It’s amazing how much most people know about subjects in our world, literally from Archaeology to Zoology, but very little or no ME-logy! In my book, Cutting a Straight Path: Leading with Self-Awareness, I ask these poignant questions:
- How can you live with yourself without knowing who you are?
- How can you be true to what you know little or nothing about: yourself?
- How can you succeed in life, self-actualize, without first becoming self-aware?
- How can you authentically lead others without first learning to know yourself?
- Have you ever felt frustrated why others are hesitant to follow your lead?
“Maybe it’s time to check yourself as a person and as a leader,” is my conclusion. Yes, it’s about time! Indeed, the Chinese have a powerful saying, “Before preparing to improve the world, first look around your own home three times.” Forget about authentic living, let alone authentic leadership, without self-awareness! So welcome to home base. Self-awareness is the starting place of all true and lasting success.
SELF-DISCOVERY THROUGH THE DISC
Self-awareness comes basically by introspection (by ourselves) and feedback (by others). Both however, are greatly enhanced by assessment tools, just like magnifying glasses help us see tiny objects and the binoculars enables us to view distant things closely and clearly. I have found the DISC as an amazing personal assessment tool that is incisive and powerful in the quest for self-awareness. Since 1972 it has been used by over 50 million people to increase self-awareness, stimulate and guide growth and thus increase chances at personal success. It is used to engender teamwork, communication and productivity in the workplace. The DISC has saved many a marriage, including mine!
DISC assessments are used in thousands of organizations around the world, from multilaterals and multinationals to government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits and small businesses. Recently, we were privileged to serve the Centre for Disease Control Foundation in Atlanta, USA with nearly 150 of these assessments as they train medical leaders in about 30 nations of the world.
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS DISC?
DISC is an acronym that stands for the four main personality profiles described in the model: (D)ominant, (I)nfluencing, (S)teady and (C)ompliant.
People with D personalities tend to be confident and place an emphasis on accomplishing bottom-line results.
People with i personalities tend to be more open and place an emphasis on relationships and influencing or persuading others.
People with S personalities tend to be dependable and place the emphasis on cooperation and sincerity.
People with C personalities tend to place the emphasis on quality, accuracy, expertise, and competency.
The DISC system we use at YAW PERBI in partnership with People Keys generates 41 personality blends from these basic four, just like many colours of the world are generated through the three primary colours. There’s one I used to coach international students in Canada that was limited to 28 personality blends. What we use now is like the difference between a regular car and a four-wheel drive. As they like to say at People Keys, “people are different, true, but they are predictably different.”
CONVICTION, VISION & MISSION
Our conviction at YAW PERBI is that since every true and lasting success begins with self-awareness, then everyone must have easy and affordable access to self-DISCovery! ACCESS FOR SUCCESS, please! Everyone has a right to self-awareness. We need a DISC Revolution!
Our vision is to see a world of awareness through every individual’s self-DISCovery. We are on a mission to democratize the DISC personality/behavioral assessment until no one is left in the dark. We want to recalibrate all leadership development to begin with self-awareness at the core through the Perbi Perspective DISC is a great start.
CHIEF CORNERSTONE FOR THE CHIEF-LEVEL LEADER
When you read my article on how I build leaders differently now (compared to 10-15 years ago), you will understand my seriousness about this issue of recalibrating all leadership development to begin with self-awareness. People have big, fat leadership books and terabytes of leadership materials and yet have next to zero knowledge of themselves. What sense is there in that? I was telling a certain Christian leader the other day that he can forget the list of a dozen books people typically ask me to recommend for leadership training and development. The only two books his emerging leaders need to learn almost everything they need to know about leadership are a self-awareness printout of their DISC assessment and the Scriptures. Every other book is garnishing.
In all the major success paradigms, praxes and paths—from Emotional Intelligence to Authentic Leadership—self-awareness is first base, the chief cornerstone. I increasingly get alarmed when I encounter C-level executives, both in the public and private sector, who have never taken a personality assessment like the DISC!
STRATEGY AND HOPE
Some say hope is not a strategy but I beg to differ. (I’ll leave that argument for another day, another blog). I have hope that together we can strategically exponentially multiply impact through an army of Accredited DISC Coaches and Certified Behavioural Consultants while significantly creating thriving businesses and income for all! Just like our governments wish to get everyone vaccinated, we at YAW PERBI desire to get everyone DISCed! The former may be controversial to some, but you had better not second guess the latter. Everyone has a right to self-awareness to grow and succeed. Would-be authentic leaders really have no choice in this primary matter. We need a DISC Revolution!
It gives me great joy that a number of high-flying professionals have chosen to pay up and show up at this year’s Family Foundations mastermind. The interesting group contains two professors (of marketing and microbiology), a couple of finance people (one of them works at the central bank of Ghana) and connecting online from three countries.
I admire their zeal and humility to jaw-jaw about family matters but something in me also makes me quite sad: Why are some of the most important things in life, like family and finances, not adequately taught in school, if at all?! Mind you, this current Family Foundations mastermind cohort has three people with doctorates, two PhDs and an MD!
