There’s no one I enjoy hearing about teams, meetings and workplace dynamics like Patrick Lencioni. Patrick is an American author of books on business management, particularly in relation to team management. He is best known as the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, a popular business fable that explores work team dynamics and offers solutions to help teams perform better. On a recent trip to southern and eastern Africa, his cautionary tale to CEOs published in a book by the title The Motive, was my jolting companion. It brought me back to my senses as CEO of a few enterprises.
Lencioni is Founder and President of The Table Group, a management consulting firm specializing in executive team development and organizational health. As a consultant and keynote speaker, he has worked with senior executives and executive teams in organizations ranging from Fortune 500s and high tech start-ups to universities and non-profits. He also gives talks on leadership, organizational change, teamwork and corporate culture. He is frequently interviewed for national media including features in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
SIX TYPES OF WORKING GENIUS
At the annual John Maxwell Live2Lead conference last week–the Ghana site hosted nearly 600 leaders LIVE! with thousands more to benefit through rebroadcasts–we heard from Patrick Lencioni about his groundbreaking new model that provides a deeper understanding into our workplace and team dynamics.
The six types of working geniuses together form the word WIDGET, symbolized by six gears working perfectly synergistically well together. W is the genius of Wonder, I the genius of Invention, D the genius of Discernment, G the genius of Galvanizing, E the genius of Enablement and T the genius of Tenacity. In the near future we shall provide a fuller blog delving into further details about these six geniuses. In the mean time hear Pat the sage, “If you want to be successful and fulfilled in your work, you must tap into your gifts. That can’t happen if you don’t know what those gifts are.”
THINGS DON’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY
Pat explained how people don’t understand their personal areas of working genius, which impacts their ability to identify work opportunities that would be most meaningful to them, as well as disallowing organizations, teams, and families to help individuals tap into their true working genius, resulting in a failure to reach one’s true potential. But things don’t have to be this way. This tragedy is avoidable, as Pat shared how you can identify your working genius and understanding which one of the six geniuses both you and your teammates are. Contact us, the Live2Lead team, if you and your team would want to test your genius to become all you really could be. There are no dumb or lazy people on the planet or on your team; only geniuses who are yet to find and fire up what makes them tick!
Patricia Obo-Nai is one of the most influential CEOs in Africa, a leading figure in the telecom sector. Don’t let her cool fool you. It is not for nothing that she is not only the first ever female CEO of Vodafone Ghana but the first Ghanaian to do so. Period. Her outstanding leadership has been recognized by many, including Mobile Magazine Africa, which named her the “First Lady of Mobile in Africa.”
Patricia started her career as a Network Planning Engineer with Millicom Ghana Ltd. (Tigo) in 2000. She holds a BSc in Electrical/Electronic Engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and an Executive MBA in Project Management from the University of Ghana Business School. Regarding international education, she holds executive education qualifications from both sides of the Atlantic, Kellogg School of Management in the USA and INSEAD in France. Patricia is passionate about the future of young people and women in the digital age and is a vigorous advocate for STEM. She has been on several platforms, including the UN General Assembly panel sessions, advocating for youth and women.
Among Mrs. Obo-Nai’s dozen plus prestigious awards are the recent Women Leadership Excellence Award at the Ghana CEO’s Network Summit and the Africa’s Most Respected CEO Awards in the continent’s Telecommunications Industry, both of 2021. She is a CEO of CEOs.
WHAT IS GOOD TECHNOLOGY WITHOUT GREAT VALUES!
Even before getting into the so-called ‘soft’ issues of leadership, like integrity, as an electrical engineer Pat knows the hard consequences of conductors, currents, circuits, capacitors and such that have no integrity. Nothing of enduring value happens without integrity. At the October 7 Live2Lead conference this year, Patricia will exhibit through her life and leadership how “the glue that holds all relationships together–including the relationship between the leader and the led–is trust, and trust is based on integrity” (Brian Tracy).
Mrs. Obo-Nai will share how she manages to lead with integrity for the common good despite the high corruption in Ghanaian society, everywhere one turns. During an April visit to Ashesi earlier this year, the celebrated CEO of Vodafone Ghana highlighted lessons from her 20-year career. Embedded in those gems was a reminder to students about the importance of having integrity.
Tune up your personal, professional and leadership game at this year’s Live2Lead conference. Register now through this link. Nag your organization until they join this rising movement of learning leaders that will transform society by becoming a Patron of Live2Lead. A Patron company, like Patricia’s own Vodafone, is one that sends at least 10 leaders to Live2Lead. There’s no way we can have at least 100 such Patron organizations and companies in Ghana and not transform the nation, one centre of excellence at a time. Together we can change our country and continent for the better! Let’s do this! Register here, and NOW.
