66TH ANNUAL SPEECH & PRIZE-GIVING DAY, RIDGE CHURCH SCHOOL
SPEECH BY DR. YAW PERBI, Global CEO of The HuD Group
26th August, 2023
Chairperson, Guest of Honour, School Board and Management, Teaching and Non-Teaching Staff, Parents and Learners, Invited Guests, (all protocols observed), good afternoon. It is an honour to return to Ridge Church School to address you today after leaving here 31 years ago. And it is a double honour as this is the second time I’ve been invited to do so over the last two decades.
The theme chosen for this year is BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES and we shall consider it in three simple ways:
- WHAT IS?
- WHO SHOULD?
- WHY MUST?
1. BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES: WHAT IS?
You must’ve heard from my introduction that my wife and I are blessed with seven biological children. Well, on Monday morning, our delightful six-year-old daughter, our fifth child called Nana Ahomka, came to tell me, “Daddy, I should be a leader at AWANA,” a children’s Bible training program. When I asked who a leader is she said, “Someone who sets an example for everyone else to follow.” I replied, “You got that right girl,” and that gave me the essence of my message today.
Today, the word “leader” is overused and abused. But for a moment, forget about all the 360 plus official definitions (yes) and consider this: a leader is someone who sets an example for others to follow. A good leader sets a good example; a bad leader does the opposite. Seeing it that way, a lot of so-called ‘leaders’ are really not good ones, even if they are in powerful political positions, are sensational speakers or even have top professions and enviable riches. Recently, we have seen our parliamentarians insulting and throwing physical blows in parliament. That is bad leadership. And it needs to be called out for what it is.
So WHAT IS being a good example in all circumstances? Good leadership or Godly leadership.
2. BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES: WHO SHOULD?
Everyone of us, especially you, young ones—YOU ARE NOT TOO YOUNG TO BE AN EXAMPLE.
The Little boy Samuel was only 12 years old and could hear God’s voice at a time when “the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.”  He heard God’s voice and told the ‘Papas’ of the land what to do. Ghana could use some Samuels right now—YOU!
That is what Paul the mentor meant when he said to his teenage mentee Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  In fact, sometimes it’s the adults that actually encourage us to do the wrong thing: I shall never forget my BECE experience in 1992 when a female invigilator who noticed I had completed my work, suggested to me to write the answers on an eraser so she could give it to another person who was struggling! Imagine that. An invigilator! I said, “No Madam. That is not right.” She was shocked.
Sometimes people don’t like us for not following their bad example or for calling out their bad example. But in a good society, good examples are reward. For example when I went to Achimota School, my good example was observed by the staff and I was selected to represent Achimota in exchange programme in America. It is also good examples who are selected to be prefects here, right?
Even at the university, I had to resist cheating in exams and started an organization called The HuD Group (The Human Development Group)  to help young people to become good leaders. When I got a national award for this, handed to me by then then Vice President of Ghana, Hon. Aliu Mahama, as the Newmont Ghana Highest Achievement Award winner at the Millennium Excellence Youth Awards in 2006, our Minister of Health then, Major (Rtd.) Courage Quashigah, wrote me a congratulatory letter, part of which read:
“We in the health sector are very proud of you and urge you to continue to be an Outstanding Achiever… It is my hope that you will bring your charisma and devotion to bear on every youth you encounter and they in turn will emulate your leadership example. On behalf of the entire health sector and on my own behalf, please accept my congratulations.” 
So WHO SHOULD be a good example in all circumstances? Everyone, especially you young ones!
3. BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES: WHY MUST?
In 1792 King Louis XVI (16th) was taken from his throne by some rebels and imprisoned. His young son, the prince, was taken by those who dethroned the king. They thought that inasmuch as the king’s son was heir to the throne, if they could destroy him morally, he would never realize the great and grand destiny that life had bestowed upon him. They took him to a community far away, and there they exposed the lad to every filthy and vile thing that life could offer. They exposed him to foods the richness of which would quickly make him a slave to appetite. They used vile language around him constantly. They exposed him to lewd and lusting women. They exposed him to dishonor and distrust. He was surrounded 24 hours a day by everything that could drag the soul of a man as low as one could slip.
For over six months he had this treatment but not once did the young lad buckle under pressure. Finally, after intensive temptation, they questioned him. Why had he not submitted himself to these things why had he not partaken? These things would provide pleasure, satisfy his lusts, and were desirable; they were all his. The boy said, “I cannot do what you ask, for I was born to be a king.” 
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all born to be kings and queens, princes and princesses, in the kingdom of God. WHY MUST you be a good example in all circumstances? You were born to be royalty.