The major thrust of this mastermind is to cause a paradigm shift on the prime place of family for us personally, for society in general and even for posterity (in other words WHY family matters) but even before delving into that everyone is being exposed to WHY a systematic study of family itself is necessary in the first place. Here are seven reasons why:
1. To understand SELF better.
“A systematic study of family will enable you to untangle your emotions from your understanding of family. An objective look at the varieties of families will better equip you to understand your own family relationships. This will allow you to bypass your preconceived ideas about marriage and family, come to a better understanding of yourself and your role within your family, and make more informed choices regarding future relationships.” (Riggs & Tweedell, pg. 2)
2. To understand OTHERS better.
“Taking a systematic view of marriage and family life will enable you to better comprehend the world in which you and your family operate.” (Riggs & Tweedell, pg. 3)
3. A way to uncover and derail MISCONCEPTIONS and MISPERCEPTIONS.
“People enter marriage and family relationships with a wealth of misconceptions and misperceptions… some common myths about mate selection, marriage, and parenting. With an objective understanding of marriage and family life, you should be better equipped to prevent or derail disillusionment in your future relationships.” (Riggs & Twedell, p.3)
4. To positively IMPACT your world.
We are “called to make a difference in the world. What better place to make a difference than within your own family? Most people are not called to a foreign country to perform mission work; they can find mission work right in their own communities. By understanding the varieties of ways of “doing” family, students can help those around them actualize the best marriage and family relationships possible.” (Riggs & Tweedell, p.3)
5. We need to get down to the core of all our beliefs, values and behaviour: WORLDVIEW.
6. Some of the most important things in life, marriage and family, are not adequately TAUGHT IN SCHOOL, if at all!
We’ve got to find these through an attitude of lifelong learning and a pursuit of informal and semi-formal growth opportunities like masterclasses and masterminds.
7. There are ancient THEOLOGIES, modern THEORIES, and practical TOOLS that make family work.
In the end, nothing works until you work it! And we have no right to say something doesn’t work unless and until we have worked it the prescribed way. I agree with Mark Twain that schooling and education are not the same. No matter how much schooling you’ve done, perhaps it’s time to get yourself an education on why family matters and how to make it work.
Riggs, Barbara A. And Cynthia Benn Tweedell. 2010. Marriage and Family: A Christian Perspective, 2nd Edition. Marion, Indiana: Triangle Publishing.
One of the most stupid things I’ve ever done is to travel 10 whole years into marriage before ever seeking formal post-marital counselling. After the several pre-marital sessions lasting many months in 2006, Anyele and I went in the power of that for a decade until we felt we needed further formal, external help. Why on earth did we do that?
Come to think of it, every 5,000 km or so we were changing the oil in our car and getting it serviced yet not so with our marriage. Doesn’t every marriage need regular marriage maintenance? Why wait till we’re sick before we see a doctor when we can at least do annual check-ups? In fact, I would say we came from a culture where seeing a counsellor connoted there was a pathology; and not so much a maintenance thing.
Friends, I’ve had several conversions since August 12, 2006 that have better aligned and further fortified what I thought were already ‘excellent foundations.’ Sometimes there’ve even been foundational cracks I’ve had to fix (and God knows I’m not done). For time to time I’ve come across new information that has caused me to repent, have a change of mind, and realign our foundations to keep this family building strong and lasting.
EXAMPLES OF FAMILY FOUNDATIONS TO REVISIT
Feel free to say “shame on you Yaw” but I had never heard of a family genogram until barely five years ago! How could such an important tool and exercise not have been part of our foundations when we set out a decade-and-a-half ago? And if you’re asking “what the heck is that?”, then trust me, you don’t even know you need one until you eventually discover it. Afterwards you would wonder how in the world your family had been surviving without one. I say ‘surviving’ because you will then notice that what you thought was ‘thriving’ wasn’t quite so.
Then there are basic tools for connecting with spouse and children on a deep emotional level we only received in the last five years. We learnt the 10/10 from the Pellmans and Temperature Reading from the Scazzeros. “Love your wife,” yes I want to. “Respect your husband,” yes she wants to. But how? The Kraemers also gave us tools for this.
And all this is for a good-looking couple who had a pretty solid family heritage, coming from a few generations of good Christian homes, being smart, leaders of our church youth fellowship who had lived virtuously and gotten married as virgins. We even themed our wedding “a celebration of purpose, passion and purity.” Alas! We who ‘had it all’ have realized there are family foundations everyone needs yet almost no one lays. The very marriage mentors who have been blessing us with these paradigms, praxes and practical tools are passionate about their ministry of marriage mentorship today precisely because they themselves didn’t have these when they were our age!
Family is a BIG deal. It is the basic unit of society, just like the cell is for all biological life and the atom is for all matter. Yet the thing about family foundations is this: just like finances, very little about how to make it work well is taught in school about it. If one isn’t fortunate to have a spiritual community that provides quality family life information and formation, you’re in a hard place. There are many divorces that are preventable, if the foundations could be reconfigured. There are some we’ve been able to help save by God’s grace; and others… well… too bad, too late.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART
Few will argue against the assertion that the most important part of a building, or anything else that is built for that matter, say a marriage, is its foundation. A ton of things have been said about foundations. Gordon B. Hinckley asserts, “You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure.” Adding his voice, David Allan Coe says, “It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.” The greatest teacher of all time, Jesus Christ, classifies life builders into two categories, wise and foolish, purely based on thee foundations they lay: the foolish build on sand, the wise build on rock.
My beloved mentor Peter Scazzero talks about foundations a lot in the Emotionally Healthy Leadership paradigms he teaches. And no wonder, since like the typical New Yorker he is, Pete is ever so familiar with the skycraping towers of Manhattan. This is how he explains the importance of digging deep foundations if we are to build life’s tall towers of significance:
Manhattan consists almost entirely of bare granite, a very hard and strong type of rock. To carry the weight of a 75 or 100 story skyscraper, foundations known as “piles” are used. These are concrete or steel columns hammered into the ground with a massive crane until they penetrate solid rock.
Some pilings go twenty-five stories under the ground. The heavy weight of the skyscraper is then distributed through each of the deep “piles” in the ground below. Together they are capable of supporting the structure’s enormous weight.
If the pilings are drilled in poorly, cracks eventually appear in the structure. Entire buildings may lean. Then they must be torn down or lifted completely so the piles can be reset – a costly and time-consuming process.
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS MASTERMIND
As you might be aware from a previous blog, “a mastermind group (often shortened to just ‘masterminds’) is a peer-to-peer mentoring group used to help members learn together, solve problems, birth new ideas and gain clarity with input and advice from the other group members.” For eight weekly sessions, from April 4 to May 30, I shall be walking along with a dozen leaders who want to re-examine their family foundations and receive new paradigms, praxes and practical tools to finally fix faulty family foundations. Inputs will include several book chapters, videos, articles, practical exercises, discussions and debates. Two special features and benefits will be FREE membership of an online chest of over 20,000 resources and a FREE DISC Personality assessment with a 37-age customized report!
