This month I clocked eight years as president and CEO of a strategic Canadian charity in the international education space. I was headhunted for the role and felt privileged to be the first ever black president of our almost 40 years old organization. We provide hospitality, faith exploration opportunities and leadership development for the over half a million international students in Canada to be empowered to impact the world. I’ve had the privilege of leading about 90 incredible staff across 23 cities from coast to coast–Canada is the second widest country on earth after Russia–and oh yes, we have a staff family serving in Australia too.
SO WHY ARE YOU LEAVING?
In the first couple of years under my leadership, we grew by about 70% (short of my 100% goal) in new staff and new fields, expanding into about a dozen new cities, extending coast to coast for the first time in the organization’s history. There’ve been many more exciting things that have happened, including seeing such a rich diversification of our staff to about 15 nationalities. One of my greatest joys has been to see former international students becoming leaders of our work in cities, regionally and even in senior leadership. Every quarter we chronicle story upon story of incredible impact on students/scholars by staff and volunteers and impact of our students and alumni around the world, from Australia to Zimbabwe! We’ve seen an organization little known organization gain significant recognition in the international education space in Canada and abroad. Together with the leaders and staff, we worked to move organizational health from OK to healthy to flourishing (as independently adjudged by a third party firm). When I hear of CEO versus board tussles I cringe and thank God that this has been far from my experience. I’ve had such a congenial and synergistic relationship with the board, which has rotated through four chairpersons over the period I’ve been president.
If everything is going as well as I claim, then why am I leaving? My work is done! I believe every leader has a particular purpose to a particular people in a particular place for a particular period and when your work is done, you pack up and go, leaving the place and people better than you found them. I had initially been approached for this role in late 2012 and had laughed it off, especially since I was not only running The HuD Group, which had just received charitable status in Canada, but was also doubling as interim pastor for the Montreal Chinese Alliance Grace Church. Eventually I did take the five-hour flight from Montreal to Calgary to interview with the board. When Anyele and I prayerfully decided to make some adjustments and finally accept the board’s offer, I specifically stated that I planned to do this presidency for three to five years. In fact, I ensured it was clearly spelt out in the documentation. Well, guess what? It’s been three plus five years. It’s time to go!
MUSIC AND DANCING WITH GRAPHS
It is time to leave because my particular purpose to a particular people in this particular place for this particular period is done. As a wise saying in Africa goes, you leave the dance floor while people are still enjoying your dance. What Africans say so well idiomatically, Westerners tend to express graphically. So below is a pictorial illustration of what I’m saying.
While the above graph refers to the life cycle of any organization per se, it is similar to the organizational leader’s cycle too. Don’t wait to peak, let alone to get into decline and eventual death. That is not great for your leadership but even worse, not good for an organization you supposedly believe in (and even love). Just before the peak is when you collaborate with the ‘DJ’ (stakeholders) to start another song i.e. launch another initiative, start a new programme, launch a new organization etc. Just before the peak is when your dance is still being enjoyed so you either start another song or gracefully leave the dance floor!
By the time one hits the peak itself, you are stretching it. Folks are beginning to get tired of your moves. After the peak, it’s all downhill, babe! And no matter how hard you dance (in spite of how very tired you might be) no one’s excited anymore. Not only have eyes started rolling all the way into the head, some may even have begun yawning by now. Bored. Yet, some leaders still don’t get it! Whether it’s because of the adrenaline rush on the dash floor or the perks of the position, they keep dancing and dancing and dancing, while they keep losing the audience until the music is over! Some even keep dancing after the music is over, dancing to the music in their heads. It’s a fight together them off the dance floor! If you don’t leave the dance floor while people are still enjoying your dance, at least leave while the music is still playing! Worst case scenario, far from ideal, leave when the music is done.