In conclusion, be a good example in all circumstances. “The time is always right to do what’s right,” as Martin Luther King told some (Oberlin) students. Be an example, be a leader. As young as you are, even if everyone is doing the wrong thing and adults are pushing you to, be a prince/princess because:
1. that’s who you are—you were born to be a leader, to be king/queen
2. that’s what God’s word says and God expects
3. it’s for your own good (there’s no law against being a good example or punishment for it)
4. society needs it today and will remember you in history
5. Almighty God will reward you. Say, “Heaven backs me when I do the right thing!”
Be a good example—whether you are 6 or 60! Be the king and queen you were born to be. Be a good example in all circumstances, BE A GODLY LEADER!
 1 Samuel 3:1, NIV
 1 Timothy 4:12, NIV
 See www.thehudgroupglobal.org
 Portion of letter by Hon. Minister of Health in 2006, emphasis mine
 Sean Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (and other sources)
The year I turned 40 is the same year that Africa became the continent with the most Christians in the world. Wanting both momentous occasions to mean something beyond a year and a number, I had been musing over the idea of an ‘African Centre for Global Mission Mobilization’ for serious research and intellectual power to be brought to bear on this African phenomenon which is undoubtedly the work of God’s Spirit.
In fact, in the first quarter of 2018 I even initiated discussions with Steve Shadrach’s Centre for Mission Mobilization about the possibility of partnering to pull off an ‘African Centre for Global Mission Mobilization’ in Ghana. At that time, I was still President of International Student Ministries Canada and incidentally had my entire Senior Leadership Team visiting Ghana from Canada. In the presence of my ISMC team, friends and family from near and far, during my fortieth birthday dinner on 16th March 2018 at the Fiesta Royale Hotel in Accra, Ghana we actually formally launched the idea (or should I say effort?). I had no clue how it was going to pan out but I sensed it was not just a good idea; it was a God idea.
THE BRAZIL BENEDICTION
Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Ebenezer Aryee, a Ghanaian health worker domiciled in the United Kingdom and serving on the board of Pioneers Pioneers UK, had also been independently pondering over the prospect of an ‘Africa Centre for Mission Mobilization and Research’ since about 2017 and mooted the idea to Pioneers UK as well. Incidentally, Eben and I first met in person at the Global Mobilization Network’s conference in Dubai that same year but had no such discussions.
Come 2019, at the next biennial Global Mobilization Network’s conference in Sao Paolo (Brazil) in December 2019, both of us found out that we had a similar vision from the Lord and decided to explore what a possible convergence and synergy could result in for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God. Incidentally, that is the same conference at which upon hearing Dr. T.V. Thomas’s stirring exhortation about “radical collaboration” for the sake of the global Church finishing the task Jesus Christ left us, I agreed to co-author Africa to the Rest with Sam Ngugi, although I had started the book the year prior and was more than half-way, or so I thought.
SUPERSONIC SPEED SINCE SAO PALO
Since that time in Sao Paolo, many other African men and women from all over the continent, and in the diaspora, ranging from mission practitioners to academics, have been consulted and/or roped in. After an initial year of various research, discussions and SWOT analysis by this array of consultants, it became so overwhelmingly clear that not only was the African Centre for Mission Mobilization & Research (ACMMR) an idea whose time had come, but also that it was an urgent one for that matter. An interim board was set up by Send Africa Network, itself a new pan-African mission agency that Eben and a couple of others were in the process of founding and roped me in. The ACMMR interim board comprised Dr. Harvey Kwiyani (Malawi/UK), Prof. Philip Antwi-Agyei (Ghana), Dr. Lazarus Phiri (Zambia), Dr. Andrew Mkwaila (Malawi), Dr. Esther Mombo (Kenya), Dr. Joshua Bogunjoku (Nigeria/USA), Madam Angéle Kalouche Biao (Benin) and Rev. Ebenezer Aryee (Ghana/UK). I had the honour of chairing it.
The centre was outdoored, online, at Send Africa’s first summit, online, in 2021. This interim board, among others, determined that Ghana might be the most suitable place to physically site the ACMMR, with possible satellites across the continent. After physically scouting a number of possible places and holding various bilateral talks, the Akrofi-Christaller Centre for Theology Mission and Culture (ACI) was finally settled on as the most germane.
SEND AFRICA NETWORK SUMMIT 2022
At the November 2022 Send Africa Summit in Accra, Ghana, a hybrid summit, among the several dignitaries present was Dr. Rudolph Gaisie, director of the Centre for the Study of Early African Christianity (CESEAC) at ACI (the significance of him being there would soon become apparent). A fundraising event was held for the ACMMR and a permanent board commissioned comprising: Dr. Harvey Kwiyani (Malawi/UK), Rev. Dr. Solomon Aryeetey (Ghana), Mr. Alan Webster (South Africa), Dr. Lazarus Phiri (Zambia), Rev. Daniel Hyde Appiah (Ghana), Ps. Kassum Balboné (Burkina Faso), Mr. Sam Ngugi (Kenya), Rev. Ebenezer Aryee (Ghana/UK), Madam Angéle Kalouche Biao (Benin) and Dr. Yaw Perbi (Ghana/Canada). A delegation from the new board and some delegates from the Send Africa Summit paid a courtesy call on the Registrar of ACI, Mr. Ben Asiedu, at the Akropong premises. Dr. Rudolph Gaisie took the group on a tour of the facilities, while sharing some of the vital history of the institute.
