Recently I received an email (partly screenshot above) announcing my nomination to receive an honorary doctorate degree. It is is possible that I would have felt more flattered and been more tempted to go after this fake degree from these fictitious institutions had I not already been a “Dr.” (medical). Coming from a family in which my grandfather was an emeritus professor and where my mother and father-in-law are PhDs in history and economics respectively, these titles don’t exactly faze us. Yet those who offer them know they are toying with very powerful human emotions, motivations and identity issues at the core of our being and have made a good business of it. As my best friend said when I forwarded the said email to him, “this has nothing to do with you; it has everything to do with business.”
Some however, including many Christian leaders, have taken the bait and gotten decorated with very dubious degrees and titles. Recently, there was a huge brouhaha over a popular Ghanaian musician based in London who was alleged to have amassed three degrees, including a PhD, within four months! Perhaps if he had even shut up, none of this would’ve become an issue of investigation and castigation setting social media abuzz but he was flaunting it and ‘praising God’ for the fake feat. The desire to flaunt it itself reveals the very identity and emotional challenges he might have that perhaps led to him to go for those inauthentic accolades in the first place.
The above picture of Sonnie, whose giftedness is unquestionable but his academic credentials are, was uploaded by himself on social media touting his feat. I have met Sonnie. He is a fine young man and anointed. But I can also tell you he is far from perfect; just like you and me. Speaking of Sonnie and musicology, incidentally, my grandfather was a celebrated ethnomusicologist. His work earned him many accolades including several honorary doctorates but he never used the title “Dr.” because although he had done enough original research work to deserve ten doctorates he never really formally pursued a PhD per se. Interestingly, he shot straight from ‘mister’ to ‘professor’ and was ’emeritus professor’ for the last three decades or so of his life.
This degree brouhaha touches on at least three issues: identity, purpose and authenticity.
There was once a programme organized by a friend of mine. The MC got on stage and introduced a certain pastor to come up and offer a prayer. He inadvertently introduced him, with no malice, as Mr. XYZ. XYZ comes up, grabs the mic and makes a correction, “I’m not Mister, I’m Pastor.” That wasn’t all; it gets worse. Later he clears his throat and amends his correction saying something like, “In fact, I’m not Pastor, I am Reverend.” Ahem. Wow! What a shock, what a shame.
But lest I come across as holier than thou, remember I told you that the people offering fake degrees know exactly what they are massaging in us: the ego. I can tell you that as a medical doctor myself there are many times when people address me in speech or in writing as ‘Mr.’ and I have a natural gut reaction to get offended, said in my head something like “do you know who you’re talking to?” and yearned to correct them. There’s a part of me that even justifies it thus: “mehn, but you earned it.” That, my friend, is not the authentic self.
We need not, and indeed should not, root our identity in external things like what we wear, how much we earn, what degrees or title(s) we have acquired. Anything that man can give you, man can take away. Let’s not root our identity in any such thing. And you would think that supposed men and women of God would know better and root their identity in nothing less than Christ himself.
You may have ‘more degrees than a thermometer’ and still not accomplish your God-given purpose. There are some without degrees at all and yet have made much more impact in the world than those with many letters behind their names. Your purpose in life determines the vehicles and tools you need to use. It’s strange to make the acquisition of vehicles and tools our primary objective when one hasn’t first sat down to evaluate if that is what they need to get done the job they came on earth to accomplish. It’s about dreams, not diplomas and degrees.
Did you read about the recent brouhaha over the apparent insistence of Jill Biden, wife of the current U.S. president, to be called “Dr” ? It’s really been going on for at least a decade now: “Hi, I’m Jill. Jill Biden. But please, call me Dr. Biden.” The December 2020 op-ed by Joseph Epstein in the Wall Street Journal implored Jill Biden to “think about dropping the honorific, which feels fraudulent, even comic.” Personally, I think the essence of what Epstein was trying to say became lost in what became an embroilment in sexism. The real question should be: does being ‘Dr.’ make Jill a better educator (that she’s been for decades) or not? Everything else is secondary; even tertiary.
