Picture Courtesy of SundayMag.TV
The unfolding changes in the Zimbabwean political landscape read both like a fiction novel or a script from the next James Bond movie. The twists, turns, plots and execution of ideas caused anxiety as people waited in bated breath to know the fate of the once feared and indomitable President of Zimbabwe, Cde. Robert Gabriel Mugabe whose era ended on 21 November 2017 after 37 years. This is an action-packed end of an era and hopefully the start of a new era for the Zimbabwean population. Those who are students of leadership and business have a lot to learn from the organization called Zimbabwe; which unfortunately has been run for over 37 years with the same CEO. The CEO received messages and suggestions that pointed to the fact that in order to preserve his legacy he needed to pass on the leadership baton in time before “absolute power corrupted him absolutely”. This fell on deaf ears and in fact any such further suggestions were met with not only stiff resistance but seen as a way of overthrowing a “legitimate and constitutionally elected government”. Many still carry open court cases while others have disappeared through abductions among other consequences of David coming into direct confrontation with Goliath. What then are lessons for leaders and would-be leaders?
1. You are not the only source of ideas – It is important to realise that organizational success is not because you are the only brilliant person around. It comes when you take heed to advice you get from those in your team. There will be fresh ideas that seem to suggest newer ways of doing things, your role is to listen and deliberate on the ideas even if they seem to unsettle you. It is for your own good.
2. Read the signs of the time and act – Maturity is in being sensitive to the symptoms of decay around you. No matter how great musician is, the show comes to an end. Read the non-verbal cues and give people what they want. Leave the stage when people still want you not when missiles flood your dance space.
3. Watch out for false praise – By virtue of being a leader, people in your team naturally respect you and a number of them will not tell you the truth but simply give you what you want to hear. The technical term for this is “boot licking”. Do not surround yourself with “yes men” but rather voices of reason. Praise singers will encourage to wear your non-existent suit knowing well that it exposes your nakedness. Examine the advice you get from those who you think are close to you. Don’t gulp every piece of debris they traffic in.
4. The bad you do tend to erase the good – No one is perfect. There is no doubt that in the course of life and more-so in leadership there will be mistakes that are made. Always take stock to ensure that the bad you are doing will not cause people in your team to reach a tipping point where they forget all the great things you did. It is impossible to please everyone and remain sane but at least try and please some people not infuriate even your closest allies.
5. Leadership is about the people; period – It is good to carry a vision and be sold out to achieving the dreams. In the process, the danger is that as a leader you can easily forget the fact that the vision you have is for the people. Customers remains kings and queens. You are in your position to serve them and the moment it becomes about you and your family then you have started on a decline journey.
6. Leadership is about leading not taking sides – Leaders do not take sides, they take over in moments of crisis. You cannot be found as a CEO meddling in cat fights that happen between people you lead. You are the unifier of personalities, you remain the voice of reason, you made decision objectively not emotionally. Once you take sides you lose respect of the side that you have ignored. More importantly you sink with the boat you have decided to jump on. Ask yourself why you are on the side you have picked.
7. Leaders take people into the future not the past – If you daily talk is about blaming everything on the past except yourself then you have missed the plot. Leaders inspire people to dream more, be more and become more. You cannot focus your energy on mending the old ruins when people want to be led towards building new fresh castles. History is a subject people learn in school but they would rather put their eyes on what can be rather than dwell entirely on what used to be.
8. Admit your mistakes and learn from them – Not every decision will come out right. Not every move the CEO makes will be the best. Some decisions are detrimental to progress. However, leadership is about admitting your own short-comings and making a resolve to open a new chapter. Mistakes are there to teach us. Life is a university where there is no graduation. When you are a leader you do not cease to have a human face. Still err, you stumble, you remain a mortal with limitations. Do not refuse to learn.
9. Leadership is not about what suits you only – You are the CEO of an organization because you have the mandate of the ones who appointed you to bring value to the table. Ultimately it is not about the comfort of the CEO but achievement the expectations of what those who appointed you. There are benefits that accrue to your appointment, try and be content with what your reward says you have access to. You don’t become the company no matter how long you serve as CEO. Do not be too comfortable as you can be removed from your position when your value add is no longer evident.
10. People must follow you willingly not out of fear – Leadership is a walk of legitimacy. People around you must want to follow you not out of fear of punishment but because you are worth following. Exhibit qualities they respect and you will get the honor necessary. As long as you frog march people to follow you then you are on a slippery path to illegitimacy and irrelevance.