Rev. Dr. Solomon Aryeetey, medical doctor and founder of Pioneers Africa, was elected as the substantive board chair, at the board’s inaugural meeting, online, in December 2022. Dr. Lazarus Phiri, immediate pst Vice Chancellor of the Evangelical University in Zambia was selected as his vice, while Mr. Alan Webster of Wycliffe South Africa serves as the secretary.
LESSON LOOMING LARGE
There is no end to what God can do with humans who are willing to listen to His instructions and collaborate with His people. Usually, you know a vision is of God when it is far bigger than you and you know you firstly, you’ve got to depend on him and secondly, that you need others to rally around it. Once when I was struggling with taking up the offer to be ISMC president because I preferred to focus on building ‘my own baby’ The HuD Group as the founder and Global CEO, the Holy Spirit brought to mind the instructive words of a mentor of mine, who for years had been Dr. John C. Maxwell’s Senior Vice President at his leadership organization called EQUIIP in Atlanta. He had said to me: “For a long time, the Kingdom of God has not advanced the way it should because of egos and logos.” Ouch.
Imagine that the powerful Africa to the Rest making its rounds around the world would not have happened the same way without my co-author’s unique perspective, experience and network from East Africa. Today, we have a group of scholars from five or six countries collaborating to turn the book into a resource course for tertiary students. At the start of August 2023, Operation Mobilization’s ship ministry, Logos Hope, reached out to stock the ship with 500 copies of Africa to the Rest to be distributed across the continent, from Mombasa to Seychelles, and beyond. What if my ego and logo had gotten in the way.
As I type this, plans are far advanced to organize the formal signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between ACMMR and the Centre for the Study of Early African Christianity (CESEAC) at ACI, with an inaugural lecture on the serene premises. Neither Eben or myself even have our faces on ACMMR posters or our names as chair, or even vice chair or executive director. I dare say most of the people pushing the vision today don’t even know this back story I’ve just shared here!
And that is the beauty of making the only ‘ego’ that matters be the glory of God and the only ‘logo’ that is of prime concern, the cross of Jesus Christ! The aim of the centre is knowledge-based total mobilization of the most numerically Christian continent this century for the mission of God..
Indeed, if it is true that one would chase a thousand and two will put ten thousand to flight, then imagine what is exponentially possible with convergence and synergy. See what unity of purpose devoid of egos and logos could result in for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God. So you see, there is no limit on God-sized visions; but for our egos and logos.
Here’s the worst thing about the best promotion. At one of my organizations, we recently had to let an excellent hire go. Come to think of it, we failed him. We failed him by promoting him.
You would think that all promotions are good but no. One of the worst kinds is being ‘elevated’ to become a leader just because you are an outstanding worker or producer. Working on stuff and excelling is very different from working with souls to excel. The reward for hard work is more work, weird yes, but the latter tends to be more mental work than manual —which most people find as more beneficial—also, more of working with people than working on things.
As one person shared about struggling with leadership upon her first promotion as a telco manager: “Within one month, I went from being the best programmer to the worst supervisor.” I’ve seen this happen to too many people in too many places. I grew up on the University of Ghana campus (both my grandfather and mother were professors there) and I would see time and time again fine lecturers promoted into leadership positions, from heads of department through deanship to vice-chancellorship and flail and fail. How many times have I said that a great chemist or erudite historian doesn’t necessarily make a great leader!
We do the same in the medical world, promoting top surgeons to head departments or if God doesn’t intervene, to head the hospital! When I was promoted to supervise the Military Polyclinic at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra, determining the doctors scheduling and all, in my opinion it was only because I wasn’t a bad doctor and had been around long enough. And no one gave me a minute’s training about leadership. Squat. Thank God I had been a private student of leadership for years prior.
It doesn’t start out as a bad thing; in fact, it is exhilarating at first for the recipient of the promotion. And the giver of the opportunity ordinarily also means well and feels good about it. But organizational leaders need to rethink the notion of making people supervisors, managers or leaders as a reward for diligent or even skillful individual technical work. It can backfire, seriously.
A STORY I CAN’T GET OVER
One of the most poignant illustrations of this phenomenon of worker/rewarded-as-leader is told by my mentor Bill George in his book ‘True North.’ It’s about the person who confessed upon her first promotion as a telco manager, “Within one month, I went from being the best programmer to the worst supervisor.” Here are some more details:
“It’s unbelievable how bad I was. I didn’t know how to delegate. When somebody had a question about their work, I’d pick it up and do it. My group was not accomplishing anything because I was on the critical path of everything. My boss saw we were imploding, so he did an amazing thing: He gave me every new project that came in. It was unreal. At 4:30 PM, my team would leave, and I’d be working day and night trying to dig through this stuff.
“Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer. I went to his office, stamped my foot like a 5-year-old, and said, “It’s not fair. I have the work of 10 people!” He sad calmly, “Look out there. You have 10 people. Put them to work.” It was such a startling revelation. I said sheepishly, “I get it.”” 
If this person hadn’t eventually learned to lead people, she would never have made it to becoming president and CEO of the American Red Cross on June 23, 2008. Prior to that she had also held top management positions at AT&T Corporation and Fidelity Investments. She is a member of the board of trustees of Johns Hopkins University and the board of directors of DTE Energy.
This is Gail J. McGovern we’re talking about here, even recognized by Fortune magazine in 2000 and 2001 as one of the top 50 most powerful women in corporate America. Alas, not all of such stories that begin with such ‘good promotions’ end well, and even when they do, not without significant damage to many.
DIAGNOSIS OF LEADERSHIP FAILURE POST PROMOTION
It takes both a different mindset and skill set to move from being an excellent worker to being a good leader, let alone a great one. Yet we come to the world of work with both a mindset and skillset that ill-prepare us for leadership success. Even prior, we are socialized largely to excel as individuals. I concur with Bill George that this unpreparedness is attributable to our upbringing:
“…so much of our early success in life depends upon individual efforts, from the grades we earn in school to our performance in individual sports to our initial work assignments. Admissions offices and employers closely examine those achievements and use them to make comparisons. …As we are promoted from individual roles to leadership, we believe we are being recognized for our ability to get others to follow us…
“To become authentic leaders, we must discard the myth that leadership means having legions of supporters following us as we ascend to the pinnacles of power. Only then can we realize that authentic leadership is serving people… How else can they unleash the power of their organization unless they motivate people to reach their full potential? … Only when leaders stop focusing on their personal needs and see themselves as serving others are they able to develop other leaders.” 
ROAD MAP TO LEADERSHIP SUCCESS POST PROMOTION
If Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership is anything to go by, then when one is promoted from the top echelons of the worker floor (Peak Performer/Worker Level 3 in diagram above), they only end up at Level 1 of leadership: Position. The lowest level of leadership—the entry level, if you will—is position. People only follow if they believe that they have to (otherwise you might use your powers of carrot and stick). If this leader takes the hint and invests in their leadership growth, they can move to Leader Level 2—Permission—which is based on relationship. At this level, people choose to follow because they want to.
You will notice that even what Gail was trying to get done at work, putting the 10 people ‘out there’ to work, is still only mid-level in the Maxwell scheme of things: Production. Good leaders know how to motivate their people to GTD – get things done! And getting things done is what Leader Level 3 is all about. But they’re only good; not great. Leader Level 4 — People Development—can be summed up in another word: Reproduction. One’s goal at this level is to identify and develop as many leaders as one can and investing in them to help them grow. Here (Leader Level 4), you’re producing people as leaders, not producing work through people (Leader Level 3).
The most challenging and highest level of leadership, Level 5, is the Pinnacle. According to Maxwell, it requires longevity as well as intentionality in investing one’s life into the lives of other leaders and organizations for the long haul (while growing yourself as lifelong learner all the while). People follow such because of who they are and what they represent. Their leadership gains a positive reputation, betters still, one has earned respect.
Note that Level 5 leaders develop Level 5 organizations. I will add that in the leader versUs institutions debate—as to whether it is strong leaders or strong institutions we need to develop long-term—I would say that it takes Level 5 leaders to build the structures and systems that produce strong institutions. This is the realm of legacy. As a result, Level 5 leaders often transcend their position, their organization, their industry and perhaps even their nation.
And nothing accelerates leaders through these levels, from 1 to 5, like intentional coaching.
As you can tell already, it’s a long way from being the best worker to being a great leader. There is nothing more painful than a “highly capable individual” (as Jim Collins puts it) thinking that just because they’ve been a peak performer and ‘made it’ onto the supervision, management or leadership floor that they’ve got what it takes to run the ship. One’s productive contribution through individual effort in knowledge, skills and good work habits won’t cut it. As promoters, if we promote people and fail to plan a leadership growth path alongside that, we’ve inadvertently planned to fail them.
Congratulations on your promotion, but to ensure that dream-come-true doesn’t become a nightmare, and the reward a trap instead, you must be aware that it’s a floor and not the ceiling. Top floor workers’ triumphal entry through the golden portal of promotion only lands you as a ground floor leader. Welcome to Level 1 of Leadership: position. Just that.
 Bill George. True North: Becoming an Authentic Leader. Second edition; expanded and updated edition. Jossey-Bass, Hoboken, NJ, 2015, pg. 186-187.