You can be sure that “mastermind groups are great in holding each other accountable for the goals and outcomes each member comes up with themselves” (see here). Outcomes and outputs of this particular Family Foundations Mastermind are as follows:
- Paradigm Shift on the Prime Place of Family
- Ancient Wisdom Applied
- Current Family Systems Theories Tested
- Practical Relationship Tools (for emotional connection, communication, forgiveness)
- Family Genogram
- Behavioural Assessment
- Emotional Needs List & Action Points
- Family Mission Statement
- Hierarchy of Priorities Configuration
- Integrated Life Exploration & Commitment
Register here and let’s go back to basics. Let’s finally fix faulty family foundations that everyone needs to but hardly anyone does.
I wouldn’t be where I am today but for books. I mean precious books like the Holy Bible (which I’ve read cover-to-cover about 10 times), Rich Dad Poor Dad (Robert Kiyosaki), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey), The Purpose-Driven Life (Rick Warren), Before You Say I Do (Yaw Boamah), The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (John Maxwell), The E-Myth (Michael Gerber), The Prayer of Jabez (Bruce Wilkinson), Create Your Own Future (Brian Tracy), The Emotionally Healthy Leader (Peter Scazzero) etc. My life five years ago is totally different from my life now—and so was my life five years prior to that totally different—just because of the books I’ve read.
Consequently, for a decade-and-a-half now I’ve been a serious reading campaigner. Now, not only have I grown further fierce in campaigning for people to love reading, my wife and I have stepped up by stepping down. What I mean by that is, we’ve enhanced our campaign but decided to go further down to the age where humans are most pliable: childhood. And we began with our own seven children. This is the philosophy behind Perbi Cubs Library Services. You may find the story behind Perbi Cubs here.
But being a reading enthusiast, let alone champion, hasn’t always been so. I used not to like reading, at all! Then two statements hit me hard and totally shifted my paradigm, absolutely altering my way of thinking.
THE ‘RACIST’ & ‘TREMENDOUS’ STATEMENTS THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
The first statement, I randomly encountered on the internet. I was but a youth then. As I confess in my book READ!, “I was so angry my intestines could have gushed out. If I were light skinned my face would’ve turned tomato-red instantaneously. Yet deep, very deep down my heart I knew there was a truth in this almost racist statement glaring at me from the computer screen.” This is what it said: “THE BEST WAY TO HIDE SOMETHING FROM BLACK PEOPLE IS TO PUT IT IN A BOOK!” Ah! Upsetting! Yet in many ways this is true, I’m ashamed to admit: We don’t read!
The other paradigm-knocking statement was Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones’ rather prophetic pronouncement: “You will be in five years where you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”
These two statements turned my life around to not only become a voracious reader and prolific writer, but an advocate of the same!
WHAT IS READING?
We all have read (or even still reading even right now) academic or technical texts to pass an exam or for promotion, for professional growth etc. That is not what I mean by my read campaign. When I speak of reading I mean leisure reading. Also known as “recreational reading, pleasure reading, free voluntary reading, and independent reading,” it is “independent, self-selected reading of a continuous text for a wide range of personal and social purposes. It can take place in and out of school, at any time” (International Reading Association).
Samuel Johnson shares the following sentiments: “A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.” I get him. Leisure reading must be voluntary and pleasurable–not just a chore–if it is to benefit us maximally.
WHY MANY ARE SCHOOLED BUT STILL “ILLITERATE”
Several of us who have learnt “ABCD…” and can practically function simply do not read. In my book READ!, first published in 2005, here’s my thesis: If you know how to read and you don’t, you are no different from the illiterate! The bottom line is the same: you both don’t read! That’s why the subtitle of the book is “You are an “illiterate” if you can read but don’t.” Many years ago Mark Twain put the same idea this way: “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”
If it’s any comfort to you, a guy who used not to like reading today reads several books at the same time! Even further, I’ve acquired this new habit of writing several books at the same time too! Something you need for your future to happen is hidden in a book near you. As they say at Perbi Cubs, “success is just a book away.” And it’s true. If you don’t believe Perbi Cubs or Charlie ‘T’ Jones, take it from me.
Here is the entire preface to the 2020 version of YouthPower! in Soweto for your enjoyment and edification. This book was first written 15 years ago upon a life-transforming visit to South Africa in 2005. The anti-racial protests in 2020 were like a 1976 déjà vu and inspired me to get this re-release going for today’s generation to remember and soldier on.
“It is better to die for an idea that will live,
than to live for an idea that will die.”
The Definition of Black Consciousness, I Write What I Like, 1978
It is 2020. The pandemic year. The epochal events of this year, on both sides of the Atlantic, have had such significant parallels with the youth uprisings and protests in apartheid South Africa in 1976 that after procrastinating the republishing of this book for years I finally got the umph to do it.
“Police brutality.” “Systematic racism.” “Peaceful protests turned violent.” “We are dealing here not with a spontaneous outburst but with a deliberate attempt to bring about polarisation between whites and blacks.” “This government will not be intimidated and instructions have been given to maintain law and order at all costs.” Do any of these phrases and sentences sound familiar? Yet these are not from 2020; these are all 1976 words and phrases!
With the world slowed down, even locked down, we all had the time and bandwidth to take in the slow slaughter of an American young man, George Floyd, by those paid “to serve and protect” him. The aftermath of #BlackLivesMatter protests in the United States and around the world seemed like a coordinated tsunami. Perhaps no other year has there been more concerted protests against police brutality, systematic racism and no-nonsense towards anything or anyone glorifying an apartheid, segregationist, slavery or colonial past.