Doris Helen Kearns Goodwin is an American biographer, historian, former sports journalist, and political commentator. In 1964 Kearns received a bachelor’s degree from Colby College, Waterville, Maine, and in 1968 she earned a doctorate in government from Harvard University, where she later taught government.
Goodwin won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize in history for her No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II (1994), and in 2005 she published Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, which focused on Lincoln’s management of his presidential cabinet. The book served as the primary source for Steven Spielberg’s biographical film Lincoln (2012). She later wrote The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (2013) and Leadership in Turbulent Times (2018). In addition to her works of presidential scholarship, Goodwin wrote Wait till Next Year: A Memoir (1997), about growing up in the 1950s and her love for the Brooklyn Dodgers. She also served as a news analyst for NBC and as a consultant for Ken Burns’s documentary Baseball (1994).
TO LEARN OR NOT TO LEARN
It breaks my heart when I hear a famous statement like, “The only thing that we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history” (Georg Hegel, German philosopher). Yet of a truth, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” That quote is most likely writer and philosopher George Santayana’s, and its original form read, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” While leaders must not live the past, they certainly must leverage its lessons for today and tomorrow.
Consequently, in a fireside chat with John C. Maxwell at Live2Lead on October 7 this year, Doris will share key leadership insights gleaned from her decades of experience as a presidential historian, public speaker and Pulitzer-Prize winning author. The leadership lessons learned from some of the greatest leaders in our history provide timely clues on how to navigate the current condition of the leadership deficit we are experiencing today.
Come and up your personal, professional and leadership game at this year’s Live2Lead conference. Register now through this link. Nag your organization until they join this rising movement of learning leaders that will transform society by becoming a Patron of Live2Lead. A Patron company or individual is one that sends at least 10 leaders to Live2Lead. There’s no way we can have at least 100 such Patron organizations and companies in Ghana and not transform it, one centre of excellence at a time. Together we can change our country and continent for the better! Let’s do this! Register HERE, NOW.
An Old But True Story on the Wall
One day, a king who had it all was confronted in the midst of a serious party he had thrown for his posse. His face turned white as wool when he beheld a disruptive sight: a dismembered hand had suddenly appeared and was writing on the wall pronouncing judgment on him (where the proverbial ‘the writing is on the wall’ comes from). He was wealthy, powerful and had connections but here he stood condemned under a gibberish clause. A later translation of the writing on the wall by a wise man revealed the following prophetic words: “You have been weighed and found wanting—you don’t weigh much.” Wow. Even a sovereign has a Sovereign who weighs everyone’s soul.
If the emperor’s wealth did not give him enough weight and his power was inadequate to exonerate him, there must be some things in life weightier and more powerful than others. And who determines the weights—ourselves, society, a sovereign? If there are levels of living I want to know.
A New and True CEO on the Block
A couple of weeks ago, I became friends with a CEO in Ghana l had never met before. In fact, the only reason l went looking for her was because the John Maxwell certified leaders in the country were seeking other significant leaders to speak at an annual John Maxwell simulcast in October, Live2Lead, and her name had come up from my Chief of Staff. We hit it off! Of course she is a beautiful person, smart, wealthy (she’s got stuff) but what excited me about her the most, which I later realized upon reflection made us connect so deeply and authentically, is that she is a Level 5 leader, living on the 5th floor.
l recognize that ‘5 Levels’ or ‘Level 5’ is used in different business contexts for different things. I have trained for John Maxwell for many years and he has a course I teach known as ‘5 Levels of Leadership.’ The ultimate leader operates at Level 5, where one’s influence is purely from respect of who you are and what you represent. Jim Collins, professor and author of ‘Good to Great’, also talks about the Level 5 leader as the executive who’s built enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility and professional will. I am also using 5 Levels and Level 5 for different purpose. l have found that there are 5 levels of living:
- Living for Stuff
- Living for Self
- Living for Society
- Living for Standards
- Living for Soul’s Sovereign
1. LEVEL ONE—LIVING FOR STUFF
There are people who unapologetically live for stuff. They are the ones who say things like, “he who dies with the most toys (stuff) wins.”
By ‘stuff’ I mean tangible, living and non-living things, from those that meet our physiological needs (as outlined by Maslow like air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing and sex) to others beyond survival needs including big toys like luxury vehicles, bling, real estate. Be careful about the deceitfulness of stuff, especially of wealth.