 Ibid, pg. 185
It’s been a very busy few weeks. The last one in particular was the kind that Nelson Mandela would call “‘impossible’ until it’s done.” The very morn of the dawn I arrived back in Accra from Kenya, the first day of the work week, I had to be speaking at about 10am at an African Young Professionals Conference. That same week my team at PELÉ and the Ghanaian contingent of the African-wide BCA Leadership hosted the power-packed, two-day Made in Africa Leadership Conference (MLC) from June 13 to 15. Then there was a Youth Rally in the vicinity of the University of Professional Studies (June 15 evening) where l was billed to speak as well. And then to crown that week, The HuD Group, which I founded with eight of my friends in 2003, held a press launch of our twentieth anniversary and simultaneous launch of three legacy projects.
In all of this business and busyness, one thing that has come through very clearly is that leadership is absolutely important–that everything does rises and falls on leadership. I tried to make that point in my opening remarks to the distinguished ladies and gentlemen convened at the Marriot for the aforementioned MLC 2023. Even this morning, as I was training the executive team of one of our PELÉ clients, a tech start-up, Maxwell’s Law of the Lid came to the fore: leadership is the lid on their personal level of effectiveness as well as the organization’s impact that it would ever make.
Leadership is so important that every professional must have it, everyone in every sector of the economy must possess it, and everyone at every level of society must have it but especially leadership is too important to leave it to politicians alone. “Leadership is cause,” as one other leadership expert puts it, “everything else is effect.”
As we celebrate 20 years of The HuD Group, we can testify that God has done amazing things in, on, with and through The HuD Group. We started in Ghana, moved to Cote D’Ivoire, then to Nigeria and Canada and now have a presence in 24-25 countries on all continents, having incredible impact on people in every sphere. In fact, at the anniversary launch last week Friday, several VIPs like celebrated, young, award-winning journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni, shared how The HuD Group had impacted them. But I shared with the audience my one regret: that in all this 20 years of The HuD Group we did not give enough attention to the political space in particular. Of course, it is not that we did nothing at all but knowing what l know now and seeing how successes in all these other areas of life have literally been eroded by what has happened in the political space, especially in Ghana, that really breaks my heart.
THE SKY ISN’T THE LIMIT; POLITICIANS ARE
This has been a season of lots of graduations. I’ve seen flashy photos from Harvard to Fuller, and been physically present at inspiring commencements like Ashesi’s about three weeks ago. First, I’ve been excited about all these amazing graduates bustling with energy and vision and drive, some having done some earthshaking capstone projects and all. Yet all these amazing people formally graduated by our best academic establishments and semi-formally by The HuD Group in the last 20 years—and yes, some of us have been though all kinds of fellowships from Aspen and Eisenhower to Tutu—are restricted by what happens in the political space because everything rises and falls on that leadership. Political leadership is the lid over all our collective effectiveness and greatness.
If anyone told these graduands that the sky is the limit, that isn’t wholly true; our political leaders are. No I’m not a whiner; I am precisely the opposite of that, which is why I’m a serial entrepreneur. So I believe in creative ways around ‘the system’ but as the august chairperson of the HuD anniversary launch, Madam Yawa Hanson-Quao, had earlier said at the MLC, “We cannot entrepreneur our way out of bad governance.” Political leadership is the lid over all our other attempts at leadership.
Political leadership is the lid over all of our collective effectiveness and greatness in all of our fields of work and spheres of influence. We’ve got to get up and take the political space seriously and not let anyone who is not a selfless, authentic, transformational leader make their way there! Because then, it doesn’t matter how the collective brilliance of all of us is, there would be a lid over the rest of us. A good illustration is the proverbial army of sheep led by a lion versus or an army of lions led by a sheep.
At the end of the day, every sector, and every level of our society needs at least good leaders, even better, great leaders! Otherwise like John Gardener aptly puts it, “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy [or politics for that matter] because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
The following was shared as a TED-like talk to open the Made in Africa Leadership Conference by BCA Leadership on June 14 at the Marriot Hotel, Accra, Ghana.
My uncle died. My mom’s youngest brother. He came over to Ghana from the United States, where he had lived for decades, and fell ill. He died in the very hospital I worked in at the time. In fact, he died on my ward. But I can swear it wasn’t his disease that killed him. It was leadership, or rather the lack thereof. Leadership is too important for doctors not to have it.
Some of the most important things in life are not taught in school, like leadership. When some of my friends from university got into government I did exhort them: “Nobody taught us Jack about leadership. LEARN LEADERSHIP! CONTRACT COACHES! Leadership is not just caught; it is taught.” Did they listen? Ha!
Ironically, communal, national, continental or even global leadership, is a deeply person-al thing. It takes deeply transformed leaders to deeply transform society. Authentic leadership begins with aligning what goes on in a leader’s head and heart with True North. Leadership principles or True North are no respector of persons—red or yellow, black or white.