A POLITICAL CONCLUSION
Knowing when to leave the dance floor is more of an art than a science; it’s a soft thing akin to discernment and intuition. The greatest leaders like Nelson Mandela have it; they just know. When everyone was urging Madiba to do a bonafide and very welcome second term in office as South Africa’s first black president who had had a good run, he declined. “No, please.” Nelson Mandela left the dance floor while we were all not only still enjoying his dance, we were urging him on for more moves!
Knowing very well that some leaders wouldn’t have what it takes to leave the dance floor even when it’s obvious, many spheres of society have term limits on executive roles. Most political jurisdictions have a maximum of two four-year terms. As an African, I’ve been embarrassed by how many of our leaders haven’t had what it takes to gracefully leave the dance floor while we were still enjoying their dance. Mandela, unfortunately, is more of an exception than the rule. As a former United Nations peacekeeping soldier, I’ve tasted first hand the horror of the ravages of civil strife and war when leaders don’t want to leave the dance floor even after the music is over. I hate it!
I join those concerned about the “pandemic of ‘third terminism‘” in Africa, including in the West African country I served in as a U.N. Peacekeeper from June 2008 for a year and lost two of my medical colleagues to death. Oxford defines ‘third terminism’ as the phenomenon of leaders seeking to break constitutional term limits—usually set at two terms in office—to secure a third term in office. The phrase has also been used more broadly to refer to leaders who refuse to leave power. This isn’t uniquely African; it is simply human. Recently, Putin has done it in the east and in the west, Trump did not want to leave the floor when his music was over. In fact, it was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘third terminism’ (he won, even a fourth!) and the popular fallout about the concept of a long-term president that led to the ratification of the 22nd amendment in 1951 that “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice…”
According to the National Constitution Centre, “Franklin Roosevelt wasn’t even the first Roosevelt to seek a third term in the White House. His distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, ran unsuccessfully as a third-party candidate in 1912, after declining to run in 1908. President Ulysses S. Grant also sought a third term in 1880, but he lacked enough party support to get a nomination.”
George Washington, the first U.S. president, had set the two four-year terms maximum precedent in 1796 when he declined a third term. In 1799, a friend urged Washington to come out of retirement to run for a third term. But as I earlier asserted, the greatest leaders know when to leave the dance floor–and stay off! Washington’s voluntary decision to decline a third term, like Mandela’s voluntary decision to decline a second, was apparently seen by many people as a safeguard against the type of tyrannical power yielded by the British crown during the Colonial era.
In my next article, I shall share about how to leave the dance floor in grand style (some call it ‘succession management’). In the mean time, you, my friend, now know when to leave the dance floor–at best when people are still enjoying your dance; or at least, while the music is still playing!
It is always an honour to get to name someone or something, especially a seventh biological child. The historic and prophet names of the other children have been explained in the past here.
Our seventh, and final, child was born on March 2, 2021 at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, Canada. In accordance with our Akan (Yaw’s) and Ga (Anyele’s) traditions of Ghana, we named him on the eighth day, the same day of his birth, Tuesday, a week later. Like all his siblings before, the 3.895kg champion, whose 54cm height excited the obstetric staff because it’s over the 97th percentile, has been given a name pregnant with historic and prophetic meaning. And his name shall be called NII AJORWOR AMPA PERBI. Here’s what each given name means:
All the older six siblings are called Nana, an Akan title meaning prince(ss) and also signifying God as King. Nii is the Ga equivalent of Nana.
Over a dozen years ago, with inspiration from the life of the patriarch Abraham we felt called out of Ghana: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” So we did, leaving a great life in Ghana to start from scratch in Canada. The commission came with a commiserate blessing though: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
It’s been nearly a decade-and-a-half since our being called and sent forth and we feel we’ve really and truly been blessed by the LORD in every sphere of life–physically, spiritually, socially and academically (which was the original door open in Canada). Ajorwor means “we’ve been blessed” or in context, “God has blessed us!”
