The story is told of a man who traveled from a developing country to a more economically advanced one in search of a better life. Upon arrival, the man was shocked to find that no one managed the local milk shop. Customers would take what they needed from the refrigerator, leave the exact amount of money for their purchase, and be on their way. Neither the milk nor the money was under lock and key. This would never happen in my country, he thought.
The only thing that surprised the man more than the honor system of the unmanned milk dispensary was the price of the product. The milk was cheaper here, even though his country had more milking cows than people—and in turn produced more milk. How could this be? Then it finally hit him. The higher price at home included the additional costs of dishonesty and thievery.
In his country, locks would be purchased for the refrigerator and money box. A worker would be hired to conduct the transactions. Another person or two would be hired as security, in addition to needing expensive CCTV cameras. This is not to mention the added logistical and utility costs from inefficient or unreliable systems. It all adds up, reflected in the price of a single bottle of milk.
What the society of the man’s home country lacked in cultural values, it paid dearly in economic value—in other words, a higher cost of living than a country with a higher standard of living.
The commercial cost of values
What makes a nation great and strong, ultimately, is its people and their values. Societal values determine what people consider good or important, and this informs how they act. If we consider present-day Ghana in this context, we are likely to be disappointed.
Money and material possessions. Greed and selfishness. These values permeate our society. So I thought it wise to speak to the issue of values in terms of commercial costs. My hope is that even those who place money and materialism and personal gain above all else—including the common societal values espoused in our national anthem and pledge—will realize that real values, such as service and integrity, still affect their bottom line. They will make more money with them, than without.
Consider that Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men and most successful investors, advises leaders to look for three things when assessing job candidates: intelligence, initiative, and integrity—but to weigh integrity above all else. If a worker lacks the latter trait, Buffet says, “the first two will kill you. Because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.”
It is with near-total trust that we poke an opaque tin of milk and pour out its content without a second thought. We’ve got to trust the regulator, trust the manufacturer, and trust the entire supply chain. A friend and former senior manager in a company that produces perishables once told me that the company would destroy whole batches of product at the slightest hint of compromised quality, because the negative cost of their brand being brought into disrepute would be much greater in the long run than the temporary loss of the thousands of dollars flushed down the drain by an honest act.
Values at the core of a nation
Little drops of values at the individual, family, organization, and sector levels of a society eventually coalesce to make a mighty nation. This is how I have long thought of Ghana. As a mighty nation, rich in social and cultural values to emulate.
I grew up in the early 1990s, when neighboring countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone were decimated by war. Hordes of refugees made their way into Ghana. As a World Vision Youth Ambassador, I toured refugee sites in the country with donors, and the tentative nature of life in tents made me tear up. I have always been grateful to God that Ghana in my life has been an island of peace in a sea of strife.
But bombs and bullets are not the only way to destroy a country. Rather than exploding in external violence, a society can implode through internal valuelessness. I fear Ghana is on this path. I see it all around. We have swung from one extreme to another in a few generations. My grandfather cared little about money or material possessions. He was not alone. How often can we say such things now?
Too often, money and materialism seem to the motivation for the world around us, even at the peril of our lives and at the cost of future generations. Look no further than the dastardly acts of inordinate illegal mining (galamsey), stinky corruption in politics and public service, brazen cheating in exams, rampant illegal practices which combine modern internet-based fraud with African traditionalist rituals (sakawa), food sellers using dirty (waste) water to cook, changing expiry dates on expired medicine or outrightly selling fake medicine… need I go on?
Building the Ghana we want, rooted in values that matter
I worry that in our hurry to catch up with the rest of the industrialized world, we are focusing on infrastructure, industry, and education without a values-based foundation. For instance, STEM education is being touted as the panacea for the challenges we face. But what use is STEM without roots? STEM or any other body of knowledge must grow from a deeply rooted network of shared social and cultural values and norms. Otherwise, patients needlessly die, shoddy infrastructure inadvertently collapses, common funds are looted, and justice is denied.
Ghana is at a crossroads, not just economically, but also culturally. There is a commercial cost to values that must be recognized and incorporated into the policies needed to set Ghana on a more prosperous economic course. Thankfully, influential Ghanaians are talking about it.
Earlier this year, the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), which is based in Accra and was founded by Dr. K.Y. Amoako, a Ghanaian, organized a retreat at at the Peduase Valley Resort for more than 50 people representing various civic and political stakeholder groups and organizations in Ghana. The topic of conversation was a new initiative that is set to launch officially in the coming days: the Compact for Ghana’s Political and Economic Transformation.
A roadmap for a stronger democracy and lasting economic prosperity, the Compact is a hopeful approach because it is rooted in strengthening our common values. I attended the Peduase Valley retreat, and values featured heavily in the discussion. It was stressed that the quest for Ghana’s economic and political transformation is meaningless unless it is underpinned by a radical shift in our mindset and values.
Indeed, the discussion focused on identifying values we can glean from the national anthem, the pledge, and the lyrics of “Yɛn Ara Asaase Ni,” written almost a century ago by Dr. Ephraim Amu, one of the fathers of our nation. From the conversation, values such as honesty, selflessness, hard work, and loyalty stood out.