People who live at this level would use and abuse themselves, others, ideals and due process and even God to get stuff. “Is life not worth more than what you will eat and drink?…” the greatest teacher there ever lived once rhetorically inquired. “Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”
2. LEVEL TWO—LIVING FOR SELF
Elsewhere this greatest of gurus tells a story that illustrates both Level 1 and Level 2 living well:
There was once a rich man who had a bumper harvest. He was so thrilled, drew up warehouse expansion plans and said to his soul, “Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Eat. Drink. Be Merry. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’“ Just then his soul’s Sovereign, God, showed up and said, “Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?”
So by Level 2, one has realized we eat to live and not live to eat. Although better than living for stuff, the Level 2 chap is living for a person, themself: me, myself, mine and I. While living for self may range from personal safety and health needs to employment (to put food on the table and change in the pocket), it really is a level of living where everything is about how anything and everything only promotes one’s personal well-being (physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual) and ambitions. One gets even into social stuff only to the extent that it benefits oneself. This is self-help to the max. A scarcity mindset is abundant at this level of living.
Many leaders are unable to distinguish between self-care and selfish behaviour. Self-care is vitally important to be able to flourish and sustainably climb further up the ladder of life to higher heights, yet it is a life of not only personal success but also societal significance. If all the self-care is an end in itself then it has ended up as selfish. The object and subject in life at Level 2 is me, myself, mine and I. The Level 2 life is selfish living.
3. LEVEL THREE—LIVING FOR SOCIETY
This is living for the sake of others, people—the common good. It is living beyond me, myself, mine and I to considering the other—thou, they, them, thine. The greatest teacher who ever lived once said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down their life for their friend.” Even though this is an upgrade from living for one person (yourself) to several others, this is not always a healthy thing (we’ll save that for another day)..
Level 3 living begins a life of love beyond self to love as in belonging—friendship, intimacy, family, sense of connection—all the way to the esteem society bestows in the form of respect, status and recognition.
It is not an easy thing not to be selfish (Level 2), for even in apparently living at Level 3 people can use people—the very apparent act of living for society—still for their selfish ends in Level 2.
4. LEVEL FOUR—LIVING FOR STANDARDS
When Nelson Mandela faced trial for treason in April 1964, the words of his three-hour speech from the defendant’s dock epitomize the penultimate level of living: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Rather than life being about a living standard as an economic matter (a combination of wealth and services in Level 1), this Level 4 life is about living for standards, as in ideals, values and principles.
These standards and ideals are intangible values (unlike Level 1 where one values physical things) and even timeless, universal laws. These may include strength, freedom, and self-actualization (desire to become the most that one can be).
This is sagacious living, a life of enlightenment, like being a values-based leader and gunning for “the good society.”
It is portrayed as the discerning life of discerning people, living in rarefied air. This is the life many elites are envisaged to be living until scandals break out and we see through the charade that they were far lower on the rungs in reality.
5. LEVEL FIVE—LIVING FOR THE SOUL’S SOVEREIGN
I love Africa and have been so sick and tired of people thinking unless they traveled to the West they cannot make it. Despite the many opportunities to live, work or even study abroad, my Canadian-born wife and I turned a blind eye, resolutely living at Level 4 until one day our souls’ Sovereign called us up and sent us out with the following instructions: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to a land I will show you.” And so we did. First to Cote d’Ivoire for a year and then to Canada for the next dozen. And like William Borden, we too have had “No Reserves. No Retreats. No Regrets.”
Obedience to God is the highest level of living. Sometimes in living for the soul’s Sovereign one may still acquire stuff (Level 1), satisfy oneself (Level 2) or even please others (Level 3) and live out some cool values (Level 3) but make no mistake. Often, the only way to satisfy the soul’s Sovereign is to deny oneself, sacrifice the things of this world and eschew the applause of people.
Indeed, “What do you do when two high ideals clash?” is a Level 4 dilemma and that evaporates at Level 5 because what the soul’s Sovereign desires, dictates or even demands is what goes. No, religion per se is Level 4–a set of beliefs and values one lives by; even one’s notion of ‘God.’ Many Gen Zers say, “I am spiritual but not religious.” Even spirituality in itself would be Level 4 living. Level 5 living is having through one’s Level 4 spiritual quest discovered there is a sovereign One, the God of Heaven and all the earth, who has a good, pleasing and perfect purpose to be heeded.
Sure, there are many religions all claiming to have a corner on the Truth but I believe that anyone authentically seeking their soul’s Sovereign will eventually find Him (or be found by Him), when they seek with all their heart.