Two days from now, we will be officially launching the 20th anniversary celebration of The HuD Group, a holistic leadership organization started by nine young Africans in Accra. From one country in West Africa, it now has presence in 24 countries, on all six continents. Out of Africa to the Rest. From a former Rwandan refugee now in executive leadership in Uganda to a former child soldier in Sierra Leone now a high-ranking bank official in his homeland, to a Chinese-Canadian who we trained via Skype when she was an international medical student in Australia, a lot of transformation and impact has been achieved but in Ghana in particular I feel much of our gains have been eroded by not giving adequate attention to political leadership.
So today is the first of two important occasions this week where I will be drumming home this point with all my heart, liver, spleen and intestines: “Leadership is too important to leave it to politicians alone.” AND with 90% of African businesses being SMEs, creating 60-80% of our jobs and accounting for 40% of our GDP, what we do here at MLC this week for African leaders and African leadership is wildly important.
When two 14-year old stowaways from Guinea, Yaguine and Foday, froze to death in the landing gear of an Airbus 330 from Conakry to Brussels, they had on them a hand-written letter labelled: IN CASE WE DIE… to the Messrs. members and officials of Europe.
They said, among other things, “We have the honor and pleasure and great confidence in you to write this letter … we appeal to your solidarity and kindness for help in Africa. …we, African children and youth, ask you to create a great, efficient organization for Africa to allow us to progress. …we want to study and we ask you to help us in Africa to study to be like you.”
You should find and read the whole letter here—it will thaw and tear your heart. And that was 24 years ago. Has anything changed?
It’s time for Leadership Made in Africa that makes Africa work for Africans. BEFORE WE DIE. Yes we can, partnering and collaborating to reimagine and reform the Africa that we want! Twende! Let’s go! Let’s do this!
Imagine a flourishing global ecosystem of authentic leaders characterized by healthy growth, holistic success and lasting significance. That’s the big dream and eternal hope fuelling our daily tasks at the Executive Education firm that bears my name, YAW PERBI. A couple of years ago, after eight years as President & CEO of a Canadian non-profit in the international education space and having garnered several years of executive leadership experience in the Ghanaian military and medical fraternity, global media, the United Nations in Cote d’Ivoire etc. I decided it was time to serve all of that to leaders of leaders: the C-suite. So I came out of sabbatical and stepped down as President of ISMCanada to do this.
Since according to my mentor of a quarter of a century, John C. Maxwell, by whom I’m officially a certified coach, speaker and trainer, that “one is too small a number to achieve greatness,” I have been steadily growing a global team of competent, caring, confident and character-based co-leaders on/from every continent in the world beyond myself to make our faith, sight. That journey has culminated in the birth of PELÉ.
A Play on Words
In keeping our focus on growing and coaching executive leadership to succeed, ever broadening the authentic relationships and resources we bring to bear on our task, we decided to move away from YAW PERBI specifically and to build Perbi Executive Leadership Education, PELÉ for short. PELÉ is not exactly just a happy coincidence, for as a once-upon-a-time football fanatic and soccer player for my elementary school, I recently engaged in my fair share of arguments about who the greatest soccer player of all time is between the shouts in favour of Lionel Messi after lifting the Qatar World Cup trophy on December 18, 2022 and the incessant calls to hallow the legendary Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known by his nickname Pelé, who died eleven days later on December 29. As a double childhood hero—both of my dad and myself—I had been pondering a way to honour a Black man who gave everyone so much delight and so many people of his skin hue so much pride.
As I’ve stated before, “I am eager to particularly provide C-level executives of African descent with the paradigms, processes and tools necessary to maximize their potential, to be world class, take the world stage and make their dent in the universe.”
A Word In Play
Then came April 2023 when the Pelé Foundation and Sportv launched the “Pelé in the dictionary” campaign to pay tribute and recognise his legacy in other fields beyond sport. Of course his name has long been a synonymous with success and excellence, both of which are values of our Executive Education company, but now the great Brazilian forward and only human to have lifted three World Cup trophies officially had his name in the Portuguese dictionary. The adjective “Pelé” has been added to the Portuguese edition of the Michaelis dictionary to describe “someone out of the ordinary.”
Pelé, the nickname of the late football legend, has officially become tantamount to “extraordinary, exceptional, incomparable, unique.” Pelé is an adjective for something or someone that is out of the ordinary, one who by virtue of their quality, value or superiority cannot be equalled to anything or anyone, just like Pelé. For example, he is the Pelé of basketball, she is the Pelé of paediatrics.
What’s in a Name?