At a point, the confluence of 400th year anniversary of the first slave setting foot in America, a plague (COVID-19) and protests by the oppressed made me wonder if this was not a modern replay of the biblical Exodus, the liberation of Israel from Egypt.
Then just when things seemed to be settling down, #endSARS happened. Nigerian youth wouldn’t take the brutalization of their kith and kin anymore either. The well-organized air war (via social media) and on-the-ground protests did result in the dissolution of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that had been unleashing untold mayhem on the Nigerian people, especially youth, for years. Some paid the ultimate price for daring to express their Youth Power! May they rest in peace. May their death bring life.
In all the standing up to, shouting out and marching against, the core demographic has of course been Young People. Youth Power! at work again; just as in 1976. In fact, my favourite picture of the 2020 protests in the U.S. so strongly correlates with a scene from 1976 although both events are seas and decades apart. On the streets of America in 2020 the youth held placards that read, “We are not our ancestors. We will fuck you up.” In Soweto, 44 years earlier, the youth had asserted similarly, “Our parents are prepared to suffer under the white man’s rule. They have been living for years under these laws and they have become immune to them. But we strongly refuse to swallow an education that is designed to make us slaves in the country of our birth.”
It seems to me that like the Boomer generation of 1976, the Millennial, Gen Y and Gen Z generations alive and kicking in 2020 have also taken seriously their mandate to leave the world better than they found it. “You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”” [said a certain wise man]. I believe that was the Youth Power! mindset in 1976, replayed in 2020. Here’s to celebrating Youth Power! from Soweto to Minneapolis to Lagos to the ends of the earth.
I am humbled by my very rich family history of Black story-telling. My grandfather, J.H. Kwabena Nketia, was an emeritus professor of ethnomusicology whose lifework was dedicated to documenting the songs and drum language of African peoples while my mother, Akosua Adoma Perbi, is a professor of history with a specialization in the slave trade, indigenous and trans-Atlantic. It seems my turn has come to continue a family tradition.
I can understand those in my generation who feel Black people are too yesterday-focused and are pushing for this month to be Black Future Month instead of Black History Month. A word of caution though: we must know our history well–although not dwell in the past–if we are to be and do today what will make our tomorrow better than yesterday. As a wise man once said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” 2020 has proven that history tends to repeat itself.
Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.
That ‘Pease Porridge’ Mother Goose nursery rhyme is a succinct summary of the biases, tendencies, idiosyncrasies and preferences we all have such that without a certain degree of intentionality we might never do one thing or the other at all because it simply isn’t my thing.
In my medical school days, I found it über interesting that each specialist professor would talk about their field with such passion and all-importance as if the whole body were an eye or liver or skin or heart or bones or whatever. No matter the medical condition, they would find a cause or effect related to their darling body part. In fact, we believed there were consultants who could literally hear and spot diagnose a heart murmur without a stethoscope just by walking into the consulting room!
In leader formation, I have also found that depending on the trainer or coach’s personal preferences, biases or sweet spot, they zoom in on one area (eg. character development or strategy or organizational culture) to the detriment of other equally important aspects of leader formation.
During my Master of Arts in Global Leadership at Fuller, I encountered a schema for the programme which I fell in love with. I have since adapted it as ‘7 Inputs & Outcomes of Leader Formation’ at YAW PERBI, providing a framework and basis, process and end product for our leader formation, whether via coaching or consulting, in our authoring of resources, and certainly in our speaking and training. Here it is (diagram below).
THE SEVEN LEADERSHIP FOOD GROUPS
Your body needs a nutritional balance of carbohydrates and proteins, fats/oils, minerals and vitamins. This is accomplished through food groups like grains, milk products, meats, fruits and vegetables. Similarly, your head, heart and hands require these seven ‘food groups’ to nourish and form the basis of leader development:
1. Classically Informed Practice: This is the origin and objective of leadership. Classical means ancient. Fuller’s original is Biblically-informed for obvious reasons but while that is true for us at YAW PERBI, we also include Ancient African, Asian and Greek/Latin literature (Aristotle, Socrates, Plato). The point of rooting leader formation in a meta narrative is that many people consider the whole area of leadership/leadership development as a creation of Western business schools and or even the modern American management industry but no. The art and science of leadership dates back 6,000 years in scripture, and with the likes of Akhenaten, King of Egypt (1380-1334 BC), Moses (1391-1271 BC), Lao Tzu (604-531), Cyrus the Great (600-530BC), Confucius (551-479 BC), Plato (427-347 B), Aristotle (384-322 BC) and Cicero (106-43 BC) throughout history.
2. Character Development: Constitutes the heart of leadership. At the end of the day, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. As I’ve heard it said time and again, charisma without character is a disaster waiting to happen. Invariably it does. That character is the bedrock of authentic and long-lasting leadership cannot be overemphasized.
3. Reflective Lifestyle: Herein lies the rhythm of leadership. This isn’t one of Fuller’s original six. I included it after a meeting with a group of senior leaders mentoring emerging leaders in Africa. Dr. Joshua Bogunjoku, my senior medical colleague and big brother who is the international director for SIM really passionately brought the necessity for stillness, silence, introspection and such to the fore to which I agreed and couched this indispensable ingredient.
4. Missional Community: This is the goal of leadership. Leadership is about serving and influencing a group of people (community) towards a certain noble purpose (cause). That cause or mission, according to my worldview, is a subset of a meta narrative known as the missio Dei that must ultimately bring glory to the God of the universe, benefit creation (people being chief among creation) and vanquish evil. Without a flourishing community on this vital three-fold mission, what the heck is leadership for?
5. Global Diversity: It goes without saying that we live in a global village, made even tighter still by the meta internet connectivity in this Covid-19 era. Not even spatial distancing can change the closeness. It is not uncommon for leaders today to have team members strewn across different timezones and having worldview, cultural beliefs and ethnic values that are very different. Global diversity is the context of leadership today.