And we are blessed not just qualitatively but quantitatively too! We had one child at the time of the promise, now we have seven times the number of children! Every child is a blessing, a reward, a heritage from the LORD and an arrow for waging life’s battles and extending the glory of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Indeed our quiver is full, and the Psalmist says we are blessed for having a quiver full of arrows!
Ampa is the baby’s maternal grandfather. When we felt it would be appropriate to name our last child after this noble man we didn’t know Nii Ajorwor would be born so close to Ghana’s Independence Day, March 6. You will soon understand the significance of this. Initially called Kwame Patterson, great grandpa changed his name to Nii Ampa Sowa. He left to study Industrial Management at Leeds Polytechnic, United Kingdom, in 1958, a year after Ghana’s independence from British colonial rule.
Asked by his cousin Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, one of the ‘Big Six‘ founders of Ghana, to come back to help him run his Ministry (Foreign Affairs), he returned to Ghana and became his Personal Assistant in 1960. In 1963 when Ako-Adjei was arrested in a political frame-up, Anyele’s grandfather was arrested too. He was released from Usher Fort and Nsawam prisons after six months detention. He left the civil service.
In 1965, he joined Parkinson Heward (builders of the Tema industrial municipaity) as a bookkeeper. In February 1966, when there was the coup d’etat by the National Liberation Council that ousted Kwame Nkrumah’s government, Parkinson Heward was asked to leave the country. He vowed never to join politics again… hence Anyele’s dad’s aversion to politics! Nii Ampa Sowa passed away in 1980, while Anyele’s dad was pursuing his graduate studies in Canada, where Anyele was born.
Interestingly, Ajorwor (“we are blessed”/”we’ve been blessed” in Ga) combined with Ampa (“true” in Akan), Ajorwor Ampa means “truly blessed!” So we have been blessed indeed; but blessing is a mountain with no peak. There’s so much more where these blessings came from and we trust that Nii Ajorwor not only represents blessings past but is a divine sign and a symbol for many more blessings to come to our Perbi family and through us, to all nations! Welcome, Nii Ajorwor Ampa Perbi! Akwaaba!
There is no talk of Black History without faith, especially the Christian faith. PBS recently released a fascinating Henry Louis Gates Jr. documentary on the Black Church. What some dubious people tried to oppress and suppress black people with became the very thing that liberated us and is now giving us a global leading edge.
Africa is the most Christian continent in the world today. The year 2018 was the first in history where there were more Christians in Africa than on any other continent in the entire world! (Johnson 2018) THIS IS A BIG DEAL!—this is a one-thousand year record held by Europe that has been broken by Africa in our lifetime. That makes me super excited about Black History Month this year because history is being made right now. As you read this, a number of continental Africans and those of African descent in the diaspora have synergized to birth a new network known as Send Africa to promote further faith formation among ‘unreached people groups’ around the world.
At the formal launch of this Send Africa Network online on February 24-25 during this 2021 Black History Month, my Kenyan friend, Sam Ngugi, and I will be launching a ground-breaking book entitled Africa to the Rest to celebrate this huge feat of Africa becoming a leading global force of faith to the rest of the world. This book is to “celebrate this momentous occasion in world history that has been inadequately highlighted by mainstream missions and missions. It traces some of God’s goodness to Africa in the Bible and throughout history until now to make clear that Africa and Africans have been central to God’s missional purposes; not an afterthought.” You may register for the Send Africa Summit here.
CAPTURED & DISTORTED HISTORY
Of course Africa features in the Bible from start to finish. There were actually two black guys (among the five) that played hands on the apostle Paul and commissioned him on his missionary journeys (Acts 13). Africa is the cradle of monasteries and ecumenicsm. The term Trinity came from Tertullian the Tunisian. St. Augustine was from Algeria, and not a European as we were made to believe growing up in Africa.