According to Emily Olson of NPR, “It was in the small, impoverished town of Bauru where he first got his nickname playing in youth leagues.” Apparently, even Pelé himself wasn’t sure where it came from, he wrote in a 2006 piece for The Guardian, but it may have been a play on Bilé, the nickname of a goalkeeper for the team Pelé’s father played on. “I can remember the name really bugged me at first. I was really proud that I was named after Thomas Edison and wanted to be called Edson,” he said. “I thought Pelé sounded horrible. It was a rubbish name. Edson sounded so much more serious and important.”
PELÉ by YAW PERBI is an Executive Education firm that offers authentic and customized relationships and resources to C-Level executives to grow personally, succeed professionally and become significant societally. To this end, the company provides Pelé services in leadership development, management training, executive coaching and publishing. Our Pelé coaching, authoring, speaking, and training are centred on LIFE—Leadership, Integrity, Family, Entrepreneurship.
We are PELÉ–extraordinary, exceptional, incomparable, unique–but more importantly, we form PELÉs, who are authentic, out of the ordinary executive leaders in every sector of life and all society’s centres of influence. As a forward-looking, authentic leader, if you want to dextrously dribble through LIFE and exceptionally hit goals like the legendary Pelé, you know where to look for the kind of coaching and training it will take: Perbi Executive Leadership Education (PELÉ). Like begets like.
We first met on a table near the Table Mountain; I hope we meet again, in eternity, at a wedding table on a holy mountain.
In an emerging leader-affirming move, typical of The Lausanne Movement, my 32-year old self was appointed a table head at the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa. Imagine that. This was a gathering of the crème de la crème of Christian leaders from around the world, even described by some as “the most representative gathering of Christian leaders in the 2,000 year history of the Christian movement” (Christianity Today).
Each table had about half a dozen members. One of mine was Tim Keller. At the time, I had no clue who he was and quite frankly, couldn’t be bothered. Everyone was somebody. He wasn’t always at the table and even when he was there, he wasn’t quite there.
The Congress was over and everyone received their beautiful certificates of participation. Tim wasn’t there. Again. Apparently he had left back to the United States earlier. So I decided to travel back to Canada with his certificate, do an internet search of his whereabouts and mail his certificate to him in the States.
THAT is when I found out to my shock what a tall figure of a man this was! I eventually did get to speak with a staff and mail his memento to the right address (I would hope) in New York City. Rev. Dr. Tim Keller, founder and lifelong pastor of the 5,000-member Redeemer Presbyterian Church, was über brilliant and very deep—in head and heart. So deep that he had decided not to write any book till he was in his fifties. “Writing a book in your 50s will go twice as fast and be twice as good as if you try the same book in your 30s. It’s just good stewardship to wait,” he told The Gospel Coalition, which he was co-founder and Vice President of.
The other dimension I admired most about Keller was how ambidextrous he was in elucidating the gospel and engaging the culture, simultaneously! Stupendous! That, to me, was epitomized in his invitation to speak on his obviously Christian worldview book, ‘The Meaning of Marriage,’ at Google in Silicon Valley. Check out his presentation and responses to their questions and comments. Dr. Keller mentored many, near and far, in-person, in spirit and via media. Those around the world who were directly mentored through his Redeemer City to City should count themselves fortunate, blessed. I just spotted on Facebook a touching tribute from a pastor friend of mine from Brazil who recently planted a church in Rome, inspired and equipped by Rev. Keller.
As a latter day follower of Tim on Twitter, I admired the way he vulnerably yet resolvedly faced his imminent death, having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer since 2020, a sequel to his 2002 thyroid cancer battle. All the while incarnationally demonstrating ‘The Meaning of Marriage’ through the dynamics with his wife of nearly 50 years, Kathy Kristy. Tim transitioned into glory on Friday the nineteenth (of May), 2023.
Dr. Tim Keller’s influence on the church and the world for Christ is deep and wide. I hope we share a table, again, at the grand, imminent marriage feast of the Lamb in eternity. Till then, Rest in Peace, champ! #Maranatha!
Co-founders of Perbi Cubs sandwiching Kanéval partner-influencer, Nana Aba Anamoah, media personality & General Manager of GHOne TV/Starr FM.
This year, the capital city of Ghana where my wife hails from and where I was born has been named by UNESCO as its twenty-third World Book Capital. Accra takes over from Guadalajara, Mexico (2022) and will be handing the baton to Strasbourg, France come April 2024. Since ‘kané’ is the Ga word for read—and Ga being the language of the Accra people—Perbi Cubs Library services creatively replaced the near-homophonic ‘carni’ in ‘carnival’ with ‘kané’ and coined the word ‘Kanéval’ to bring fun to reading, which is otherwise unfortunately perceived widely as a bore and a chore.
As official partners of UNESCO Accra World Book Capital 2023 (AWBC ‘23), Perbi Cubs will be organizing Kanéval as a fantastic year-long program, a traveling fun fair transitioning from place to place with lots of amusements intertwined with lots of reading. You will find a fuller history of the UNESCO AWBC’23 partnership and details of the year-long fiesta here.