6. Lifelong Learning in a Diverse Community: Herein lies the continuing development of leadership. As you already know, the present continues learning of a leader gives them the right and means to keep leading. The day we stop learning, we stop leading. Lifelong learning is catalyzed in diverse community, physical or virtual.
7. Organizational Dynamics: This is how leadership is implemented. I once met a former Fortune 500 company CEO near Chicago who described companies as ‘a necessary evil.’ At the end of the day, as long as two or more people come together, we need some sort of ‘organization’ to make things happen. It’s wonderful to have a great heart, but without the cutting edge knowledge and skillful hands to steer organizations with all their dynamics, these great ideas and causes won’t last very long.
For the last decade I have believed in and practiced going deep with leaders rather than merely going wide (mass production). I believe in Maxwell’s Law of Process, that leadership is built daily; not in day. Consequently, whoever walks long enough with us at YAW PERBI will invariably realize that they have been well-fed and well-formed holistically, with each of the above seven leadership food groups amply supplied, digested and fleshed out.
“The world has entered an era of the most profound and challenging change in human history. Most of our children are not prepared, and we know it. Parents around the world see the change and know that the traditional three R’s–reading, writing, and arithmetic–are necessary; but not enough. Their children need to become far more responsible, creative, and tolerant of differences. They need to increase their ability to think for themselves, take initiative, get along with others, and solve problems. Business leaders are not finding people whose skills and character match the demands of today’s global economy, including strong communication, teamwork, analytical, technology, and organizational skills. They need young people who are self-motivated, creative, and have a strong work ethic. How will we bridge this ever-widening gap?” (Leader in Me blurb)
In my previous blog, I highlighted the current global leadership crisis epitomized by the likes of U.S. president Donald Trump. Yet even over a decade ago, leadership gurus like Stephen R. Covey (of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame) uttered the above words, speaking of an era of challenge our children are unprepared for. The present leadership crisis has been brewing for a long time. If we do nothing about it, we’ll be setting our world back generations, and for generations to come. So how in the world are we going about it, growing leaders from childhood? I’m glad you asked.
THE ROLE OF LIT
Perbi Cubs Library Service through their book collection, activities and Lions Inspire Cubs programs inspire and empower children to be ready for leadership and impact. The Lions Inspire Cubs program has featured Lions (Leaders making impact in society) like Dr. Ahitey Trebi-Ollenu, a Robotics engineer at NASA.
The final element of this attempt at raising young, holistic leaders is the newly-launched Lions in Training (LIT) track which results in medallion awards for Cubs. As a firm, YAW PERBI is working with Perbi Cubs from the grassroots with children at home and in school. We consult for Perbi Cubs, providing the theoretical basis and praxiological framework, breaking down high level leadership concepts into small bits to deliver leadership development to 7-14 year-olds. After all as huge as it is, even an elephant can be eat. But how do you eat an elephant? Bit by bit.
ROLE OF PARENTS IN LIT
I have often said that, “Charity begins at home, so does leadership.” Parents are not only the primary caregivers of children but their primary leadership coaches as well. Of a truth, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” So together with parents, every quarter we focus on three core areas that when gotten right will have a significant change/impact in the lives and leadership of these Cubs. Every Thursday, parents receive an email to evaluate how the child did that week as leader. These three core areas of evaluation focus on various everyday practical actions and inactions of the Cubs at home and in school.
So after digesting tonnes of leadership articles and books and studying global leadership even at the graduate level, I have come to the conclusion that although there are over 360 documented definitions of leadership, leadership is basically responsibility, service and influence. The easiest way for a child to understand a ‘big word’ like responsiblity is response-ability.
This diagram (above) may seem simple but it is one of those things referred to as simplicity at the far end of complexity. It looks deceptively simple but has come through after a lot of complex thinking processes.
ON YOUR MARKS…
So for this quarter, this is how the children are being observed, encouraged and evaluated as Leaders in Training (LIT) in practical terms:
A. Responsibility is response-ability:
- Cub chooses to do the right thing without prompting.
- Cub is able to take charge of getting their school work done.
- Cub does not blame others for their circumstances.
B. Service is being of use to others:
- Cub is helpful at home and school.
- Cub willingly does their chores.
- Cub does not boss other people around.
- Cub uses their talents/gifts to help others or make their lives better.
C. Influence is producing effects on others:
- Cub exerts positive peer pressure.
- Cub affects the actions, behavior or opinions of siblings and friends in a good way.
- Cub sounds convincing in expressing their opinion.
CUBS CAN EAT ELEPHANTS
“So how do you eat an elephant?” my father would ask our little selves when we were just waist-high and get us head-scratching. If such a complex phenomenon like photosynthesis can be taught at the PhD level but also broken down so simply and taught at nursery (pun intended), then leadership can too. So even lion cubs can eat elephants. How? Little by little, bit by bit, one bite at a time.
“Stopping Trump is a short-term solution. The long-term solution, and it will be more difficult, is fixing the educational system that has created so many people ignorant enough to vote for Trump.” (Andy Borowitz, a satirist)
Let me begin with a disclaimer: I do not subscribe to the notion that everyone who voted for Trump is ignorant. That would be an unfair characterization. Politics is more nuanced than that. I say there are at least 3 Ps that go into one’s choice, none of which is perfect in any political party and hardly are all three aligned with what is Biblical: the PERSON (as in flag bearer), the PARTY and the POLICIES.
Having said that, how did the most powerful nation in the world end up with such a leadership crisis? I’m not just talking about the nail-biting U.S. electoral college vote count last week and the current situation where a winner has been projected but the incumbent hasn’t gathered what it takes to concede and congratulate. I speak of four years ago when America had to choose between two wannabe leaders of the free world both of whom the electorate had serious reservations about! America was caught between the red devil and the deep blue sea.