As Sam and I state in our book, “People consider Christianity as the white man’s religion to oppress the African due to the last 500 years of Euro-American missionary activity mixed with colonialism without realizing that the first 500 years A.D., Africa was so synonymous with Christianity that one of the most common terms for Christians in Arabic sources is afariqa–indicating a significant degree to which “Christian” and “African” were synonymous concepts (Merrills 2004, 303).”
In fact, the subtitle of our book is “from mission field to mission force (again)“ because Africa(ns) as a mission force first impacted Europe with the Gospel! That notion that Africa first evangelized Europe is the essence of Thomas Oden’s book titled How Africa Shaped the European Mind. “My core hypothesis,” Oden himself says, “is that much intellectual history flowed south to north: from Mumidia to Sicily to France and Italy. It flowed from the Nile to the Euphrates and the Danube. It flowed from Pelusium to Gaza to Cappadocia. …There is ample evidence available that the seeds of African orthodoxy have been lifted by high winds to distant northern climes. Only much later have they returned to Africa in a Western guise.”
Only a century ago, at a world missionary conference in Edinburgh, not only was there no continental African there as a delegate, we were described as “heathen” in need of being saved. Today there are more Anglicans in Kenya than in England. At the time, the continent had 9 million Christians while Europe was home to 406 million. Today, Africa has over 630 million Christians, a clear 30 million more than Latin America in second place with Europe in third place with 571 million Christians. And it’s not a nine-day wonder, for by 2050 (Deo volente), there will likely be more Christians in Africa (1.25 billion) than in the next two continents combined! (Johnson 2018)
It is good to know that Africa leads the world in something. There are churches that began in Africa and are in 198 countries now. The largest congregations in Europe are pastored by Africans, like Sunday Adelaja’s in Kieve, Ukraine. The most multinational congregation in the world—108 nationalities—was founded by and pastored by my good friend and mentor in Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Sam Owusu. I could give you a list of about 10 global mission organizations–including the Navigators, SIM, Langham Partners and SIL–currently led by Africans!
Why is all this important? For many reasons but three will suffice for now. First, black people have been part and parcel, even central, to the purpose and mission of God unlike others have tried to make us think. We are equally made in the image and likeness of God as anyone else. We ought to rejoice and while not bragging about ourselves, ‘make our boast in the LORD.’
Secondly, the Christian faith is authentically African. As one scholar put it, Christianity is a beggar looking for clothes in whatever culture it goes into. The fact that it was captured by Europeans and Americans and tailored as a tool of oppression of blacks in slavery, colonialism etc. is simply not right (not the authentic Christian faith) and doesn’t make the faith the preserve of the white man either.
Finally, the business world and other sectors in Africa that are trying to make a mark on the world stage could learn a thing or two from the African Church that leads the world in faith today, hands down.
THE FUTURE HAS COME
I come from a long and rich family history of black (hi)story tellers. My grandfather was an emeritus professor of ethnomusicology and my mother is a professor of history with a specialization in the slave trade. I feel privileged to take my turn to tell stories of African leadership, and in this particular case, leadership in faith, church and missiology.
The assassinated Congolese nationalist leader, luminary and first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, must be smiling in his grave that the day he prophesied is here: “The day will come when history will speak. But it will not be the history which will be taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations… Africa will write its own history and in both north and south it will be a history of glory and dignity.” The day has come!
For those of no faith and saying to themselves “who cares if Africa is the most Christian continent?” because we’re yet to see it tell on our socioeconomic indicators or the millennium development goals, just you wait. Works soon follow faith. Unless it’s not true faith; because faith without works is dead.
Johnson, Todd M., Gina A. Zurlo, Albert W. Hickman, and Peter F. Crossing. “Christianity 2018: More African Christians and Counting Martyrs.” International Bulletin of Mission Research 42, no. 1 (January 2018): 20. doi:10.1177/2396939317739833.
Merrills, A. (Ed.). (2004). Vandals, Romans and Berbers: New Perspectives on Late Antique North Africa (1st ed.). Routledge, 303. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315235127
Oden, Thomas. 2007. How Africa Shaped the European Mind, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, p.71.