Such discussions must continue in Ghana. Particularly, the all-binding value of integrity needs to be ingrained in every stratum and segment of our national life if we are to realize a greater Ghana, rooted in values that matter rather than tarnished by ones that do not.
Although less dramatic, a definite way to destroy Ghana without bombs or bullets is by eroding the very values that birthed the nation, slowly but surely. “Whether or not this nation prospers,” goes the resounding anthem from Dr. Amu, “clearly depends on the character of the citizens of the nation.”
Dr. Yaw Perbi has practiced medicine in both his home country, Ghana, and with the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire as a U.N. peacekeeper. He is the founder and Global CEO of The HuD Group, inspiring holistic emerging leadership development in 25 countries on all continents. He is co-founder of PerbiCubs, an edtech company impacting over 8,000 children in Ghana. Yaw is a Fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative as well as the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Kathleen Addy is the Republic of Ghana’s National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) chairperson, appointed in 2022 by the president of the Republic from her Deputy Chair of the Commission role. Ms. Addy had been in charge of Finance and Administration since 2017. Kathleen is highly regarded as a civic activist with particular interest in women’s empowerment as well as accountable and responsive governance, and has supported different civil society groups fighting for good governance and women’s rights in Ghana.
She was once upon a time a Research and Communications Officer at the Center for Policy Analysis focusing on Women’s Economic Empowerment and was the Afrobarometer Communications Manager at the Center for Democratic Development. Kathleen holds a first degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Communications from the University of Ghana, Legon. She is also an alumna of Achimota School and Holy Child School. In her role as a Chairperson of the NCCE, Ms. Addy brings her expertise and vast experience in the development sector, as well as her passion and drive to bear on the work of the commission.
Gravitas was one of the ancient Roman virtues that denoted “seriousness.” It is also translated variously as weight, dignity, and importance and connotes restraint and moral rigour. It also conveys a sense of responsibility and commitment to the task. Kathleen’s got gravitas. Meanwhile cīvīlitās, the feminine Latin word that speaks to politics and the art/practice of government, also connotes courteousness, politeness, dignity, civility, moderation, and restraint. Not only has Lady Kathy got all these, she has a passion to see every Ghanaian born of a woman possess these, and in abundance too, hence her passion for civic education.
INTEGRITY AND A NEW GHANA
At the just-held Live2Lead conference, the First Lady of Civilitas began her submissions with a chuckle, as she noted with candour how the public sector from which she hails has become the poster child for lack of integrity. She herself shared how coming from think tanks and CSOs, she got a culture shock when she first landed in the public service in 2017. “A lot of people don’t even know what the wrong thing is because wrong has been normalized,” she asserted.
But she ended with a ROAR. By the time she had shared how ‘friends and family’ who expected favours like getting an upper hand in the commission’s hiring had had a rude shock that she only gave them enough support to follow due process, the audience would doff their hats for such a principled public sector leader. We trust that the many public sector folks sponsored to attend were inspired to also lead with integrity, right in the corner where they are.
Live2Lead Ghana was wildly successful. We give glory to God. The plan to strategically rope in the public sector was a good idea and well-executed. We are grateful to all our corporate partners whose generous sponsorship made this possible, and the participation of several emerging leaders from our schools and universities. The dozen or so organizations and companies who ensured 10 or more of their leaders were present are true patrons of a Ghana that can be lead in integrity for the common good. One bank sponsored nearly 60 of their leaders, while another invested in 40 of theirs. Poco a poco, intentionality about leadership development will become a culture that rewires our nation for growth, success and significance.
God bless our homeland Ghana with gravitas for civilitas, and make our nation great and strong.
Everyone calls him “Uncle” without even thinking twice about it. Whether young enough to be their son or old enough to be their grandpa, “Uncle” is everyone’s uncle. A voice of reason, counsel in season, James Ebo Whyte, affectionately known nationwide as “Uncle Ebo” is the people’s uncle, hands down.
Mr. James Ebo Whyte is the CEO, heart and brain behind Roverman Productions. He is nationally acknowledged as an accomplished, award-winning playwright and highly sought-after motivational speaker. James Ebo Whyte constantly challenges Ghanaians to think more about the world they live in and the contribution they make to it. Just the day before the October 7, 2022 Live2Lead conference at which he was speaking, he unveiled to his drama troupe his 51st play in fourteen years! A hearty congratulations to the prolific playwright.
INTEGRITY IN THE ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
At Live2Lead 2022, Uncle Ebo was the only gentleman among three distinguished leading ladies from the corporate and entrepreneurship spaces as well as the public sector. Their first job was to respond to the submissions on “Leading with Integrity for the Common Good” made in the earlier hour by Patrick Awuah, founder and president of Ashesi University. Uncle Ebo held our attention as he raised issues of integrity in the arts & entertainment segment of Ghanaian society that he had with intentionality decided to counter, like giving kickbacks from corporate sponsorship. He uttered with conviction, “there are sponsorships we know we’ll never get for our plays because of this.” And he’s fine with it, as he knows that integrity comes at a cost.
One of the most amazing feats of Roverman Productions has been putting up a new play every quarter for the last decade-and-a-half and resolving to always start on time, also a matter of integrity. In fact, one of the participants at Live2Lead, a corporate governance expert, interjected that one reason she chooses to go and see Ebo Whyte’s plays is that she can guarantee they would commence on time. Again, Roverman has gone against the tide by ensuring pristine toilet facilities at their play venues and three levels of security at events to ensure patrons have a heavenly experience and leave with no bitter taste in their mouths. To the people’s uncle, excellence in these areas is a matter of integrity.
OF TEENAGE FOLLY AND GAMBLING
We intentionally wanted to leave the Live2Lead conferees on a note of hope, especially hope in Ghana, and Uncle Ebo did not disappoint. While admitting we have mega challenges in the nation he reminds us that we’ve not only been in worse times but also that in the annals of nation building globally, at 60 years Ghana is only a teenager. The national happenings that leave us in consternation are akin to teenage tantrums and this too shall pass. We do have quite a degree of national folly though, which we need to be cured of, he confesses.
Uncle Ebo’s belief in Ghana is so solid that his parting words were the following: “Whoever bets against Ghana will lose.” For a full buffet of this scintillating conversation look out for a recording of the hitherto livestreamed video (currently only available to paid participants) or invite Live2Lead to rebroadcast in your context (company, community, church etc). You don’t want to miss Live2Lead 2023 on October 6, next year, Deo volonte. Pinned on the first Friday of each October, National Leader Day after National Leader Day, building a leader at a time and one centre of excellence at a time, we shall surely get to the Ghana we want. And who knows? Perhaps sooner than other nations have.
Patricia Obo-Nai is one of the most influential CEOs in Africa, a leading figure in the telecom sector. Don’t let her cool fool you. It is not for nothing that she is not only the first ever female CEO of Vodafone Ghana but the first Ghanaian to do so. Period. Her outstanding leadership has been recognized by many, including Mobile Magazine Africa, which named her the “First Lady of Mobile in Africa.”
Patricia started her career as a Network Planning Engineer with Millicom Ghana Ltd. (Tigo) in 2000. She holds a BSc in Electrical/Electronic Engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and an Executive MBA in Project Management from the University of Ghana Business School. Regarding international education, she holds executive education qualifications from both sides of the Atlantic, Kellogg School of Management in the USA and INSEAD in France. Patricia is passionate about the future of young people and women in the digital age and is a vigorous advocate for STEM. She has been on several platforms, including the UN General Assembly panel sessions, advocating for youth and women.
Among Mrs. Obo-Nai’s dozen plus prestigious awards are the recent Women Leadership Excellence Award at the Ghana CEO’s Network Summit and the Africa’s Most Respected CEO Awards in the continent’s Telecommunications Industry, both of 2021. She is a CEO of CEOs.
WHAT IS GOOD TECHNOLOGY WITHOUT GREAT VALUES!
Even before getting into the so-called ‘soft’ issues of leadership, like integrity, as an electrical engineer Pat knows the hard consequences of conductors, currents, circuits, capacitors and such that have no integrity. Nothing of enduring value happens without integrity. At the October 7 Live2Lead conference this year, Patricia will exhibit through her life and leadership how “the glue that holds all relationships together–including the relationship between the leader and the led–is trust, and trust is based on integrity” (Brian Tracy).
Mrs. Obo-Nai will share how she manages to lead with integrity for the common good despite the high corruption in Ghanaian society, everywhere one turns. During an April visit to Ashesi earlier this year, the celebrated CEO of Vodafone Ghana highlighted lessons from her 20-year career. Embedded in those gems was a reminder to students about the importance of having integrity.
Tune up your personal, professional and leadership game at this year’s Live2Lead conference. Register now through this link. Nag your organization until they join this rising movement of learning leaders that will transform society by becoming a Patron of Live2Lead. A Patron company, like Patricia’s own Vodafone, is one that sends at least 10 leaders to Live2Lead. There’s no way we can have at least 100 such Patron organizations and companies in Ghana and not transform the nation, one centre of excellence at a time. Together we can change our country and continent for the better! Let’s do this! Register here, and NOW.
Gwyneth Gyimah Addo, often affectionately called Gwen, is a wife, mother, author, philanthropist, business leader, motivational speaker, marketing strategist and the CEO of Ghana’s leading human hair company, The Hair Senta.
After graduating from the University of Ghana, Gwen joined Standard Chartered Bank Ghana for six years. She holds an MBA in entrepreneurship and innovation from the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) as well as an Executive Management qualification from Harvard Business School. Gwen was recently featured in a Forbes Africa interview on the global market boom of hair extensions and wigs. Her many awards include CEIBS Global Impact Award, CEIBS Most Promising Female Entrepreneur Award, and the 40 Under 40 Sales and Marketing Award.
Gwen founded the mega HIBS AFRICA global event to project the beauty industry on the continent and the Leading Senta Foundation which focuses on mentoring youth. Her first book, DIRECTION, is already creating impact in the lives of many young and adult readers. Her love, commitment, reliance and trust in the Lord is unquestionably the pivot around which her business success revolves.
WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET
It is hard not to like Gwen. She is absolutely winsome and authentic–what you see is what you get. This largely accounts for her over 100,000 following on Instagram, the social media platform on which she has virtually built her business. Finding high level leaders in Ghana who embody this year’s Live2Lead theme of “Leading with Integrity for the Common Good” has not been easy. Many crowd-pulling speakers did not seem to fit the bill, if we were going to be serious about walking the talk. It has been heartwarming to get to know Gwen personally, upon high recommendation from my network, and to find her a leader of integrity. The icing on the cake, for me, was to expressly read from her new book, DIRECTION, how integrity is a non-negotiable for her and the multi-million dollar business she heads.
On October 7 this year, Gwen will share her views on leadership and integrity and how she manages to remain authentic in a cut-throat society. Mrs. Gwyneth Gyimah Addo is a sight for sore eyes, literally and figuratively. Friends, we are going nowhere without integrity. For in the words of Zig Ziglar, “It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.”
Tune up your personal, professional and leadership game at this year’s Live2Lead conference. Register now through this link. Nag your organization until they join this rising movement of learning leaders that will transform society by becoming a Patron of Live2Lead. A Patron company or individual is one that sends at least 10 leaders to Live2Lead. There’s no way we can have at least 100 such Patron organizations and companies in Ghana and not transform it, one centre of excellence at a time. Together we can change our country and continent for the better! Let’s do this! Register here, NOW.
Last Friday, I spent some time with friend, mentor and fellow African Leadership Initiative/Aspen Global Leadership Network Fellow, Patrick Awuah Jr. It was a joy to see and hear afresh his commitment to the cause of leadership development on the continent of Africa. And this personal pledge is to the extent that he will be excusing himself from a crucial Ashesi University board meeting to address the leaders virtually gathered at Live2Lead and then dive right back into the governance matters of this leading African establishment.
Patrick Awuah is a Ghanaian engineer, educator, and entrepreneur. Patrick founded Ashesi University in 2002. Dr. Awuah, with three honorary doctorates (Swarthmore College 2004, Babson College 2013, University of Waterloo 2018) to his name, has won numerous other awards as an individual and as the founder of Ashesi University. He was presented with the Order of the Volta Award to recognize his contribution to tertiary education in Ghana in 2007. In 2009, Awuah won the John P. McNulty Prize. In 2010, Awuah was awarded 87th most creative businessperson by Fast Company. In 2014, he received The Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award, which honours UC Berkeley alumni with distinguished records of service to their native country. In the same year, he was named best social entrepreneur by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2015, Awuah was listed by Fortune as number 40 in world’s 50 greatest leaders and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2017, Awuah was awarded the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) prize, a major global education award.
INTEGRITY IN LEADERSHIP FOR THE COMMON GOOD
”INTEGRITY” is an often-used but little understood (and even less practiced) word in Ghana today. Patrick will be the keynote speaker on the theme for this year’s Live2Lead, “Leading with Integrity for the Common Good.” Ashesi has a fascinating story about an honour code and how its implementation nearly jeopardized Ashesi’s accreditation process. This tale has everything to do with instilling integrity, and for those of you who are not privy to the terrific tale, we shall be impressing upon Patrick to share “from the horse’s own mouth.”
Patrick will address what integrity actually means and share practical examples where he’s led with integrity and times his integrity has been challenged. Dr. Awuah will practically tip all and sundry on how integrity is taken off the wall and printed in hearts and minds on four levels: (1) personally (2) as teams (3) organisation-wide and (4) nationally.
The world is not in a good place. Leadership is the cause. And when it comes to Ghana’s situation in particular, I have personally been shocked at the number of C-level leaders I have interacted with that have either completely lost hope in the future of the country or nearly have. “How did we get here???” one CEO of a major bank asked me (yes, with three question marks).
If “everything rises and falls on leadership” and “leadership is cause, everything else is effect,” then there is no other way than to attribute the politico-socio-economic state of our nation to leadership (or the lack thereof). In the same way, if there is any one thing that will elevate the conversation, and the nation with it, it is leadership.
DO OR DIE TRYING
As one belonging to the tribe of eternal optimists, I have sworn that in my lifetime I will either see the flourishing Ghana that our forebears anticipated on 6th March, 1957 when the modern state was born, or die trying. When the nascent nation was named ‘Ghana,’ our great grandparents were hopeful it would reflect the prosperity of the old Ghana empire, hence our new name (from Gold Coast). Oh, it bears repeating: our tribe of eternal optimists will see to a prosperous Ghana in our lifetime or die trying.
“I HAVE A DREAM, I HAVE A DREAM…”
Every true leader has a dream they passionately pursue with their people. I realize there is a day dedicated to almost every cause under the sun and Sustainable Development Goal—women’s day, water day, literacy day, friendship day, founders day … even toilet day. Yet the one thing that makes each of these causes to rise and fall has no such day dedicated to it to elevate and emphasize it. Is a day enough? Surely not; but it is a good catalyst for the remaining three hundred and sixty four or five days.
My fellow Maxwell-trained and certified collaborators in Ghana and I have a dream that ultimately the first Friday of October each year will become universally known as LEADER DAY. There is nothing special about the first Friday in October per se except that consistently for about a decade now, our mentor and leadership expert, John C Maxwell, has been gathering some of the best leadership minds and hearts on the planet to speak to the issue, and we might as well leverage the opportunity rather than reinvent the wheel. Live2Lead is the name of that event. The name says it all, that’s our purpose on earth: We live to lead.
Gwen Addo, the pulchritudinous CEO of the Hair Centre and speaker at Live2Lead Ghana ‘22 affirms this vision: “I also pray your dream comes true and October 7 becomes a “leadership day” or perhaps October becomes a “leadership month.”” She continues, “leadership is close to my heart … and why not dream it bigger than just a day.”
You and I know the dearth of leadership in our country. We Maxwell certified trainers who are Ghanaian are aiming to get 2,000 leaders at all levels to benefit from the LIVE simulcast from Atlanta. We will organize local content for our context first, sandwiching the global feed. You would want to be with Patrick Awuah (Founder & CEO, Ashesi University), Patricia Obo-Nai (CEO, Vodafone), Uncle Ebo Whyte (CEO, Roverman Productions), Gwen Gyimah Addo (CEO, The Hair Senta), Kathleen Addo (Chairperson, National Council for Civic Education) and Kwamina Asomaning (CEO, Stanbic Bank). The core issue on the table this time, or shall I say by the fireside, is “Leading with Integrity & Inspiring Hope, for the Common Good.”
On October 7, we shall convene 2,000 Ghanaian leaders online. At least half of them will be from 100 companies, institutions and organizations which would send 10 of their leaders to Live2Lead as their investment in themselves as well as boldly staking their claim in the prosperity of Ghana by raising the leadership lid in the country, one company at a time. All these companies will be listed as patrons in the event handbook, website and social media (in alphabetical order).
The other half will be made up of executive leaders from the private sector, the establishment leaders (public service) and emerging leaders from our schools and universities, representing the next generation. Companies, institutions and organizations which want to go beyond patron status will be given opportunity to sponsor the establishment and emerging leaders in exchange for significant air time and eyeballs.
This 2,000 is only starters; we shall double in 2023; and double again and again till at least 2% of all leaders in Ghana are connected to this Live2Lead tribe of learners who lead and leaders who learn. That is the exact critical mass need to see a self-propagating movement of leaders worth following in Ghana.
The feedback from the ground as I’ve gone around is damning. Ruinous to the extent that although the theme we initially chose for our local content is ‘Leading with Integrity for the Common Good,’ we’ve had to come up with a conjoint theme of HOPE. Our people need hope. Leaders are brokers of hope, thus when they themselves are broken to the extent that they have no hope, what shall the rest of the people do?
Arise Ghanaian leaders!, established and emerging ones alike. We are better than this. Yet perhaps we are expecting leadership behaviours, values and attitudes that we haven’t first trained into people. Since we Live2Lead (that’s our purpose) let’s then Live2Learn (that’s the process) so we can all lead better and all make our nation great and strong. When the leader gets better, everyone and everything else does too. So let’s all show up!
One day in October, for starters. Just one day but who knows? Perhaps ‘October Day’ will in my grandchildren’s day be as well-known as ‘May Day’ is today. And for even better reasons, leadership-wise.
An event is not enough for sustained transformation thus there are leadership development and training pathways that will later be shared as a follow-up process between October 7 and the next Leader Day a year hence.
After my last blog on Why I strive for work-life integration and not work/life balance, some got it and said, “important distinction.” Others thought it was just semantics, just a different choice of words but saying the same thing. I beg to differ.
Here’s another attempt to distinguish one from the other: work/life balance (apart from seeming to pit work against life) is the attempt to distribute time, energy and other resources equitably to all four buckets of life to ‘tick all the boxes’. On the other hand, work-life integration is radically different because it harnesses the power of all four buckets, making other buckets better by the power of other buckets. And it is living in such a way that one doesn’t have to hide the other buckets (say, on LinkedIn), pretend they don’t exist or be different things to different people in the different buckets. I’m quite certain a few poignant examples below may make the distinction clearer.
FACEBOOK AND FAMILY
Who doesn’t know about FaceBook and its 2.7 billion users. That number is the combined population of China and India, the two most populous nations in the world. 2.7 billion is more than twice the population of the entire continent of Africa! I was fascinated to learn that as founder/CEO, one of Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt at the integrated life in Facebook’s early days was to host FaceBook strategy sessions at his home on Monday evenings. And for Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, instead of missing dinner with her family, she would bring her children into the office. Here’s her testimony: “Facebook is incredibly family friendly, so my children were in heaven, entranced by pizza, endless candy, and the huge pile of LEGOs the engineers shared with young visitors. It made me happy my kids got to now my colleagues and vice versa” (George 2015, 173). I don’t know everything about FaceBook’s corporate culture, but these right here are great examples of the integrated life at FaceBook.
I’m proud of Databank in Ghana that has created a nursery in the workplace for nursing mothers as well as a quiet time room for staff to go and nourish their spiritual lives, especially after rushing from home at dawn in order to beat the crazy Accra traffic. These are laudable examples of the integrated life in corporate circles.
I love lions. I call my children cubs; not kids, hence we are the Perbi Pride. Last week, I handed over to the next CEO of ISMCanada after being at this role for eight years. One of the things I recalled at the handing over ceremony (and nearly everyone remembered) is how not long after I took the role I travelled almost the entire stretch of Canada (the second widest country on earth!) to get to personally know the staff and listen for the pertinent issues from the ground. What I haven’t told you yet is that as a family we decided to integrate our lives with my new work by making this a fun family trip. We rented a minivan and spent 30 days travelling from Montreal (on the east coast) to Victoria (beyond Vancouver) in the west. It was beautiful to see the different types of Canadian landscape and wildlife. Because our children our homeschooled, such opportunities are precious as ‘all of life is school.’ By the time we got back home we had clocked 13,000km and had enough geography, history, sociology etc. to last a lifetime! That is one of the best examples of the integrated life we’ve ever had as a family. Family did not get in the way of work or vice versa. We made both feed off each other and were the richer for it.
Over the last couple of years, I have adopted a tradition of travelling with one of the older four children. Just one, to make them feel special and have a one-on-one time with daddy. Don’t forget these are work trips for me and fun trips for them. After doing a Philadelphia and Washington DC road trip with our then four-year old she insisted upon returning home that “I’m Daddy’s travel buddy’ much to the chagrin of the others. I’ve been far from perfect in integrating family and work but I knew we were doing something right when my children got so used to the ISMCanada world that one day our then seven-year old son asked, “Will I become president of ISMCanada when I grow up?” Almost as if it were a family inheritance.
I’ve always worked from home over the last 8 years as CEO (or from an airport/airplane)–way before the rest of the world was forced to by the Covid-19 pandemic. Working from home and homing from work has its pros and cons but it certainly has helped more than harmed my work-life integration.
IMPACTING THE WORLD FROM WITHIN–‘AN INSIDE JOB’
In an article posted on the Harvard Business Review, author Stew Friedman rightly said that the most impactful leaders find ways “to integrate the different parts of their lives to reinforce and enhance each other.” Everywhere he looked he found successful individuals who used who they were as a person to influence how and why they worked. From Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (as I already shared above) through Michelle Obama to rock icon Bruce Springsteen, many influential people channel what made them a powerful person into creating a powerful product, service or project.
Take Michelle Obama, the 44th First Lady of the United States, for example. Michelle considers her daughters to be her first priority, even if this stance vexes those who would have her do more in seeking broader political and cultural change. However as Friedman rightly observes, in making sure her own children were receiving the most nutritious food possible, she began to advocate for better nutrition through the national initiative Let’s Move!. Her policies have won national and global acclaim.
One of the most impactful social enterprises in Ghana right now is the PerbiCubs Library Services, reaching 2,000 children in 200 schools. It might interest you to know that this did not start out as some mega altruistic attempt to ‘change the world’ through getting every child reading but out of our own family’s need for good, well-curated, reading level-appropriate books upon a long stay in Ghana. Whether it’s the Obamas or the Perbis, we’re running this for ourselves–we only get to scale and share with the rest of the world. If nobody signed on, we would still do it. It’s not just a job ‘out there’, it’s an ‘inside job,’ so-to-speak.
RUNNING MY FAMILY LIKE A CORPORATION
I’ve had partners complain about how their spouse is great at XYZ in the corporate world but doesn’t show even an iota of that competence or skill at home. There are those who might argue that they use ‘all of it’ out there and just want to chill and relax when they get home. While that might make some degree of sense, is it not inauthentic that who we are out there is different from who are at home? If you really believe in the power of vision and mission statements and values in your corporate world, for example, how come you haven’t couched one for your own family?
I’m learning to run my family like a corporation, in the sense of applying the things that have made organizations I’ve run succeed. Why not? Wherever two or three come together, you have an organization! I’m sure you can relate to how some of the most treasured members of your community, say church, actually are so because they bring their corporate skills to bear on the communal organization? On the flip side, I’ve also been the beneficiary of running businesses like family and seeing co-workers go over and beyond their job description and their contractual call of duty. The integrated life is the way to go.
CHOOSE INTEGRATION TODAY
“When you give your whole self to the moment, you not only benefit personally, but it dramatically impacts your business as well.” So says my mentor Bill George. The work-rest of life thing doesn’t have to be a zero sum game. Bill is right about how “Many leaders are reluctant to combine their work and family lives, but bringing the two together can lead to more productive and fulfilling lives, both personally and professionally” (173). I have seen and testify that it takes being open-minded about this work-life integration notion, hard work, creativity, experimentation, patience, much discomfort and many failures to make it work but when it does, it really does.
Friedman, Stewart D. 2014. “What Successful Work and Life Integration Looks Like.” Harvard Business Review. October 07, 2014.
George, Bill. 2015. Discover your True North. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Even as a boy, I felt there was something not quite right about hardly knowing my dad’s fellow partners and their families at the ‘big four’ accounting firm he worked at. Of course I knew a couple of the names and faces but that was about it. I felt they could organize some social events and such to intentionally bring their families together but hey, what did I know?
In fact, even now I wouldn’t be able to make out the wife of the senior partner when dad was deputy senior partner. The very kind, burly man’s children currently live barely five hours away from my family in the same country (Canada) but we don’t know each other well enough to even give the other an occasional ring. Oh wait, I got to talk to one of them once, when their dad was seriously ill and had been hospitalized in their town, but that’s been about it.
I think what I longed for, even as a boy, was a bit more of work-life integration, without even knowing that was actually ‘a thing’ or that such a term even existed. A feeble attempt at it has become largely known in the corporate space in recent times as “work/life balance” but what I speak of is more profound than that. How can anyone not see that there is a problem pitting “work” against “life” as if life doesn’t encompass work itself as well as one’s personal life, family and community? And it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game, work or die, inasmuch as there tends to be many tradeoffs.
BUY ONE, GET THREE FREE!
It’s a no brainer that having a bad home situation can adversely affect your professional performance and vice versa. Also, despite how stringent your personal health routines might be, your community relationships are a significant determinant of your mental and physical health, a 75-year study proves. Life is not as separate as we would like (or like to think). Somehow we know this when it comes to how something negative in one aspect of our life can spill over to botch another aspect but what if I told you that being a great dad can make you a better CEO or that the skills you use in your community can be a life-saver in some work project? Yeah, work/life balance isn’t the way to go; work-life integration is. I’ll tell you why.
Author Stewart Friedman concurs: “From years of studying people in many different settings, I have found that the most successful people are those who can harness the passions and powers of the various parts of their lives, bringing them together to achieve what I call “four-way wins — actions that result in life being better in all four domains.” These four domains Stewart speaks of are illustrated in ‘The Integrated Life’ diagram below. He continues, “My research has shown that there are ways for everyone — from the managers of sales teams, to executives in government agencies, to computer engineers, to florists, to coaches — to achieve professional success without always having to sacrifice the things that matter in their personal lives.”
COVID-19 BLESSING IN DISGUISE
One of the gifts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to not only highlight how important the place we call “home” is, but how it is central to our children’s formal education and our own professional lives. Heck, we’ve even done community, like church, from home! Online. This is perhaps the most physically integrated most people have been in their entire work lives. And those of us who like to keep everything prim and proper with no drama have had a really hard time.
I do a fair bit of social media. I find FaceBook much more integrated in terms of all four aspects of life than say, LinkedIn. Several times, I have seen people literally apologize and “make an excuse” or “make an exception” to post something faith or family-related on LinkedIn. I’ve tried to push those boundaries myself sometimes but it’s a weird, I must say. When I recently shared on LinkedIn that I daily run the daycare at home for the youngest ones of our seven children, I was really honoured to have one of my mentors, Bill George (Harvard business school professor and former CEO of Medtronic), affirm me as follows: “Thank you, Yaw, for being the authentic leader you are.” This must be why: Bill really believes, “For authentic leaders, being true to themselves by being the same person at work that they are at home is a constant test, yet personal fulfillment is their ultimate reward. Doing so will make you a more effective leader in all aspects of life“ (George 2015, 16).
WHERE THE RUBBER HITS THE ROAD
At a just-ended eight-week Family Foundations Mastermind I hosted, the prime place of family was underscored over and over again but by the penultimate session we needed to ‘get real.’ How do we do family well while keeping a demanding job, juggling community roles and trying to stay sane? This is where the rubber hits the road.
As I’ve stated before, integrity comes from the Latin root integritas which means whole, entire, undivided. On the other extreme are those who completely separate their professional life from other aspects of their lives. Then there are those who in the name of work/life balance, hop from one of the four parts to the other, trying to “fulfill all righteousness” and tick every box with as little guilt as possible. What I subscribe to and strive for is integration. Bill is blunt: “To lead an integrated life, you need to bring together the major elements of your personal life and professional life, family and friends so you can be the same person in each environment” (159-160).
We’re striving for the word integrated rather than balance. Subtle difference, apparently, but HUGE. Stewart gets it: “The idea I think to replace work/life balance, which treats these categories as independent, is work/life integration. You’re treating yourself whether you’re at work or at play in basically the same way.”
BIG ROCKS FIRST
All the buckets don’t have the same weight. I believe we ought to carry the more important yet not always more urgent buckets of personal and family first, putting the big rocks in first as Stephen Covey would put it, and all the other things will be added to us as well. Easier said than done, but it must be done nonetheless.
My favourite corporate example of this is Nike CEO John Donahoe (former eBay CEO), when he was a consultant with Bain decades ago with a young family. I was most impressed about how he told his client, ”It is important to me to be doing this. I’m committed to working hard, but I can’t be there before 10am.” This is because he insisted on taking his children to school before heading to the client site. The result? Donahoe was amazed that his clients appreciated the choices he was making. “The client responded positively as he appreciated my commitment and contributions even more” he says. “I didn’t have the courage to think about it that way before. There’s an inclination in business to put on a tough exterior to give the impression that you have everything under control” (162).
Bill George reports that “Donahoe learned that the more he integrated his life and embraced his humanity, the more effective he became as a leader … by showing his team and clients his [priorities and] vulnerabilities, he discovered his teams performed better and his client relationships strengthened.” (162)
This is not to say it’s all easy; but it’s worth it–just like med school or doing an MBA. Hear Donahoe: “The struggle is constant, as the trade-offs and choices don’t get any easier as you get older. My personal and professional lives are not a zero-sum trade-off. I have no doubt today that my children have made me a far more effective leader in the workplace. A strong personal life has made the difference” (160).