While one might find some correlation between my perceived 5 Levels of Living and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, this is more. My classification goes way beyond the popular psychologist’s work. In fact, his peaks at my penultimate point. As mentioned in my introduction, if there are levels of living I want to know. Not only do I want to know so I can measure how I’m doing, I would like to know that I’m living my best possible life. Just like all dollars are dollars but there are denominations—a $5 bill isn’t the same value as a $100 one, every weight is a weight but there are milligrams and kilograms (even tons)—so are there levels in life. Will you live your best life? Check your weight, assess your level, in the eyes of your soul’s Sovereign. He still writes on walls.
In the next blog, I’ll share what life on Level 5 looks like (in my coaching of several C-level executives I’ve found myself having to be a pastor in the marketplace. Even the best leaders need help to nurture their souls; denying it doesn’t take the reality away or render the need untrue).
On Monday, we explored leadership theories over the last 200 years at Perbi Cubs Academy (nickname for our Staff Leadership Development program in collaboration with YAW PERBI Executive Education). That Servant Leadership is considered a 1990’s theory never ceases to tickle me.
Growing up in a Christian home I learnt Servant Leadership at a tender age from the life and lips of Jesus of Nazareth. Class act: It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Heavenly Father, God. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (paraphrase of portions of John 13)
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place and these were his classic words: “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Master and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Earlier, in response to jostling over position and power among his inner circle, he had contrasted ‘Traditional Leadership’ with ‘Servant Leadership’ and called them to a higher standard: the latter. He told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘benefactors’ or ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Not so with you! Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”
Through history, many many men and women—including Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jnr., Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela— have exemplified Servant Leadership. This isn’t just altruistic spiritual and sociopolitical talk. Today, professors like Jim Collins (of ‘Good to Great’ fame) speak of the power of such ‘Level 5’ Servant Leaders in business and companies like Southwestern Airlines have benefited from even the commercial value of Servant Leadership.
Two millennia after Jesus, Robert Greenleaf makes Servant Leadership wildly popular and gets credit in the leadership literature for it. Fascinating. Even more intriguing is Greenleaf’s claim that “the idea of the servant as leader” came to him from German Hermann Hesse’s 1932 novel, ‘Journey to the East.’ I wonder where Jesus got his idea and practice of Servant Leadership from.
That was Monday. The musings continued unabated. Then what do I discover is this Thursday morning’s exhortation from the Bible app? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Those are the words of the lawyer-turned-preacher, Paul, to his audience in the city of Philippi.
The message, to me at least, is clear: just do it! Lead like a servant; serve as a leader.
A young aspiring writer once asked me a question I had never thought of. As a published author–at the time I had just one book to my credit, I think–he asked me, “When you published your first book did you have no concern at all that it might not sell?” Frankly, that possibility had not even crossed my mind, but now that he asked I began to soul search: “Really, what if it never sold?” The lad’s concern is a question of buy-in. In other words, how sure was I that people would buy into me or my message to part with their hard-earned cash for copies. The fact is, within six months I had recouped all my initial borrowed money, paid off my investor and had recurrent capital to keep going. And I haven’t stopped, a dozen-and-a-half books later. Have I just been ‘lucky’?
Another question related to buy-in I recently pondered was during the nineteenth anniversary of the global holistic leadership development organization I founded as a medical student in 2003. I still remember that May Day, workers’ holiday in Ghana (our version of Labour Day), when I gathered eight of my friends and cast a vision of an organization that would inspire and empower young people to discover their God-given purpose and reach their full potential—and that one day we would be international. Somehow they bought into it–was it me, the message, the vision? For weeks we brainstormed until we came up with the name ‘The HuD Group’, then for several more months that followed we set up administrative structures and started running programmes and projects. Today, we have representation and active work in over two dozen countries on all continents with impact in over sixty nations.
ALL ABOUT BUY-IN
These two stories beg the question, what does it take for people to buy into leadership? Almost always, the news from the two countries I’ve lived in for over a decade each and love are replete with stories of government leadership attempting to implement one policy or the other and experiencing resistance or lack of buy-in. In Canada it often is wrangling over oil and gas pipelines. Two of the hottest buy-in issues in Ghana right now have been the passage of a levy on electronic money transfers (especially mobile money) and a not-so-transparent process surrounding the construction of a national cathedral.
With the news as a backdrop, the following precious leadership thoughts have evolved from a confluence of three supposedly independent situations I personally experienced within days of each other. First, during a very enlightening webinar, the trainer, a fellow catalyst with the Lausanne Movement, had mentioned that most people who might not trust a person enough to follow them can at least trust a well-laid out process. Then a couple of days later I was thinking through the incredible leadership feat of the diasporic Jewish cup-bearer-turned-city-builder Nehemiah. In preparation for Lausanne leaders meetings in New York City, I had begun to re-read that Hebrew Bible classic case study in leadership and was intrigued by how one man’s burden became a whole nation’s blessing. Thirdly, this was the same weekend I was to ‘walk the stage’ to accept my Covid-delayed Master of Arts in Global Leadership degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. That’s my mentor Dr. John C. Maxwell’s alma mater as well, and I was pondering what John calls “the Law of Buy-in.”