Perbi, Yaw & Sam Ngugi. 2021. Africa to the Rest: from mission field to mission force (again). Forthcoming. Xulon Press.
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.
I have wanted to talk about this for months–how to prevent unnecessary hurt from unmet expectations–but last week an incident happened with one of my associates that really catalyzed me to share this urgently. So let’s talk about unmet expectations.
Whether it’s between spouses, parent and child, boss and workers or even among co-workers, family folk and church members, this is quite a common occurrence. This is particularly so African, Chinese, Japanese and Korean cultures that employ indirect communication. If you’re like me, you’ve probably been hurt before by unmet expectations. In fact, sometimes we don’t even realize we had an expectation until it was not met!
Mark Twain once said, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” We tend to have expectations that are unconscious, unrealistic, unspoken and unagreed upon. Let me share how you can flip these four things around and protect your heart against heartbreaks from unmet expectations. I owe this life-saving lesson from my New Yorkan mentors, Pete and Geri Scazzero.s
THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
How do you know your expectations are valid or not? As hard-to-take as this may seem, when the expectation is unconscious it is invalid. In fact, if even we don’t even know we have them until we are disappointed how on earth is the other person supposed to know and meet it? When it is unrealistic it is invalid as well. Even if it is reasonable and we are conscious of it but it has not been articulated, it is still invalid. The common lame excuse we tend to give is, “Oh, but they should know?!”
In the event that our expectations meet all the above three criteria–conscious, realistic, spoken–but the other party has not agreed to them, they are still invalid. While this may seem very Western, I have learnt as an African-Canadian that it is never wise to assume agreement!
Of course, important caveats include marriage (where the vows already spoken have created certain clear expectations like fidelity), parent-child relationships (expectation of chores) and employer-employee dynamics where expectations have been clearly laid out in contracts and policy and supposedly read and accented to. Even in these relationships with broad-stroke expectations, situations occur that demand clarifying expectations further.
WHAT TO DO TO FORESTALL HEARTBREAKS
To prevent heartbreaks from unmet expectations, ensure your expectations are:
(1) Conscious: I am aware of my expectation.
(2) Realistic: I have evidence to support that the expectation is reasonable in the sense that the other is able and willing.
(3) Spoken: I have expressed the expectation clearly.
(4) Agreed Upon: The other person has agreed to the expectation by saying “yes.”
I would highly recommend you take the Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Relationships course for a full meal and good skill-building in this area they call Stop Mind Reading and Clarifying Expectations.
WHAT TO DO WHEN HURT HAPPENS
In the event that hurt still happens from unmet expectations, valid or not, REFRAMING the painful experience is everything. As John Maxwell renders it in the Law of Pain, “good management of bad experiences can lead to growth.” Reframe the painful experience as follows (modified from a Maxwell process):
a) Define the problem –> The painful situation I need to process right now is…
b) Understand your emotion –> My feelings about this are…
c) Articulate the lesson –> My lessons in is this are…
d) Identify a desired change –> The changes I want to effect are…
e) Brainstorm numerous pathways –> The ways out are…
f) Receive others’ input –> What I’m learning from others is…
g) Implement a course of action –> My course of action is 1. Embrace the reality of pain 2. Learn my lesson(s) 3. Share my lessons 4. Change a. ______ b. ______ c. ______ d. _____.
You know what they say happens when you assume: you make an ass of u and me. An expectation is only valid when it is mutually agreed upon. Let’s do less heart damage by providing and demanding clear expectations of others. Let’s ensure in all our relationships that our expectations are conscious, realistic, articulated and agreed upon. And when things fall through the cracks and we feel the sting of pain from unmet expectations, let’s reframe the experience well so we can still grow and flourish.
“The novel coronavirus is not just something for leaders to ”get through” for a few days or weeks. Instead, we need to treat Covid-19 as an economic and cultural blizzard, winter, and beginning of a “little ice age”—a once-in-a-lifetime change that is likely to affect our lives and organizations for years,” says Andy Crouch et al. I concur.