And the last four years have portrayed nearly everything I’ve been taught that leadership is NOT exhibited by the man in the White House. Is it competence in inspiring confidence about the Coronavirus pandemic and quenching it or a character of what is good and right and true or care and respect for ‘the other’? Competence, character and care constitute the DNA of leadership. Of course Trump did do some good things. I have even admired his non-political-correctness and tough skin in forging ahead buoyed by the courage of his convictions (no matter how misinformed I think they might be sometimes). By and large, however, I have had to repeatedly tell my children too many things about Trump that leadership is NOT.
THE VAN JONES MOMENT
When I saw Van Jones weep on television that as a parent the defeat of Trump and the elevation of Biden is a testament to the fact that character matters in life and leadership, I very much identified with that. Character matters. Truth matters. Decency matters. And one would think the white evangelical church in America would know better than a journalist.
If the one country that has produced the most world-impacting heads of states, Nobel laureates (390 of them; the UK which is next is at 135), stellar entertainers and astounding professional athletes could face such a gaping leadership crisis then the rest of the world had better watch out. In my Twi language from Ghana, there is a saying that when you see your neighbor’s beard on fire, you had better quickly fetch a bucket of water and place it beside yours (well, hopefully after you’ve helped him doust his!)
OF SHITTY STORIES & SHIT HOLE COUNTRIES
The S word is one that isn’t in my vocabulary. Permit me to get into the gutters in this little stretch so we both appreciate the abyss leadership sunk into these last four years. When Trump was elected I was hopeful. My family’s explanation to a United States border agent that we were crossing over from Canada to upstate New York to check on our investment property had been described by this kid in the border cage as “Such a Shitty Story.” When I wrote about that in January 2017, I was hopeful that a Trump presidency would catalyze the noble dreams Martin Luther King Jnr. had for his four little children (and my six) and not turn into the nightmare many feared. The latter has happened. Blacks still can’t breathe in 2020, George Floyd’s slow slaughter being the epitome of that.
As one born and raised in Africa I have long experienced firsthand that “everything rises and falls on leadership.” Whether as a young medical doctor in Ghana seeing patients die who shouldn’t have or as a United Nations peacekeeping soldier in Cote d’Ivoire beholding with my own naked eyes the ravages of war, there is no other one word that summarizes all that’s wrong with my continent as ‘leadership.’ The sad socioeconomic state in the midst of abundance earned us the disparaging title of “Shit hole countries” by President Donald Trump who ironically has gone ahead to look, sound and act in the very manner people who have misled, unled, disled Africa have.
Leadership is a sacred trust. Twenty years ago I was so concerned that leadership knowledge and mindset, character and skills be acquired early that I co-founded The HuD Group to intervene at the youth level and change the African narrative. Nearly 20 years later I am still convinced that leadership development and training must start early but even earlier: with children. And it begins by calling them “cubs” who will grow into lions and not “kids” who will grow into billy goats gruff (or the trolls in that fairy tale, for that matter LOL).
While at my executive education company that bears my name, YAW PERBI, we’re intervening at the C-Level, Perbi Cubs Library Services is beginning from the very roots: with children and from our homes and schools. I’ll tell you why we launched the Lions In Training (LIT) Track at Perbi Cubs only a couple of weeks ago (although we’ve been dreaming about this for a long long time).
LIT is the collective attempt of Perbi Cubs and parents who are preparing the next generation to meet the great challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century and thrive! The LIT track is to help groom our Cubs into holistic Leaders (Lions). The Perbi Cubs reading community knows that the future of our reading Cubs is promising because of the world of opportunities opened to them every day as they open books to read. For sure, readers are leaders.
Reading, however, is necessary but not sufficient.In this light, Perbi Cubs desires to partner parents to nurture Cubs in relevant soft skills that will take them places and form them into young well-rounded leaders of great impact. Research shows that a leader is developed over the entire course of their life: from womb to tomb. It is never too late to start teaching, learning and applying leadership skills to everyday life.
*NB: YAW PERBI serves as consultant, coach and trainer for Perbi Cubs and is not involved in the day to day management of this groundbreaking social enterprise. If you require YAW PERBI’s assistance in executive coaching, management consulting or leadership training reach out to email@example.com.
So I just came on sabbatical. The best gift of week 1 was sleep–day time sleep! It was good for the body, really good. Then the next week came and its gift really took care of my soul. I got re-connected with my teenage friends from around the world, from every continent! Many of them I had lost touch with for 24 years!
THE END FROM THE BEGINNING
I started life backwards. Sort of. Usually people fool around in their teens and when they are all grown up–mature (whatever that means), prim, proper, and seasoned–become ambassadors of their countries. I became an ambassador for Ghana in my late teens, a youth ambassador, together with 50 other World Vision Youth Ambassadors from 50 different countries! As a strapping 18-year old, that experience would irreversibly enlarge my heart; and it has never been able to shrink back into being merely Akan or just Ghanaian or even only African. Never. I’ve been a global citizen since the mid-90s, or a ‘world class Christian’ as my mentor Paul Borthwick would put it, and yet at the time I did not even yet quite understand how much God is a global God on a mission, as I do today.
Connecting the dots, it might no longer come as a surprise then that a couple of decades later I’ve been to 45 countries and lived for a year or more in three, worked with the United Nations, founded and expanded The HuD Group to two dozen countries on each continent, pastored an English-speaking Chinese church in a French city (Montreal) in North America (Canada) and spent my last seven years as president of International Student Ministries Canada, empowering international students to impact the world through Jesus Christ. WVYA was my second experience as an international student, the first being as an exchange student from Achimota School in Accra to Ballard High School in Louisville (Kentucky, USA), the year prior. Being a World Vision Youth Ambassador in 1996 is a gift that keeps giving, like this last couple of weeks!
THE CHANG CHALLENGE
How I got selected as the World Vision Youth Ambassador for Ghana was a miracle, divine. I will leave that story for another time, lest I digress. WVYA was a phenomenal idea birthed by Dr. Jerry Chang, then World Vision Taiwan CEO to bring together 50 young people from 50 different countries to pursue and promote life’s common grounds, universal values. We would study conflict prevention, justice, peace, unity, reconciliation etc. and embody all of this as we constitute a choir travelling the world with this message of unity in diversity. For six weeks this group would live together as global community doing all the philosophical as well as musical studies, and then for the next six weeks tour Taiwan (the host) and other countries. 1995 was the debut year. In my year, we got to tour Taiwan, the USA (New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Seattle), Mexico and Canada. The 1997 cohort’s countries were Taiwan, Japan, USA and Guatemala (I got to do that tour too, as I’ll explain shortly below). In all, the programme run for five years–1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and with a combined finale of selected previous ambassadors in 2000–resulting in 245 youth ambassadors from 61 countries in total.
A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Claudia Sofia, who was the ’96 Colombia Ambassador in my cohort, that the 1997 year group was planning an online reunion and had requested her and me to co-facilitate. She, together with a few of them, did such a splendid preparatory job that I didn’t have much to take care of, really. The thing about Claudia and I is that we were the two out of our group of 51 in 1996 who were selected by the WVYA staff and invited back as staff interns for the following year’s programme so we are very familiar with both 1996ers and 1997ers. Claudia and I reunited about eight years ago when her family temporarily relocated to Canada where I’ve been living and serving with my family since 2009. We have not only been in touch since but have for the last five years worked together on leader development globally and in Latin America in particular through The HuD Group.
It was amazing seeing all these WVYA ’97ers on the Sunday July 5 call; and the cherry on top was the presence of Mama Chang, the 94-year old matriarch, wife of WVYA founder. Inspired by the 1997 gathering, Claudia and I got to work on a WhatsApp group to rally the 51 youth ambassadors of 1996. To cut a long story short, in the last two weeks not only have we found (with CIA, Interpol and Scotland Yard skills) 48 of the 51 Youth Ambassadors and corralled everyone into the same WhatsApp group we have also held two online Zoom reunions (July 11 and July 18), affording everyone to reminisce the past, provide a current update and begin a conversation about re-imagining the future. At the time of writing this, all the other year groups have already met except 1995 (in the offing).
WHY NOW? PANDEMIC BLESSING
The various year groups have had mini reunions here and there over the last two decades; and even in 2015 I was privileged to be part of a cross-cohort mini reunion in Prague but never have we been able to gather this many people together all at once. What’s the difference? COVID-19!! As Rodrigo (Mexico) and Li-Hoon (Singapore) put it bluntly during the first 96ers reunion call: “THANK YOU COVID!”
So why and how come this significant reunion at such a time as this? In the first place, we’re all no longer busy bigwigs criss-crossing the planet about our all-important affairs. We have every one’s attention and no one’s going anywhere. Secondly, the lockdown’s making many of us begin to feel lonely; we are seeking community, even if it’s online. Thirdly, COVID-19 and its ramifications is making us more contemplative and asking what really matters in life. We’ve been glad to pick up memories and rekindle friendships we inadvertently dropped. Fourthly, this pandemic has changed the way we think! Hitherto, we would’ve been seriously planning a ‘big’ physical reunion with all the limitations of time, air travel expense, visa drama, hosting logistics etc. How come it’s never occurred to us in 24 years to hold an ONLINE REUNION?! How hard is that?! But it just wasn’t in our mental framework. And don’t forget, in 1996 when we were teenagers and formed these relationships, smart phones didn’t exist and the internet and email had barely become available to us commoners. Our brains may have only associated each other with snail mail and a fine opportunity for stamp collection.
But the last reason may be the most important of all. The world has turned pretty ugly in the last little while with bigotry, racism and a certain brand of unrestrained nationalism. All of these have been heightened during this pandemic, coming to a head with the unjust death of George Floyd and the mass protests that it sparked all over the world on every continent, calling for racial equality and justice. As I mentioned on the WVYA ’97ers call, it seems to me that although we all knew our mission of peace, love, reconciliation and unity in the world was important back in the 1990s (after all my sweetheart Duda, for instance, took solace in playing piano among the bombs blasting in the Bosnian war), I still feel Papa Chang had so much vision that WVYA rather is an idea whose time has now come, 25 years later.
It was at WVYA that I learnt not only in song that “we teach the young our difference but look how we’re the same” but lived that reality among 50 other nationals for three months. My conclusion as a (maybe precocious) teenager was: we have much more in common than we are different. In fact, it wasn’t until about six weeks into the programme that the thought first even crossed my mind: I am Black. It hadn’t mattered. At all.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard aptly said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” As I reconnect (in order of recent rediscovery and rallying onto WhatsApp) with Claudia (Colombia), Tom (Uganda/currently domiciled in England), Isobel (Ireland/France), Nayunda (Zambia), Carolina (Hong Kong/UK), Li Hoon (Singapore), Ivyn my roommate (Sri Lanka), Henrietta (Zimbabwe/USA), Isariya (Thailand), Esther (New Zealand), Panha (Cambodia), Ginger (USA), Jeffrey (Costa Rica), Nashipai (Kenya), Joyce (Lebanon/Canada), Wilge (Bolivia/USA), Greg (Taiwan), Lara (Canada/USA), Nino (Georgia), Haime (Philippines), Nelson (Papua New Guinea), Duda (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Yayoi (Japan), Janneke (Netherlands), Arnold (Honduras/Mozambique), Anielka (Nicaragua/USA), Rodrigo (Mexico), Mirjam (Germany), Carlos (Ecuador/USA), Derese (Ethiopia/USA), Sinara (Dominican Republic/Bulgaria), Ariel (Chile), Luis (Guatemala), Pamela (India), Cornel (Romania/Canada), Annie (Malawi), Fikile (Swaziland/South Africa), Pierrick (Switzerland), Young Suk (South Korea), Simon (Bangladesh/Canada), Mpho (Botswana), Davi (Brazil/Uruguay), Romed (Tanzania), Ghassan (Palestine), Angelina (Russia), and Rytha (DR Congo), I’m also connecting the dots.