THE 3 P’S IN THE LEADERSHIP EQUATION
From my academic learnings and practical experience, I have come to appreciate that there are three (3) main routes to leadership buy-in. When I speak of three ways people buy into leadership, I suppose most people would read that as three ways people buy into a leader/leaders but no. Leadership is a relational process with three key cardinal points: the Person of a leader, the People being led and the Purpose being pursued.
More often than not, the leader–who is a responsible Person that serves and influences People to achieve a shared, noble Purpose–is the one who feels the burden of a need, like in the case of Nehemiah in the fifth century B.C. Everyone knew that the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile was in “great trouble and disgrace” and that “the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates charred to coal.” Somehow this burdened Nehemiah profoundly. It is such deep burdens that lead to burning desires which result in vivid visions (purpose), like an ambitious 52-day-city-wall-rebuilding capital project for those in Nehemiah’s day.
Then from the Purpose is a Plan/Process to which people are mobilized who then (hopefully) catch the same burden, develop a similar desire and apprehend the same vision. This is what I call the Leadership Buy-in Scheme:
- People buy into the Purpose (Vision)
- People buy into the Person (Leader)
- People buy into the Process (Plan)
- Buying into the Purpose
In my opinion, the most sustainable mobilization of People to join a cause is when they can get it right from the burden phase, to the desire stage and then catch the vision or Purpose. Some cut to the chase and just buy into the desire or even more direct, straight into the vision/Purpose. These routes work too but from over three decades of being in the leader development space I find nothing beats starting from two blocks back. The primary way people get mobilized to a cause is to buy into the burden (A1), then the desire (A2) and then the vision (A3).
- Buying into the Person
The entire leadership buy-in scheme revolves round the Person of the leader. Often, (s)he is the one People are mobilized to buy into, almost not caring about the Purpose or Process. While I surmise this pertains mostly to collectivist cultures, even some from individualistic cultures swear by this as the number one way people are mobilized to a cause. In fact, for John C. Maxwell, this is the Law of Buy-in. As the fourteenth law in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Dr. Maxwell states that “people first buy into the leader, and then into their vision.” So in other words, if you want others to follow your vision (Purpose), you need them to, first and foremost, follow you—their leader.
While there may be a lead Person people buy into, they might very well also buy into other People the leader has surrounded himself with or already galvanized.
- Buying into the Process
So back to the beginning, the initial webinar statement that precipitated all these copious leadership thoughts. We were discussing a context where someone was attempting to lead a network of other organizations to tackle a big dream that neither one of their entities, no matter how big, could handle alone. Remember that the presenter had stated–he didn’t come across as postulating, he was stating a principal principle–that people trust a Process/Plan even before they trust a Person.
Having lived on both sides of the Atlantic for at least more than a decade each, I see the Two-Thirds world (Africans, Latin Americans and Asians) more likely to buy into the Person first and and the Western world generally inclined towards trusting the Process first.
So the three ways people buy into leadership are via the Purpose, Person and/or Process. We could also say buying into the Message, Messenger and the Medium (why else do you think advertisers pay huge sums of money to have influences be their messengers?). At the end of the day, a leader requires a team to make the dream. No great vision can be accomplished by just one (wo)man, no matter how great they are. The best mobilized people for a cause is when they buy into the Purpose, the Person and the Process–all three. Even for the Purpose, it’s best when they first feel the burden and grow it into a desire before it becomes a vision to pursue rather than just plugging straight into the vision. People buying into two of the three P’s is not so bad either but how could a two-legged stool ever rival one that has three solid legs? Aim for the triple buy-in: the Purpose, the Person and the Process.
“I am honoured to join YAWPERBI as Chief of Staff,” says Mrs. Araba Andoh (nee Torson). “I have had 3-4 years collective experience working behind the scenes in organizing, prioritizing, advising and positioning leaders as “superhumans,” she adds.
Araba holds a BSc in Business Administration from Ashesi University (Ghana) and an MSc in International Business from the University of Warwick (UK).
With a good dose of humour, she likes to describe her personality as “vanilla ice cream with a dash of cinnamon spice on a crunchy cone. Like vanilla, I may come across as simple at first glance. Just as vanilla serves as a vivid reminder of youth and innovation, I am youthful and bursting with creativity.”
Wait. She isn’t done yet: “The subtle taste of cinnamon reveals how accurately the spice was added in proportion, depicting my hunger for detailed perfection. The softness of the ice cream on a crunchy cone exterior portrays me perfectly as a tough nut who is difficult to crack and works extremely well under pressure. Again, like an ice cream, it takes me a while to warm up to people, but once I do, I melt into their hearts.”
Help us welcome and celebrate ARABA (Awesome. Reliable. Affable. Bold. Affectionate.)
Here’s to more #leadership #growth, #success and #significance at #YP.
Leadership is an interesting phenomenon. It is a more personal phenomenon than many people realize. I have been studying leadership for a while, at least for the last twenty-five plus years, and one of the greatest discoveries for me has been that leadership is not something ‘up there’ or ‘out there.’ The greatest leaders have been those who have been able to deeply reflect on their life stories and reframe them, leveraging their life stories to lead.
Growing up in Ghana as a student of leadership, a lot of the apt illustrations and gripping stories I consumed were foreign, mainly coming from Western literature and audiovisuals. A case in point is Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, as one of the best examples of how the corporate success of Starbucks is as a result of the reframing of his own life story, especially his dad’s misfortunes. Says Mr. Schultz himself, “The reservoir of all my life experiences shaped me as a person and a leader.” Now, I am really excited that many more Africans are telling their leadership stories and writing, putting them in print. Finally, the lions are learning to write their own tales of the hunt.
MEET THE MECHANICAL ENGINEERING MBA
One of the CEOs in Ghana whose life story has taken a firm grip on me is a young lady I’ve just come to love. First, she’s just an amazing human being, very authentic. Then Akua is a professional in her own right, with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA, a third seminarian masters and actually studying for a Ph.D as well. But the icing on the cake for me is this: she is a priest too!
The fascinating story of Rev. Akua Ofori-Boateng is chronicled in her thrilling autobiography aptly entitled ‘Broken For Use.’ It is raw, real, and very vulnerable—perhaps the most vulnerable Ghanaian, or maybe even African, autobiography that I have read.
Akua is CEO of Aequitas, an organization desirous to see every youth find and pursue their passion. She and her team do this by providing internships and safe learning spaces for youth to explore, discover their gifts and find their purpose. And when you have read her story—the intriguing tale of a privileged, middle-class girl yearning for approval—you will immediately understand why she would found and lead such an organization—from her life story!
WHY LEADING FROM LIFE STORY MATTERS
The passion and purpose of your leadership would come from your life story. If you are going to have dedication and commitment to leadership, it will need to come from leading from your life story. If you are going to have inspiration and motivation, it comes from your life story. If you are going to have a true north for your leadership, it comes from your life story.
I am exceedingly glad to be collaborating with her at YAW PERBI to impact youth and C-Level Executives because authentic leadership comes from leading from your story. Watch out for opportunities for collaborative training, coaching, workshops, publishing etc. with the Rev. when it comes to this whole area of authentic leadership. Just before wrapping up lunch with her the other day, I wanted her to share with you why she wrote this book and what it means for her life and leadership. You may watch the short, unrehearsed and upstaged video I captured here or read a transcript of her convincing spiel below:
Rev. Akua Ofori-Boateng: I wrote this book because when I was young and struggling with my own insecurities and challenges, I didn’t have any book like this to read, anything to tell me of that what I was going through was normal and that anybody had been through such. Certainly no one my age was talking about it from being that age. I wrote this so that young people who are struggling and unable to forgive themselves and have made some of the mistakes I made would recognize that we all make mistakes and that there is life after mistakes. The life after mistakes is a good life and a fulfilling one and a life that can benefit other people.
Dr. Yaw Perbi: How has your life story shaped your leadership?
Rev. Akua Ofori-Boateng: My life story and my leadership are inseparable. For me, I lead from a place of what I have experienced. And I want the young people to understand that you are not talking to perfection. You are talking to a person who is giving you advice based on their own issues, mistakes they have made and overcome so I lead from a place of authenticity. I got it wrong and now I’ve got it right; and if you got it wrong, you can get it right too.
Notable leadership experts from Bobby Clinton to Bill George have divided life into phases, usually three or four. It takes deep reflection to draw these out for oneself. The power of leading from life story is one of the many reasons why self-awareness is a sine qua non in leadership. There is no authentic or deep leadership without knowing one’s life story and reframing it as a source of inspiration, dedication and commitment, passion and purpose for your leadership. Your best leadership will not come from trying out a long list of characteristics of great leaders or even emulating outstanding ones, but from deeply reflecting on and leveraging your own life story. It will come from ‘in here’. The raw material needed for great leadership is found in your own life story. What a fascinating paradox that the outward journey of serving and influencing others first begins with a leader’s own journey inwards and backwards, drawing from the power of their own life story.