Just before Christmas 2020 my lawyer-banker friend and fellow John Maxwell Certified Trainer/Coach, Samuel Anim Esq., asked that I join him do an autopsy of the pandemic year 2020 live on Facebook/Youtube to draw leadership lessons. I was honoured and humbled. Honoured because it is a privilege to offer thought leadership and there is a myriad of leadership experts to choose from. I was humbled because not only do I not know all the lessons from Covid-19, I am still evaluating and learning from what I would perhaps call “the strangest year of my life.”
Nevertheless I managed to throw a few of my reflections together and gave it a funny title. Since around that time of the year there is the traditional Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols I thought of making this a Festival of Nine Lessons & Corona. Certainly there are more than nine leadership lessons from this Coronavirus pandemic year but here are some:
1. EMBRACE PARADOX
Perhaps no one and nothing captures the paradox of 2020 like Charles Dickens and his classic phrase, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” (from A Tale of Two Cities). This same 2020 year, over 1.67 million have died and 42.6 million have recovered. You may have lost someone to COVID-19 but you are alive. I’ve been stuck at home but I’ve had the longest unbroken quality bonding time with my family ever! We lost our family’s physical library services business but gained online business five times the physical capacity. Whole old industries, like aviation, have been decimated but whole new industries have emerged and are booming like Zoom. 2020 has been catastrophic yet catalytic.
Welcome to leadership. Embrace paradox. Think of the paradox of a servant leader, as a prime example of leadership paradox. True leadership is almost always straddling two seemingly opposing worlds, something Bob Fryling describes as “the leadership ellipse” because an ellipse “is defined by two distinctly different focal points that are of equal importance. One point is not inferior to the other, and both are needed if there is to be an ellipse.” I previously blogged about this in more detail here.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” ― Charles Dickens, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’
If leadership has always been about managing the tension of tasks or people, money or mission, the present or the future, inner spiritual longings and the outward needs of the group we lead, being and doing, community and cause, truth-telling and putting the right spin on things, to live in the world without being of the world, to be faithful or fruitful etc. then all of these have been put on steroids in a para and post-Covid world.
I have said before and I repeat: “the degree to which one is able to be comfortable with and live, love and lead well in the tension of this and that, yin and yang, determines their ultimate leadership success or otherwise. From my little experience and research, the best leaders in the world are those who are not only able to get comfortable with being uncomfortable living in such tensions but mastered the art of dextrously handling both well.” The post-Covid world leaves us no choice. Embrace paradox or die.
2. MAINTAIN THE MISSION, MUTATE THE MEANS
You and yours don’t want to end up like the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras. It was initially built in 1930 and reconstructed in 1996 to withstand tough weather conditions, including hurricanes. Well, two years later, in 1998, the bridge did prove its mettle, withstanding the category five storm, Hurricane Mitch, that devastated Honduras. Buildings were destroyed and roads wiped out but the bridge survived in near perfect condition. The only problem was that there were no roads for it to connect to anymore (roads wiped out at both ends) and the strong winds of the hurricane had caused the river to carve out an entirely new path that no longer ran under the bridge!
Think about it: a bridge connecting to nowhere and no one; and over nothing! If a bridge is no longer a way or a means to a desired end, then what is it? Similarly, if your pre-Covid means are no longer effective post-Covid as ways to deliver your mission, then of what use are they?
You certainly don’t want to lose sight of your vision or your grip on your mission but when it comes to your strategies, your ways and means to accomplish your mission, you don’t ever want to be dogmatic about that. In matters of mission, be as solid as a rock; but regarding the means flow like a river.