I believe Bobby Clinton was right, that “God develops a leader over the entire course of their lives” and He sure lays down “sovereign foundations,” like WVYA, for His purposes in each of us in every generation. I could never have chosen this life, but I love it! More importantly, I love the One who did and all these nationals He has brought my way! Again, my heart expanded and has never been able to shrink back since.
Guess who else was right? Papa Chang. Today we are the wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, professors, CEOs, homemakers, celebrated performers (choral, gospel, jazz, opera), members of parliament, government ministers etc. of change, “doing our little thing in our little corners” as Mama Chang exhorted on the July 11 call. But guess what? Now that COVID-19 has brought all these little embers together, who knows what worldwide bonfire may start. World, watch out! for as Victor Hugo once remarked: “You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.”
Those who know me well will tell you I have an addiction to D.V.; no, not T.V., D.V. And it’s the smartest ones who ask me, sometimes after an unsatisfactory Googling spree: “what does ‘DV’ mean?” Let me spill the beans today.
Today is not as I had planned it. Some six months ago, Anyele and I had imagined a family road trip across the North America continent (we’ve done it once), from where we live in Montreal, Quebec (East Coast) all the way to Pasadena, California (West Coast). Yes, the trip in itself would be enjoyable but the icing on the cake would be today, my graduation from Fuller Seminary with a Master of Arts in Global Leadership. Unless you are a stranger on the planet, there’s no need to tell you why we’re stuck at home in Montreal (incidentally the Coronavirus epicentre in Canada), watching my Commencement from a laptop screen instead!
I’m not complaining; just telling my version of a story almost everyone of us can relate to. Whose ‘solid’ plans haven’t changed this year due to a certain ‘invisible’ Coronavirus? Most of us had the year quite well-laid out and then… BAM! COVID-19 hit. Tell me: how are your new year plans going?
D.V., THE WISDOM OF JAMES
It is a well-functioning human being that recognizes it is a good thing to plan one’s life, year, month, day etc. It is also a well-functioning Homo sapiens that recognizes it is human to have limits–we cannot, and do not, control everything. We get to make some things happen under our control but some things also happen to us beyond our control–like the season, the weather. We are only human (ouch, why does that hurt so much?!). God is Omnipotent (all powerful); we are mini potent. God is Omniscient (all knowing); we are mini scient (how much is your science?). God is omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time, including the future); we are mono present and can only live in the now.
Besides, God is eternal, everlasting, but not so with us–we each have an ‘expiry date.’ God is God; we are not. (S)He has no limits; we do. My mentor Peter Scazzero is spot on that “embracing our limits humbles us like little else.” In fact, the word for human in my Twi language is Odasani, literally meaning, one whose days finish. James the brother of Jesus Christ exhorts then:
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:13-17, emphasis mine)
D.V. then isn’t Digital Video, Domestic Violence, Daily Value, Double Vagina, Dependent Variable, Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV lottery) or … whatever else people find when they Google it after I send their minds reeling with those two alphabets at the end of my email, SMS or social media sentences? D.V. is Deo Volente, Latin for “God willing” or “if it is the Lord’s will” as St. James lays it out so beautifully in the aforementioned Scripture.
In my few years on the planet I must say that I have found my Muslim friends take the spirit and practice of Yakubu’s Scripture above much more seriously than my Christian brothers and sisters. The former often are quick to add to their futuristic statements and plans, “Insha Allah,” God willing.
HOW I GOT HOOKED
By now you’ve probably heard me tell the story of how God miraculously saved my life during this fatal car accident (picture above) on 21st July, 2008 on the Yamoussoukro-Abidjan highway in Cote d’Ivoire while serving with the United Nations Operation there. What you most likely don’t know is that I clearly bouncing up and down in my military boots as I enthusiastically went to our Radio Room at our base in Bouaké (about the middle of the country) that crisp morning and confidently said to the operator on duty in Ga (the language of the people of Accra; my wife Anyele’s tribe), the equivalent of: “We are off to Abidjan. We will be back.”
No. “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will…”I’m getting goosebumps even right now recalling my shock the moment I realized that out of the three of us who left our U.N. hospital base that morning, two of us never returned as they died in the said car crush en route to Abidjan and even I did not come back the same man who left.
Since then, I have become an extreme addict to ‘D.V.’, humbly attaching it to virtually every futuristic statement and plan I make, sometimes to the chagrin of others who haven’t died like me before. For me it isn’t only the right thing to do because Scripture says so; I’ve experienced the wisdom and reality of it several times, the epitome being July 21, 2008. To me then, to not add ‘D.V.’ to my plans is sin (James 4:17).
EVEN ROYALS ARE NOT EXEMPT
Arthur W. Pink tells a D.V. story from his perspective in his book, The Sovereignty of God, something that occurred twenty years prior:
“Queen Victoria was dead, and the date for the coronation of her eldest son, Edward, had been set for April 1902. In all the announcements which were sent out, two little letters were omitted, D. V.-Deo Volente: God willing. Plans were made and all arrangements completed for the most imposing celebrations that England had ever witnessed. Kings and emperors from all parts of the earth had received invitations to attend the royal ceremony. The Princes proclamations were printed and displayed, but, so far as the writer is aware, the letters D. V. were not found on a single one of them. A most imposing program had been arranged, and the late Queen’s eldest son was to be crowned Edward the Seventh at Westminster Abbey at a certain hour on a fixed day. And then God intervened, and all mans plans were frustrated. A still small voice was heard to say, “You have reckoned without Me,” and Prince Edward was stricken down with appendicitis, and his coronation postponed for months!”
A NOTE TO ONE WHOSE DAYS FINISH
The point is not that God is some Supreme Heavenly Killjoy, eagerly looking out for whose parade He can rain on today or tomorrow but rather that we accept we are only human and humbly add ‘D.V.‘ to our plans, great or small, as long as they extend beyond this very second. Deo Volente. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” My days haven’t ended (yet) but my Commencement plans surely have.