Here I am 40,000 feet above sea level trying to piece together in readable form, a short video I shared last week on “Leadership is Not About You.” I’m en route back from an East Africa launch of my new co-authored book that took me to Nairobi (Kenya), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Kigali (Rwanda), with a brief transit in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). It’s been a while since I shot these PEP Talk videos because all roads have been leading to the launch of the movement and the said book, Africa to the Rest. The West Africa launch in Accra on March 31st had been so successful, buoying my team and me towards where the African sun rises for part two.
Leadership is not about you, it’s about those you serve; it’s not about now, it’s about tomorrow. This truism landed in my heart as I touched down in Nairobi to a very warm welcome, ‘Karibu Kenya’ (welcome to Kenya). In Ghana we say, ‘Akwaaba.’ Ghana and Kenya have a diplomatic arrangement which allows citizens to visit each other’s countries without a visa. How wonderful. And this time also, the immigration officer did not ask me, “Why are you here, what’s the purpose of your visit?” Come to think of it, why would he? Who asks anybody, “Why are you coming home?” I’m home, Kenya is home.
That really is how the whole continent should look like yet traveling across Africa can be a nightmare. I am looking forward to the day when we do not need visas to travel across the second largest continent on the planet. I earnestly envisage the time when we’ll not have to change several currencies to travel across Africa. I am looking forward to the time when with one passport, one can fluidly go to all the 50 plus countries on the motherland. And that, my friend, will take tremendous leadership. How come I did not need a visa to Kenya, that all the way from Ghana, six hours flight away, I could just enter Kenya unhindered by red tape? Because at some point, once upon the time, a certain leader (or group of leaders) thought that was something great we could do for the mutual benefit of our peoples, for every Ghanaian and Kenyan.
As the driver was taking me from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to Severine Cottages in Karen (a suburb of Nairobi) where I was scheduled to lodge, courtesy of the owner Mary Ngechu, a YAW PERBI coaching client, we were having a conversation amidst a bit of road congestion from time to time. There had been some redirection of traffic in Nairobi because Kenya had just lost their third president, Mwai Kibaki, and this was preparation day for the funeral in the morrow. The next day was a holiday for his state burial, and several continental dignitaries were expected to arrive via the JKI airport. This driver was full of praise for the late head of state. “He was a good man, he built this highway we’re on, started free primary education for every Kenyan child…” he did this, he did that…. he was a good man. Far from perfect, it seemed from the narrative that Kibaki understood that his leadership was not about him, but about those he can been given influence to serve; and that his leadership wasn’t just about then (2002-2013), but about tomorrow.
NOT ABOUT YOU
Leadership is not about us; it’s not about you. It’s all about those we serve and influence towards some shared, noble purpose. I find it very sad when we have leaders, especially on our continent, who wants to loot all the wealth they can get, grab all they can eat and can the rest for tomorrow for their children and grandchildren. But leadership is about the people, for the people.
The year 2063 is when the leadership of Africa is hoping to have one passport and this free, unhindered movement of people. It’s too far! By 2063, I will be 85 years old, if the Lord wills and if He tarries. Come on, things have to be sooner, much sooner. I am excited about the crucial interventions of YAW PERBI Executive Education, BCA Leadership, Africa Leadership Initiative, The HuD Group and all others working on the continent to catalyze authentic, effectual leadership because everything does rise and fall on leadership. Leadership is indeed cause, everything else is effect, and l felt that right that morning when arrived in Kenya.
I can confidently tell you that the dream of one Africa, one passport, no visas can happen. It took a certain Jean Monnet to get the European Union going in that direction (I remember that so vivildly from our Africa Leadership Initiative/Aspen Institute readings from over a decade ago). The ability to not only fly from the top of Tunisia to the tip of South Africa, or from the cusp of the Cape Verde peninsula to the extreme edge of Mauritius unfettered and unvisa-ed, but even drive across the length and breadth of the continent is a dream I share with many others on the continent and in the diaspora. Imagine no need to change several SIM cards, no need for consecutive currency exchanges and having eight different specimens of shillings in your breaking purse. This is the Africa we want; yea, even the Africa we need.
For sure, this will take visionary, effectual leadership. Remember, leadership is not about us, it is about those we lead and their aspirations, even that of those who would come tomorrow. Are you pepped up to lead and leave a lasting legacy? Leadership is not about you, it’s about those you serve and influence towards a shared, noble purpose. It’s not even about now; it’s about tomorrow. Let your leadership count years from now, thousands of years from now, even into eternity.
17When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. … 20After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13)
THE PRESENCE FROM EGYPT
God will not necessarily lead you through the shortest routes in 2022 but the best routes, according to His good, pleasing and perfect will. God was Israel’s captain as they exited Egypt to possess the Promised Land. A captain is a commanding officer of a ship, someone in command or a leader of a group (like a football team). This captainship is clearly captured in phrases like “God did not lead them…” (v. 17); “So God led the people…” (v. 18); “By day the LORD went ahead of them… to guide them” (v. 21); “…in front of the people” (v. 22).
And they were many, an estimated 2 million of them! It is no wonder they are described as a host (like stars or a vast army). A host is “a multitude or great number of persons or things.” God was the General, Guard & GPS of this ginormous group, host!
THE PRESENCE IN ENGLAND
It is this amazing story in Exodus 13 that captured the imagination of Charles Wesley (1707-1777), the brother of the founder of Methodism (John Wesley) to pen those words in 1762 (the original words are in bold, my brief commentary is in italics):
Captain of Israel’s host, and Guide
Of all who seek the land above,
The same God who was Captain of the Israelites exiting Egypt to the Promised Land called Canaan is the Guide of those of us who eventually want to exit Earth to the Promised Land above we call Heaven;
He can be the General of those of us exiting 2021 and wanting to enter the Promised Land called 2022. For he is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Beneath Thy shadow we abide,
The cloud of Thy protecting love;
The shadow, cloud, pillar of fire—these are all metaphors of THE PRESENCE.
Will you abide (John 15) in THE PRESENCE for intimacy (love), protection, provision, piloting (guidance), production (fruitfulness)…
Our strength, Thy grace, our rule, Thy Word;
Jesus Himself says, “my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in your weakness in 2022” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
What laws or constitution or playbook will you live by in 2022? How about the Basic Information Before Leaving Earth (Bible), which itself is already saturated with THE PRESENCE?
Our end, the glory of the Lord.
Is God’s glory the purpose and end goal of your life or your own idea of what is cool and successful? God’s own glory is God’s mission!
It is no greatness if it brings God no glory!
A WORD ABOUT GOD’S GLORY IN UNEXPECTED PLACES & WAYS
God’s glory can show up in ways and places that are strange to the human mind. Think about it: one day in John 9, “As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God [or the glory of God] might be displayed in him.” But blindness?!
How about when Jesus says to Peter (John 21), “Very truly I tell you [Jesus says to Peter], when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” A death that glorifies God? Come on! JUST FOLLOW THE PRESENCE.
THE PRESENCE is powerful; even in the valley of the shadow of death, according to twenty-third Psalm, I fear no evil for you are with me (THE PRESENCE). In Genesis 39, “…while Joseph was there in the prison, 21the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” THE PRESENCE in prison; glory through prison. Unstoppable God; unboundable PRESENCE!
BACK TO EXODUS
We’re told in the ninth chapter of the book of Numbers that:
17Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. 18At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. 19When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. 20Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. 21Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. 22Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. 23At the Lord’s command [captain of the host!] they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.
The second verse of Wesley’s hymn continues…
By Thine unerring Spirit led,
We shall not in the desert stray
THE PRESENCE makes no mistakes—He is the omniscient (all-knowing) One to steer us aright from missing our way yet if we sin and stubbornly deviate He also is the gracious omniponent (all-powerful) One to, like a GPD does, re-route us, even if it takes 40 years in the wilderness! Re-calculating… Re-calculating…
We shan’t be lost in 2022, amen!
Just move when God moves; stop when He does; stay when he stays.
We shall not full direction need
It was reprinted in A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists (1780), where John Wesley altered this line 3 of verse 2 from, ‘The light of man’s direction need’ to ‘We shall not full direction need’.
Nor miss our providential way;
Just as He gives us our daily bread, let us look to Him for daily direction. There is no grace for tomorrow; only today. We don’t need the full direction! Sometimes we don’t even need direction in our heads or hearts; he just orders our steps, like Simeon!
As far from danger as from fear,
While Love, almighty Love, is near.
God is Love, and the Bible says “perfect love drives out fear.” Fear and God cannot co-exist. In 2022, God will keep us far from danger just as He will keep us far from fear, as long as THE PRESENCE is near!
Hallelujah! Finally, in Part 3, we’ll end with Moses’ craving of THE PRESENCE and why we should too–abiding angels and promised properties, even flowing milk and honey, just won’t do. I share five practical tips on maximizing THE PRESENCE.