To be whole (integritas), we need to integrate our personal , family, community and professional lives, not pit one against the other like ‘work/life balance’ suggests. Real life happens were all four meet and they can enhance each other. Indeed, they should. It isn’t easy. How do I know? I’m still trying. So should you. It’s worth it.
In my next blog, I will share a number of practical examples and ideas of how people have made life-work integration happen, and how my family and I have tried to, also.
Friedman, Stewart D. 2014. “What Successful Work and Life Integration Looks Like.” Harvard Business Review. October 07, 2014.
George, Bill. 2015. Discover your True North. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
One of the most sold yet least bought commodities in the leadersphere is integrity. There’s hardly a set of corporate core values one comes across without it showing up somehow. What’s even more intriguing is how mystical people make it sound and look. In fact, I’ve heard politicians throw it about in a way that’s made me wonder whether even I understood what the heck it is. But hear me good: integrity is not that complicated.
Although there are so many definitions of it, I’ll share with you one that is as simple as primary school math and then show you a simple litmus test of integrity. Integrity comes from the Latin root integritas, which means whole, complete, entire, unbroken. It’s the same word from which we get the word integer. See, I told you it’s as simple as grade school math! What are integers? Positive and negative whole numbers.
Integrity then basically means you’re whole, not divided. The opposite of that would be fractions; not whole. You’re fractionated, broken up.
What’s the litmus test I speak of? Integrity is not that complicated. How can you tell I’ve got it? How do I know you have integrity too? I don’t need a KYC (know your client) form or a testimonial from a referee or even your long list of impressive achievements. Integrity is keeping your word–not letting your word fall to the ground, not breaking your word. Integrity is being what you say you are and doing what you say you’ll do.
BEING WHAT YOU SAY YOU ARE
Let’s consider two guys, Kofi and Yaw. If Kofi says, “I lie, I deceive, I steal.” Kofi has low morality, by that particular society’s general standards of acceptable behaviour in that era. When Yaw says, “I abhor lying, I don’t deceive, I never steal,” he has high morality.
BUT, if Yaw goes on lying, deceiving and stealing then Yaw is not a person of integrity. He doesn’t keep his word. However, if Kofi goes ahead to lie, deceive and steal, although he has low morality he actually is a person of integrity (albeit in a very twisted way) because he keeps his word. He said he will do these things and he does. Integrity is being what you say you are, being what you say you will.
DOING WHAT YOU SAY YOU’LL DO
Again integrity is keeping your word, this time, by doing what you say you’ll do. I still remember the shock of a new friend I made when I showed up at her place exactly when I promised I would. She was brutally honest with me that she wasn’t expecting me to keep my word. I was hurt that he would think so lowly of the human race, more specifically the XY chromosomic Homo sapiens, and even more specifically a Christian gentleman. But you couldn’t blame here–she had experienced too many people promising and failing to deliver all too often.
Integrity is keeping your word. Of course, sometimes we give our word and due to extenuating circumstances we’re not able to keep it (we can’t control everything, especially the elements and emergencies). If you are a person of integrity, however, although you are not able to keep your word you still honour your word by reaching out in advance (preferably in advance), apologizing for not being able to and renegotiating to make things right.
My editing team for the weekly PEP Talks I do expect my videos to get to them by Sunday night each week. I had such a long day last Sunday that I realized there was no way I was going to be able to make a good video to send at the end of the day. To keep my integrity, however, I sent a note to the team saying, “Hey, it’s been a very tiring day and I wouldn’t be able to give this video my best shot. I’ll work on it tomorrow instead and send it to you.” I was unable to keep my longstanding word, but I did well to still honour it. I wish that were always true. Sometimes I’ve failed to keep my word and gone on with life as if I never gave my word in the first place. That is not integrity–not matter how much I claim to have it!
I get amazed how many people give their word with no intention whatsoever to keep it! And then there is the category of people who give their word intending to keep it but when they are unable to don’t see the big deal in still honouring their word–apologizing and redressing it. I’ve had to correct several people I work with to the point that now they not only keep their word, but if for some reason they are not able to, they now honour it by apologizing, letting me know and re-negotiating.
By the way, when we make plans and don’t keep it (even if they don’t involve anybody else), we violate our integrity. Many of us do not take our own word seriously; we don’t take ourselves seriously. I insist on 100% integrity with my coaching clients when they give their word about what they commit to doing in between our sessions.
Inasmuch as I want to keep this article to the personal level, I cannot help but take a swipe at politicians who are notorious for giving their word during political campaigns only to take office and not only fail to keep their word but sometimes even pretend they have no clue what the citizenry and civil society organizations are reminding them about and trying to hold them to account for! There is a joke about how before elections they call us “the masses.” When they win and we make our demands of them we become “them asses!” In my short lifetime, on both sides of the Atlantic, I have met very few politicians worth their salt. Politicians with integrity are almost extinct.
So integrity isn’t this highfalutin, mystical, metaphysical thing. It’s not that complicated. It is as simple as primary school math: integers. What shows you have it or not is as simple as keeping your word. Period. Nothing more, nothing less.