THE OTHER SEVEN LESSONS
3. Global community is the real deal context of leadership
4. Capitalize on era of Business without Borders
5. Heed the Harm to our House (Earth)
6. Inequities, Inequalities, Integrity-lessness will be exposed with time
7. Reflective lifestyle is the must-have rhythm of leadership
8. Become and raise agile “VUCA Prime” Leaders (VUCA is an acronym for Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous)
9. HOPE is the real vaccine.
For further details of each lesson, watch the full video here.
If there is any one of these nine Covid-19 life and leadership lessons you need to grow in for a more successful 2021 you’re in good company. Join me. Come to the growth table. Join the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth January journey in the form of a mastermind group of just 15 high level executives. Register right now here. The way COVID-19 has fundamentally changed our world means we all need to radically change the way we do life and leadership too. And that requires new growth. Will you grow or die?
Earlier in the last quarter of the year I shared my faith-based Covid-19 reflections vis-a-vis Christian mission with pastors and church leaders here.
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.
As you already might know I am the Global CEO of The HuD Group, a faith-based leader development organization that originated from Ghana but now has presence in over 20 countries of the world, on all six continents.
For the last four years, every November we have hosted a HuD CEOs Confab. In 2016 we had two separate CEO gatherings in Accra, Ghana and Montreal, Canada. This was followed by the 2017 Confab in Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt. In 2018 we were in Dubai. Last year, 2019, we met in Abidjan and Bouake, in the Francophone West African nation of La Cote d’Ivoire. In 2020 we had planned a special Confab with our spouses and were supposed to be in Israel but here we are, thanks to COVID-19!
Today was Day 1 of our annual Confab. We met on Zoom. The blessing of that though is that nearly EVERYONE was able to show up (with most spouses present) because there was no hustle getting time off regular work, no financial or ticketing challenges and above all no visa headaches!
Thanks to modern technology, amidst a global pandemic we joined the call from eastern and western Canada, USA, Nepal, Switzerland, Uganda, Ghana, Mexico, Germany, The Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Guatemala, Somalia and Australia. A few of us should join from Nigeria, Liberia, Pakistan and Colombia in the coming days, DV.
Our theme is “LEADING OUT OF THE STRENGTH OF OUR MARRIAGES: The Place of Fulfilling Emotional Needs” and we have an AMAZING Canadian couple to lead us into that.
THE KRAEMER ICING ON THE CAKE
Gerry and Kathy both grew up in Western Canada where they committed their lives to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord during their adolescent years. Immediately after marrying in 1981, God called them in a clear and dramatic fashion to serve Him in the French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada. Ever since, they have been in full-time Christian ministry together, including five years with Campus Crusade for Christ (evangelism and discipleship), 22 years of pastoral ministry and six years as the chaplain of the Montreal Alouettes professional football team.
In 2007, “the gates of hell” unleashed a serious of attacks on the Kraemer’s marriage and they plummeted to the brink of divorce. In the summer of 2008, during a week of intensive counselling with Larry & Lorrie Russell at the SHM Retreat Center in Ontario, Canada, God completely healed, restored and transformed their marriage. Upon returning home, they immediately began to share the amazing story of the miracle of the “resurrection of their marriage” to individuals and groups in their entourage…and God used their story to touch, encourage and heal marriages around them.
The opportunities continued to increase so dramatically that they resigned from their pastoral position in the fall of 2010 in order to dedicate themselves to a full-time ministry of speaking (prevention) and counselling (crisis intervention) to help couples. Today, they speak and teach together at conferences, Bible Camps, retreats, banquets and Bible Schools in both English and French, sharing with thousands of people the tools that can help them experience a healthy and flourishing marriage. Their honesty, practicality and humor make them easy to listen to and the wisdom of their teaching is hard to forget.
Gerry and Kathy reside in Terrebonne, Quebec and they are the parents of three young adults: Timothy, Jessica and Rebecca. In their spare time they enjoy golf, tennis, traveling and spoiling their grandchildren both in Canada and the USA!
Wow! What a big blessing amidst the Covid curse. Oh! And today happens to be U.S. Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving!