Articles Tagged Leadership

Apr 19, 2009
What’s our real problem – leaders or followers?

There is a prominent new sign on Nairobi’s Uhuru Highway, just after the University Way roundabout. It says: “No stopping for buses and matatus”. Rightly so: it is very dangerous for vehicles to stop on a busy fast-moving highway – the chances of a pile-up are big. And guess what? That is exactly where buses […]

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Apr 13, 2009
Authenticity is the hallmark of true leadership

“P&G’s unbroken sales and profit growth under (AG) Lafley has brought great rewards to his investors and to him. He was paid $23.5m last year, with $6.6m in cash, and he holds a huge amount in P&G stock. Yet there are no discernible trappings of wealth on his person or hint of hubris in his […]

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Mar 23, 2009
What your board should do in a downturn

“During the bursting of the tech bubble, our management developed a set of principles, or objectives, which would guide it through the downturn, however long and deep that might be. The principles are probably somewhat generic, but perhaps could be tuned for each situation. Our principles were: “We will attempt to remain cash flow neutral […]

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Mar 22, 2009
Why the future lies with women

“Behind every successful man is a woman” is the well-known saying. Noted wit Groucho Marx added some words to this: “Behind every successful man is a woman; behind her is his wife.” That certainly rings true in Kenya… But I would like to disagree with the original statement. I think it should say: “In front […]

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Mar 09, 2009
Do corporate awards really mean anything?

“At the end of 2007, Marks & Spencer was lauded as Britain’s Most Admired Company, ranked as the best among 220 companies in a survey conducted by Management Today. Not only did it receive the highest score overall, Marks & Sparks was rated best on five of the nine survey categories… Marks and Spencer’s triumph […]

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Feb 16, 2009
Chelsea FC: Lessons in how not to recruit leaders

“Chelsea have sensationally sacked manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. The club’s website revealed the dramatic move had been made “to maintain a challenge for the trophies we are still competing for”. World Cup winner Scolari had only been in the job since June 2008, when he became Chelsea’s third boss in a year. Chelsea are fourth […]

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Jan 28, 2009
The Challenge of Leadership – a talk at the University of Nairobi, Friday 30 January

AIESEC Nairobi is holding a Youth Leadership Forum at the University of Nairobi on Friday 30 January. I will be speaking on “The Challenge of Leadership” from 1.30 – 2.30 pm. The venue is the Jomo Kenyatta Memorial Library, at the Exhibition Hall. All are welcome, entry is free. I hope to see you there. […]

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Jan 26, 2009
The Obama speech: the power of words

“We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of […]

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Jan 25, 2009
Like Obama, we must remake our country

After watching America’s presidential inauguration this week, I wanted to cry. Not because I was overjoyed, although I was. No, the tears, had they come, would have been of sheer frustration, summarised in one thought: will I ever see such a person take charge in my own country? Barack Obama, I have stated here many […]

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Jan 05, 2009
In 2009, become a ‘Head-Up’ leader, not a ‘Head-Down’ one

“Each morning you start with a clean sheet of paper, the hours ahead of you are opportunities to grow – to do something better, to develop your ideas further, to improve your own capabilities, or to grow your business faster. Every activity, every meeting, every decision is an exciting opportunity. Somehow, it doesn’t often feel […]

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Dec 15, 2008
Leaders must walk their talk – or lose their followers

“To trust a leader, it is not necessary to like him. Nor is it necessary to agree with him. Trust is the conviction that the leader means what he says. It is a belief in something very old-fashioned, called “integrity”. A leader’s actions and a leader’s professed beliefs must be congruent, or at least compatible. […]

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Nov 16, 2008
Obama: Can we all grow up, please?

Last week we all flew high on the Barack Obama victory in the US presidential race. This week, we need to make a hard landing. For the nonsense that is being spouted from all corners about what this win means for Kenya is not only irritating, but is now giving cause to worry. If some […]

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Nov 09, 2008
Obama’s victory could change the world

I am feeling rather emotional as I write this, on the morning when Barack Obama has been elected president of the United States of America. This is my 300th article for the Sunday Nation, and the milestone could not have come at a better moment. So you will forgive me if I stray from the […]

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Nov 07, 2008
CEOS, watch out: your staff could kill you…

“A chief executive was beaten to death as he tried to pacify a group of workers sacked from his manufacturing plant, Indian police said today. Lalit Kishore Choudhary, 47, bled to death inside the car parts factory yesterday after being attacked by more than 130 men. Police have arrested 63 former employees of Graziano Transmissioni […]

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Oct 31, 2008
In a crisis – do nothing!

“For many of us, it’s decision time. What do we do with our investments? Do we sell our stocks? Rethink our retirement? With the warning lights flashing, our natural instinct is to react. But that very moment, when the need to make a decision feels strongest, might very well be the time to do nothing […]

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Oct 26, 2008
Fast Forward 2009 – Leadership Unusual

The 2009 intake for my private leadership development programme, Fast Forward, is now open. Fast Forward takes 20 or so current and future leaders every year and puts them through a varied programme of learning and dialogue to develop WISDOM in leadership. What is the measure of leadership? What is the relationship between leader and […]

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Oct 12, 2008
Leaders who can’t keep lust zipped up

I recently had the misfortune to witness one of the more cringe-worthy scenes I have encountered on television in the recent past. Asif Ali Zardari is the newly elected president of Pakistan. He has no previous experience of international statesmanship, having been previously famous only for being the husband of a famous wife, Benazir Bhutto […]

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Oct 05, 2008
What the VIP lift says about leadership

If you walk into one of the many government-owned high-rise buildings in Nairobi, or one that houses government bodies, you will notice a strange phenomenon: the VIP Lift. This is, quite simply, an elevator reserved only for Very Important People; or, sometimes, only for one Very Important Person. Presidents, Prime Ministers and Vice-Presidents of course […]

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Aug 08, 2008
What every leader must know about communication

“…Mr (Gordon) Brown’s most damaging flaw: he is a lousy communicator. A failing in any leader, for Mr Brown this weakness has proved catastrophic…Sadly (for him and for Labour), Mr Brown has a bad habit even more damaging than saying impossible things: saying nothing at all, often at excruciating length…Beyond the universal if dispiriting fact […]

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May 18, 2008
Leadership begins at home

Business leaders have been asking a question repeatedly since January 2008: “What am I going to do with my staff? After all the ethnic strife and bloodshed, some of them don’t want to sit with each other on the same table. There is mistrust and acrimony in the air, all over my company. All that […]

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Apr 25, 2008
Does experience matter in leadership? Not much!

“Most of us accept the common-sense notion that experience is a valuable, even necessary, component for effective leadership. Voters, for instance, tend to believe that the jobs of U.S. senator or state governor prepare individuals to be effective U.S. presidents. Similarly, organizations buy into this notion when they carefully screen outside candidates for senior management […]

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Apr 06, 2008
The madness of expanding the cabinet

It is utterly amazing that we were even discussing 44 cabinet positions. Not even a superpower needs that many ministers in government, let alone a tin-pot country like ours. What do all these ministries cost us to have? Quite a bit, by all accounts. There are around 16 ‘super-ministries’: those with huge staff complements; complex, […]

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Mar 30, 2008
What does it take for a Kenyan leader to resign?

In 2005, I asked in this column whether the Kenyan National Examinations Council knew how to spell U-N-F-O-R-G-I-V-A-B-L-E. No-one took the hint. The Council was forgiven its sins, and it proceeded to keep on sinning. What happened in 2005? The students who were sitting the KCSE Mathematics paper that year were subjected to something unforgivable. […]

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Mar 07, 2008
5 ways to improve yourself as a board director

5 New Year resolutions for board directors: 1. I will ask the third and fourth question that finally pierces the veneer of management’s often obtuse, protective response. 2. I will recognise – and accept – the importance of non-financial factors in forming shareholder judgments and see to it that soft values (vs. hard assets) are […]

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Mar 02, 2008
Kofi Annan: Hero of the Republic of Kenya

I am writing this article in state of semi-euphoria, so you will forgive its breathless tone. It is Thursday night, and I have been witnessing something that seemed impossible at the beginning of the week: Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga sat down in front of the world’s cameras and signed a power-sharing deal. It is […]

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Feb 29, 2008
When the CEO loses touch with customers, trouble follows

“Although many companies like to use scientific research methods like surveys and focus groups to try to understand consumer needs, the best CEOs don’t rely on clinical data alone. They know that if they become removed from the action, they may miss important changes and opportunities in the marketplace. Many of them make special efforts […]

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Jan 11, 2008
A real leader exists for the good of his people. Period

“If we must have leaders, let us seek ethical leaders; those who seek the greatest good of their followers. The followers must on the other hand undertake to suffer the consequences of seeking, together with their leaders, the ultimate good, the greatest good. …How sad, then, that we are surrounded by such weak leaders; people […]

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Jan 06, 2008
Let Kenya’s leaders spend tonight in a slum

So many bad things have happened in Kenya over the past few days that we are numb with disbelief. But more than anything else, I am overcome by feelings of deep shame. Shame that my countrymen are capable of such inhuman and unconscionable acts against each other. And shame that people at the top of […]

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