This degree saga leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to authentic leadership. It speaks to the core of authenticity. Authentic leaders have:
- nothing to prove–a matter of humility (not try to project self worth)
- nothing to hide–a question of integrity (no playing of games but totally transparent)
- nothing to lose–a matter of simplicity (not strive for social image or popularity).
As you might have noticed, humility, integrity and simplicity as an acronym spell HIS. This is particularly instructive to Christian leaders. Those of us at the Third Lausanne Congress on world Evangelization in Cape Town in 2010 were passionately exhorted by theologian Chris Wright to be God’s saints, Christ’s people, HIS people of humility, integrity and simplicity.
NOT SO WITH YOU
Again, especially for Christian leaders, the primary power base of an authentic (wo)man of God is spiritual power—not positional or personal power. Others may go that route but Jesus was very clear to his followers who would be leaders: “not so with you.” In May 2020, I wrote quite extensively on that here. We need to lead different. This issue just won’t go away until Christians really chose to be H.I.S. people.
In light of the recent brouhaha about fake degrees, Friends, BE WARNED. Don’t allow your ego to be stroked and stoked, making your false self acquiesce to receiving fake degrees from fictitious institutions. If you want a degree, go to school and study for one! In any case, one doesn’t necessarily need a degree to succeed in life! Hopefully your going for a diploma or degree would only be because you have observed It will a good vehicle or tool towards your dream. Again, the thing is: You can have ‘more degrees than a thermometer’ and still not fulfill your God-given purpose in life.
I have a mentor who likes to say, “the thing about titles is that if you’re good you don’t need them; if you’re not they won’t help you.” Heaven help us!
Carmen Bernos de Gasztold has a collection of poems called The Creature’s Choir which I just ordered (something I should’ve 3-4 years ago!). In it, she puts prayers in the mouths of animals and birds. Bob Fryling, in his book The Leadership Ellipse: Shaping How We Lead by Who We Are, first brought my attention to the peacock’s cry.
This beautiful bird proudly describes its external beauty, while humbly mourning its discordant cry and mournful heart:
“Lord, let a day come,
a heavenly day,
when my inner and outer selves
will be reconciled in perfect harmony.”
Amen and amen!
‘Shit hole’ status is not the preserve of any people group, state or nation. Seasons change. Kingdoms rise and fall with terrific and terrible leadership respectively. Great civilizations have come and gone. If Africa continues on a trajectory of principle-centred, values-based, effectual leadership and America continues on her trajectory of shit-based leadership for long enough the tables will turn!
Bit by bit we’ve seen the shroud of so-called American exceptionalism come apart. Rent piece by piece, she’s revealing her warts to a watching world, stuck at home. What she’s done well for over 200 years to conceal—and not wash her dirty linen in public either—a combination of democratized social media, a TRUMPeting emperor with no clothes and a plaguing pandemic have conspired to expose. Lynchings like George Floyd’s are not new; it’s the handy smart phones and social media apps at the finger tips that capture and broadcast these which are.
Last Wednesday’s attempted coup d’état at the U.S. Capitol was the nadir of the last four years’ declivitous decline from apparent democracy to real shitocracy. I am not one to use the s-word; I’m only playing on the words of the supposed most powerful man on earth. Many aspects of the attack on the ‘people’s house’ by armed rioters a.k.a. domestic terrorists dropped my jaws (and kept my mouth agape) but the most shocking was literally the filthiest of all: desecration of the House with faecal matter, well-known in ‘shit hole countries’ as ‘shit bombing’. Just when you thought America could sink no further.
The shit-hole-country-conferring president of the Divided States of America inspired this group of shit bombers.
Let me tell America(ns) how we, Africans, got shit holed: LEADERSHIP! A long string of shit hole leadership like you’ve now gotten in the Black House (it’s only painted white and so-called but we know it was built by Blacks). If Africa continues on a trajectory of principle-centred, values-based, effectual leadership and America continues on her trajectory of shit-based leadership for long enough the tables will turn! You know how I know? Because “everything rises and falls on leadership,” E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-NG, shit and all. And that is a principle; a timeless, fundamental law of the universe that is no respecter of persons: red or yellow, black or white.
‘Shit hole’ status is not the preserve of any people group, state or nation. Seasons change. Kingdoms rise and fall with terrible and terrific leadership respectively. Great civilizations have come and gone. And I mean, greater civilizations than America, and that dominated for much longer than the toddling USA. America could be tomorrow what we call “ancient Egypt” today. Or even the beggarly Greece today, yes, Socrates, Aristotle and Plato’s Greece of yestercentury. In the last decade Portugal found itself borrowing money from her former colony Angola.
Meanwhile, my Ghanaian-Canadian children today wonder what is so ‘Great’ about Britain. Brexit? As for America, in the last few weeks we’ve spent more time at our Family Altar repeatedly praying for political peace in America and for the eradication of ignorance and disease (COVID-19) there than we have prayed about any of these for Africa!
Now to my fellow Africans. In the light of how backward America has proven to be recently, perhaps it is beginning to dawn on you that we may not be as backward as they (and some others) would like us to think! After all, when our ancestors were building pyramids their European forebears were but Barbarians (note: barbarian or barbaric is still not a fluttering word in the English dictionary today).
At the very time when there were prolonged pre, para and post electoral tensions in America, even with a sitting president refusing to concede but rather raising false alarms of a rigged election, Ghana figuratively and literally came from behind to vote, certify results within 72 hours and has already sworn-in a new president (an occasion the American president nominated American officials to attend). Now, look who’s shit hole!
Which is worse: being called shit hole or being shitty? It was America’s shitocracy that christened African countries as shit hole. But neither shitocracy nor shit hole is good enough for Africa or America. I have substantial interest in the prosperity of both peoples on both sides of the Atlantic–and so does the whole world stand to benefit. So upward and onward with godly, principle-centred, values-based, effectual leadership for the benefit of our peoples and to the glory of God. No more shit–shit holing, shit hollering or shit bombing. We were made for so much more than this.
Africa! America! African-Americans, arise, clean up and shine! Let our worst years be the last four; and our worst days among the last four too.
This is so counterintuitive that I don’t beat myself too much for almost completely missing it earlier in my life. I’m glad I have clinched that now: to grow an enterprise, grow people; to hit your goals focus on growing yourself and on the growth process.
Like most people I know, I love the word potential. Potential is the difference between who/where you are now and who/where you could be. Success, then, would be getting to who/where you could be. Being a go(al)-getter, one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in life has been to keep the target or goal so much in mind and trying to figure out various strategies and timelines to hit it but neglecting the most important thing and most important one: growth and me. John Maxwell puts it succinctly: “To reach your potential you must grow. And to grow, you must be highly intentional about it.”
No matter the systems and structures, tools and technologies, courses and cash one gathers to hit a goal, unless there is investment in the growth of the person(s) involved, the goal is unlikely to happen. To achieve a goal, invest in growth of those the fulfillment of the goal depends on. To grow an enterprise, grow people.
Try something else in the new year: keep the goal in mind but focus on you (or whoever it depends on) and focus on a growth process. Let’s see what happens. I take my mentor John’s counsel seriously: “If you focus on goals, you may hit the goals, but that doesn’t guarantee growth. If you focus on growth, you will grow and always hit growth.” This is how to win, 100% of the time!
Here’s a paragraph from John’s 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, which at the start of the new year I take a selected few through, that makes the point:
“If you want to discover your purpose, you need to grow in self-awareness. To become a better human being, you need to grow in character. To advance in your career, you need to grow in your skills. To be a better spouse or parent, you need to grow in relationships. To reach your financial goals, you need to grow in your knowledge about how money works. To enrich your soul, you need to grow spiritually.”
In similar fashion, as James Allen wrote in his classic As a Man Thinketh, “People are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” Get it? To get your goal you’ve got to grow.
GO WITH ME
Now, assuming you’ve agreed with me that you’ve got to grow to succeed, then the next logical question (in all probability) is how do I grow?. Well, you need to know the principles (laws) governing growth and have a plan and process to grow. Key to this plan and process is, again, people.
They say “we become the combined average of the five people we hang around the most.” Take a quick inventory right now. Depending on who your average five turn out to be, you must be pretty excited or pretty disappointed right now.
Apart from becoming a growing person yourself (towards your goals), you also need growth people, to stimulate, guide and guard your growth. This may be in the form of an accountability friend, a supportive spouse, an executive coach, or a small group like a mastermind.
I like to say that where two or three come together ‘magic’ happens. It is true. No matter how brilliant the ideas I think I have are, somehow when I meet with a group of people to discuss it the final outcome is much much better than my best ideas. It goes without saying that all of us are better than any one of us, any day! That is what Napoleon Hill discovered (mentioned in his 1925 book) and called a” mastermind”–when two people come together they create a third, invisible mind which is greater than the sum of the other two.
So for ideation, encouragement and accountability, everyone needs someone to come alongside them in their growth journey towards goal-getting.
To goal or to grow? That is the question. This is so counterintuitive that I don’t beat myself too much for almost completely missing it earlier in my life. I’m glad I have clinched that now: to hit your goals focus on growing yourself and on the growth process. Even if you don’t hit your goal, you will hit your growth.
Be goal-bound (as in, headed towards your goal) not situation-bound (as in, stuck where you are) by being growth-bound (heading towards growth and sticking to growth). Set your goal alright but then focus on the growth it will take. To hit goals, focus on the person(s) involved and on the growth process. To get your goal you’ve got to grow. This is how to win 100% of the time!
If you want to see if there’s still room for you in the 2020 Growth Mastermind click here.
“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.
“I FEEL STUCK.” This is such a common reason prospective coaching clients get in touch with me. And I know how that feels like; I’ve been stuck many times before in my personal life, marriage, parenting, vocation, finances, faith etc. But there is a way out.
I have been a disciple of Dr. John C. Maxwell for the last twenty years. I would emphatically say John Maxwell’s seminal work, The 21 Indisputable Laws of Leadership, sent me on a leadership trajectory that I am yet to recover from. The book came out in 1998, around the same time I was cutting my teeth in the leader formation industry. When John’s non-profit, EQUIP, came to train leaders in Ghana in 2004, I was still in medical school then but you can be sure I was in attendance with a group of my own mentees from The HuD Group. I longed for the day when I would meet him in person and get to work with him more directly.
The year after my family relocated to Canada, EQUIP, which had been doing some good work in other parts of Canada and was now trying to penetrate the province of Quebec came to my city, Montreal. Somehow we found each other. I was invited to dinner. I would thereafter travel down to EQUIP’s headquarters in Atlanta for further training and sign a partnership between The HuD Group and EQUIP to develop leaders in Canada, Ghana and around the world, certifying them as trained leaders. Even back then, in 2010, I had innovatively began to train emerging leaders in places like The Gambia, England and Australia from Canada online via Skype! In 2020, that has now become the norm; no longer the brilliant cutting edge exception. I soon would become a trainer for EQUIP Canada too.
All this while I was yet to meet John in person. That day finally came, one 2011 day in Pensacola, Florida, when I met John himself face-to-face. I was thrilled! Then in 2012 I grabbed one of my mentees working in bank in Atlanta, Georgia to join me to grace the occasion of the launching of John’s umpteenth book, “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.” We followed up with a private lunch during which I got to ask John a couple of things on my heart (that would be for another blog). The next year I was with John again, now three times in a row, this time undergoing the process to become a certified John Maxwell Coach, Speaker and Trainer.
THE 15 INVALUABLE LAWS OF GROWTH
I share the story of my 20-year walk with John, in literature and literally, first to demonstrate that mentorship works. I would not be where I am in life today, even being touted by a global organization like the Lausanne Movement as a “strategic global leader” but for my walk with Jesus and John. Secondly, while anyone can pick any book of John’s and walk other people through it, it is one thing going through the letter and another thing catching the spirit of John’s works. I’ve got certifiably got both.
For the last couple of months I have felt like some C-level leaders could really benefit from an authentic and deep walk through each of John’s 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth in the form of a Mastermind Group. Whether it’s leaders who feel STUCK or not-yet-stuck (it’s just a matter of time, the day will come!), anyone could use some new impetus for growth following a most crazy year of a COVID-19 pandemic.
FROM CATASTROPHIC TO CATALYTIC
I keep thinking of the phenomenal fresh growth that can happen in forests after they have been decimated by fire. Yes, fires can be destructive in rainforests but sometimes they actually help to replenish ecosystems! While this article won’t get into the depths of the ecological science of it, forest fires are a powerful analogy for the rejuvenation that can happen in each of our our lives after the ravaging of the coronavirus. I enjoyed a Deutsche Welle article that reminded be that “as devastating as forest fires are in the rainforest, the destructive power of fire is necessary for the preservation of other ecosystems, where parts of the natural fauna and flora develop only thanks to the fires. …They consume old and diseased trees, create new habitats and ensure an ecological rejuvenation of the tree population.”
In fact, many plants in the southern US, in the Mediterranean region or in Australia actually need fire to survive. For the coniferous Douglas fir, for example, it survives most fires thanks to its thick bark and then (here’s the magic), after a fire, it will sprout new shoots. The North American lodgepole pine also needs the heat of the fire to open its cones and release seeds while the Australian grass tree needs smoke to open its seed pods.
GROW LIKE CRAZY
So! I’m looking forward to walking with a select group of 15 growth mindset leaders through each of the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth for the first 8 weeks of the 2021 new year, DV. This 60-day journey will not only get you unstuck but put some fire in your bones for phenomenal growth. Let the unprecedented catastrophic 2020 year be your catalyst for unparalleled growth in 2021. Watch out for details. It’s about time you significantly invested in your personal growth and that of others!
When I was younger I was in a hurry to influence my world in two powerful ways: build leaders and create wealth. I’ve been working on both for the last two decades but now I’m going back to go forward. Here’s why. First, leaders.
WHO WE ARE FIRST
The year was 2003. I was still in medical school, in Accra, Ghana. After I cast vision to a group of eight others that would eventually become The HuD Group and go global, we hit the ground running. With all our Youth Power!, we were in such haste to “inspire and empower young people to discover their God-given purpose and reach their full potential” that we jumped some steps. I was barely 25. Of course, helping people find purpose is exciting, especially for emerging leaders, and everyone wants to have a raison d’être.
However, it wasn’t until my late thirties that it came to me in the strongest sense that something vital comes before purpose. Knowing who we are precedes knowing what we’re here for. Identity comes before purpose. In fact, until during my Master’s in Global Leadership (2016-2019), I wasn’t yet fully convinced that who we are is more important than what we do. But it is! Oh yes, who we are is more important than what we do, not just because we are human beings and not human doings (as is popularly said, tongue-in-cheek, these days) but significantly because who we are really determines what we do and how we do it!
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since those heady days at the dawn of this new millennium and the group has seen many successes, including expanding to two dozen countries on every inhabitable continent in the world! Yet at the same time, we’ve also experienced once-promising trained leaders (in vision, mission, values, strategy and leadership skills) mess up big time because they weren’t self-aware first: of their life narrative, personality, temperament, history/heritage, genogram, values, core beliefs & worldview, emotions (moods, passions etc.), shadows (‘false self’), giftedness, strengths & weaknesses, biases & blindspots, leadership & communication styles, preferences, motivations (extrinsic and intrinsic), habits & tendencies, limits/boundaries, their physicality etc. If you think this is a long list, you’re right. There is a lot of self-awareness, self compassion, self acceptance and self self to be done to not just self actualize but to lead others in a meaningful way.
A FRIEND TO THE RESCUE
My friend Carson Pue and I live on opposite sides of the second largest country on earth (Canada) but one thing often brings us together, in-person or online: leader development. When I came across his ‘Mentorship Matrix’ (diagram above) in his book Mentoring Leaders, I clearly saw pictorially where and how we had tripped. We were in a hurry to get to Step #3 (visioneering/discovering purpose) and hadn’t been spending enough time in Step #1 (self-discovery). And for Pue, as a faith-based leadership trainer, Step #1 consists of double knowledge of both self-discovery and God discovery. There actually is a lot that has been said and written on how we cannot know ourselves without knowing God (the creator in whose image we’ve been made) and vice versa. See here for more.
If we had spent enough time delving into what should be first and core, it would naturally reveal what should happen in Step #2, the emotional and other needs that need to be then satisfied (and how), as well as things one needs to be set free from before attempting to reach forward with discovering purpose and running with it.
I am not alone in this discovery. Increasingly in leadership development world there is this growing area addressing the psychodynamics of leadership, as we are more and more finding the best Ivy-league trained leaders in the top Fortune 500 spaces in the world doing really stupid stuff out of the blue! No one is above Steps #1 & 2. And if we don’t make the time to dig out and cement those foundations well, we are bound to produce shooting stars and not sustainable leadership for the long haul.
GOING BACK TO GO FORWARD
Now we’re back on the drawing board and relaying foundations to ensure that we start right and end well, beginning from the core of self-awareness and the dealing with anything that will entangle, choke or derail the leadership course further down the road. In my Twi language from Ghana there is a word and concept known as “Sankofa.” It literally translates as “go back and get it” and is symbolized by either a stylized heart shape or by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward carrying a precious egg in its mouth. My leadership development legs may have false-started from Step #3 with fleet feet facing forward but now my neck is turned with my head reaching back to Steps #1 and #2 to pick up that which was vital but I left behind. My ancestral language has a saying, that when you go back to pick up something valuable that you inadvertently left behind, it is no wrong, and well within reason and one’s rights. That is one of two things I build differently now.
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.
A common greeting among today’s cool people is “what’s up?” to which one may sometimes get some really sarcastic answers from uncool people (lol!). A not so common greeting would be, “What’s good?” That would be slang for an invitation to a values conversation. I’ll explain.
For the last couple of weeks I have been raving about the importance of vision, mission and values. My thesis is that these three are so life-giving, life-forming and life-determining that they are aptly described as DNA, be it personal or corporate. I did share some examples of vision and mission statements of companies as well as my own family’s, encouraging professionals to put in the time and work to hone these and commit to them to the same degree they do their corporate work (if not even more). Now a final word on the third piece of the DNA: values.
WHAT ARE VALUES?
Values are what matter most to us—what we value. Yes, our values are literally what we value. They are what we consider to be good, what’s good. What matters most to us about the kind of people we are, the type of work we do and how we behave as we do the work are our values.
Values are the standards a person, family or organization holds to be most important that cause individuals to make decisions and act the way they do. As a mentor of mine puts it, values “represent how a community aspires to act or function as it carries out its mission in pursuit of is vision.” I like this element of aspiration—perhaps we may not have quite attained that standard of behaviour or character or whatever ideal yet but it’s on our books to keep reminding us to keep stretching towards it.
So! In summary, if vision is what we want to SEE and mission is what we will DO to see what we want to see then values determine HOW we will behave (be and do) as we do what we want to do in order to see what we want to see.
PEELING BACK THE LAYERS
Whether ethnic or corporate, culture is basically how things are done here a.k.a behaviour. What many do not realize is that BEHAVIOUR—“what’s done”—is only, quite literally, the tip of the iceberg (which is usually about 10% of the actual size of the iceberg!). Behaviour is only what is seen and experienced on the outside—from dressing to speaking. It’s the soil/crust of the earth (another metaphor), if you like.
Beneath behaviour are the VALUES—“what’s good”—informing it. Digging deeper beneath sea level or soil level we will find the BELIEFS—“what’s true”—or “faith assumptions”, that are determining these values.
Deepest of all, at the bottom of the iceberg or at the core of the earth is our WORLDVIEW—“what’s real.” That is the root of the fruit we see called behaviour or culture.
Whether it is individuals or families, churches or corporations, how many times haven’t we attempted to change behaviour without digging all the way to the worldview source?
VALUES ARE NOT PRINCIPLES
I am of the Covey school of thought that values are not synonymous with principles. Principles are timeless, universal laws that govern everything (from physical laws of Physics to spiritual laws) but you can choose to value them and/or have values based on those laws or not. For example, there is a certain ethnic group I have come across that does not give children eggs (behaviour/culture). Undergirding this is not valuing eggs in children’s diet. But underlying this further is a belief that the children would become bald (like an egg) and become thieves (or both). At the very core of this ethnic culture is a certain animistic worldview that produces the belief that leads to the value and produces the behaviour of not feeding children eggs.
This value, no matter how cherished, goes against the principles of nutrition. Breaking the principle because of this value results in protein-energy undernutrition in the community whose two primary chronic forms are kwashiorkor and marasmus.
SO WHAT’S GOOD?
It is absolutely essential that everyone, personally and corporately, determine their values. Values comprise part of the DNA that gives, forms and determines the kind of life you lead. But like the chemical bases that form DNA, it is worth examining the formative beliefs and underlying worldview that bring forth these values. In the end, what’s good is determined by what’s core.
So! This is a sequel to my previous I’m Coming Out blog. In that, I copiously explained how, “Prominent among the treasures of this pandemic cum sabbatical year has been the realization that it’s about time I did less of the work of leading corporations and charities and rather focus on raising world class leaders among C-level executives who will go on to lead many good things and many great people.” D.L. Moody once said, “It is better to train 10 men than do the work of 10 men. But it is harder.” He was right.
I am serious enough about this new direction that I’m stepping down as President of ISMCanada with effect from June 2021, Deo volente. When I agreed to this role in March 2013, and officially began in May of that year, my initial arrangement with the Board was a 3-5 year tenure. It’s been almost eight years now! I’ve done double duty. Among other things, I’m happy to have worked with an overhauled senior leadership team to steer the organization to become a Certified Best Christian Workplace, a flourishing organization.
In coming out and stepping down, I’m happy to catalyse, consult for and coach CEOs and other C-level executives in both the marketplace and ministry, as well as continue my speaking/training career which has taken me to some 45 countries of the world. As we launch the YAW PERBI brand, I would like to share our vision, mission, values, unique selling disposition and offerings with you.
At YAW PERBI, we want to see a flourishing global ecosystem of authentic leaders characterised by healthy growth, holistic success and lasting significance.
Our mission, therefore, is to offer authentic and customized relationships and resources to C-level executives to grow personally, succeed professionally and become significant corporately.
As we go about our vision and mission, our corporate behaviour will be based on the following seven things that are very important to us. We value:
In another blog I go into the fine details of what each value means and how they play out at our company.
UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION
We know there are a myriad leadership development and executive coaching companies out there. Our bold value proposition is authentically empowering C-level executives for exponential growth in 90 days, success within a year and significance for a lifetime (and beyond).
What exactly are we offering in terms of products and services? We like to say we LIFECAST, an acronym for providing Leadership, Integrity, Family and Entrepreneurship Coaching Authoring Speaking and Training. LIFE is our content focus and CAST comprises the vehicles for delivering the LIFE. By the way, apart from the ‘C’ standing mainly for executive Coaching, it also often involves Catalyzing and Consulting. Authoring encompasses soft and hard products from (e-)books to courses.
The YAW PERBI brand communicates prestige and authenticity, success and significance.
CONCLUSION | CLARITY, NOT CERTAINTY
Even in clearly laying out our vision, mission, values, unique selling proposition and offerings at YAW PERBI, this is not only introducing you to my new brand but inherently providing a lesson for executives, many of whom haven’t clearly laid these things out for the corporations, charities and churches they lead. Even in an uncertain year like 2020, as John Maxwell my mentor says, “Individuals can live without certainty from a leader, but not without clarity. …Your people do not need certainty on every issue; but they do need clarity on every issue.”
I’m out. I’m stepping down. I’ve told you why, when and how. Not everything is certain; but am I clear?