that the economic fundamentals are now very attractive. Then the final speaker stood up, and struck what felt like a false note. He asked us to be careful. He wondered what Kenyans being […]

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May 10, 2013
Please don’t become a leader. Unless you’re ready to do it properly

(First published in the TQM Journal, Volume 25, Issue 2, 2013) Everyone wants to be a leader. Almost no-one understands what being a good one actually means. Leadership is aspirational because I think by being appointed ‘leader’ I will announce this to the world: I have arrived. I have the title on my business card. […]

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Apr 22, 2013
Why we’re all moving away from ‘Big Man’ leadership

“For most of modern history…going back to medieval times, the dominant way people put up buildings was by going out and hiring Master Builders who designed them, engineered them, and oversaw construction from start to finish, portico to plumbing. Master Builders built Notre Dame, St Peter’s Basilica, and the United States Capitol Building. But by […]

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Apr 21, 2013
How important is it to be popular?

I once sat down on one of London’s landmark big bridges. Right on the road, I mean. During rush hour. I was sitting with my fellow students from university to protest the stand of the government of the United Kingdom, and in particular that of its leader at the time, one Margaret Thatcher, on the […]

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Apr 14, 2013
Now, let’s get down to business

Kenya has much to be proud of. It has come through a general election with maturity and respect for legal process. It has formed a new government with hardly a drop of blood being shed. It has set an example to Africa. For this, we must thank the winners for not gloating or basking in […]

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Mar 17, 2013
What a new government can and can’t do for you

And so we wait some more. We have a new president-elect, but must wait to have a new president. For there is the not-so-small matter of a court case challenging the result. Most people I have spoken to, from all sides of the political divide, are suffering from severe election fatigue. Many would just want […]

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Mar 10, 2013
Why I don’t care who our next president is

At the time I’m writing this, we don’t have a result in Kenya’s presidential election. I don’t know who our next president will be. But frankly I don’t care. I care more about what happened to my country during this election, than I care about the identity of its next leader. This is because one […]

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Mar 04, 2013
Your new work as CEO: leading the moonshots

“I worry that something has gone seriously wrong with the way we run companies. If you read the media coverage of our company, or of the technology industry in general, it’s always about the competition. The stories are written as if they are covering a sporting event. But it’s hard to find actual examples of […]

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Feb 11, 2013
The time for big-ego leadership is fading fast

“Take time to learn. Learn the people. Learn the organization. Leaders need to leave their ego outside the door before they come in. You cannot know everything. You can never be the alpha and the omega. I have worked with people who were too full of themselves. There have been people who fill up the […]

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Feb 10, 2013
Welcome again, Kenyans: the election matatu race is on

There is a short history lesson l like to provide for our youngsters in Kenya, every time we approach a general election. In the 1980s, Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki led the same government. In the 1990s and in 2002, they were on opposite sides, and vociferously so. In 2007, they were together again, […]

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