RESCUE FROM KANÉBALS
We are of the conviction that this Kanéval social service campaign needs to involve key influencers from all walks of life, from CEOs to Black Stars players to musicians, to consistently show that reading is fun and leads to success. The campaign will consist of various events in-person and online, including book fairs, storytelling sessions, and community outreach programs. By making reading fun and accessible, we can encourage more people to read and ultimately improve literacy rates in the community.
When we began approaching various influencers to join us on this reading revolution campaign, a massive behavioural change intervention, some of the stories we heard about the generally poor reading attitudes and habits of Ghanaian society were stupefying. We found kindred spirit in Nana Aba Anamoah (photo above), media personality and General Manager of GHOne and Starr FM, who unbeknownst to us had years back initiated a reading campaign known as ‘Raising Readers.’ She too had involved several influencers, including former Ghanaian president Jerry John Rawlings, to read with the children in a certain deprived area of Accra. Book donations in their thousands to the cause were a shot in the arm.
At some point it was clear parental involvement would bolster this behavioural change campaign. Some parent did accompany their children and wards to the reading sessions. Mostly reluctantly. In spite of these mostly illiterate parents sucking their teeth after only a little while, thinking of all the other more ‘productive’ ways they could be spending their time, Nana Aba and team pressed on. In fact, at the height of her intervention they had decided that once a week was not enough for the pace and profundity of the transformation they sought so they decided to leave books with the families and replace them when they returned the week after.
All seemed well and good until the following week when some medical doctors on the Raising Readers campaign team who had gone down the road to grab some snacks returned with horror on their faces. When Nana Aba relates this story, she might not be aware but her face betrays the pain of the let-down she felt. The snacks that the team mates purchased in the catchment area had been nicely wrapped in freshly torn out pages of last week’s books! Kanébals (do you see what I’ve done with ‘cannibal’ and ‘kané’?) had dismembered the hitherto living literary friends, ripping them from their saddle-stitched and perfect-bound spines and repurposing the cadavers as food packaging. Ah!
When we related this story to another influencer on our bill, Kafui Dey (photo above), author and Breakfast host on GTV, he told us worse. Sometimes it’s pages of even the Bible that are Kanébalized for wrapping food!
WANTED: KANÉVORES IN THE KAPITAL
Perbi Cubs, convinced that readers are leaders and leaders are readers, has from inception sought to raise lion-leaders, hence the referral to our 10,000 young patrons as cubs (the young of lions) rather than the typical ‘kids’ (the young of goats).
By the end of the year-long Accra World Book Kapital, we seek to have enrolled an army of at least 100,000 cubs who are voracious readers, Kanévores. If carnivorous lions are the king of the jungle, we imagine that Kanévores rule the world.
KALL TO ACTION
According to UNESCO, as of 2021 only 6% of children in classes two and three in public basic schools could read and understand anything they read. Lack of sufficient reading resources and very large class sizes are among the root causes of the problem, but the overarching root cause is that society does not value reading. Reading is seen as a chore, a punishment or even a necessary evil! Yet per credible research, the love for reading is a stronger indicator of a child’s success in school and their future career than even their parents’ level of education and their socioeconomic status.
Join us in promoting the joy of reading and improving literacy rates in the community, particularly among children in public basic schools, by becoming a partner for Kanéval. Together, we can make a real difference in the lives of our community members and future generations. Let’s celebrate and make the most of Accra’s selection as UNESCO World Book Capital 2023.
Accra has been selected as UNESCO World Book Capital 2023 and Kanéval is a one-year social service campaign organized by Perbi Cubs, as official partners of UNESCO AWBC 2023, to celebrate this achievement and promote the joy of reading and improving literacy rates in the community.
The success of the campaign depends on a coalition of all stakeholders in the book industry, influencers, and strong partnership with the media. Together, through massive Kanévals all year, we can raise Kanévores and end apathy towards the written word that results in Kanébalism and the like. May readers rise and leaders come to light to transform society and impact the world—from Africa to the Rest.
At Easter, I threw a challenge to the leaders in my network: lay down yourself for someone else’s uplifting. This challenge was triggered by inspiration I received when I had just returned from a college graduation the week before Holy Week. Although it had been a season of graduation ceremonies in Ghana across many tertiary institutions, this was a special one, a very special one.
About six years ago, our family travelled to Ghana from Canada on furlough. We had planned to stay the entire period at my parents-in-love’s residence in Accra. Being a reasonably big-sized big family (the children weren’t even seven yet!) we obviously needed some domestic assistance. We were glad to welcome a promising young lady, Benedicta, as our new house help after a couple of failed trials.
As we lived with her and observed her initiative, diligence, smartness, humility, kindness and care we took an extra interest in what her ultimate dream was. She had the potential to be like any one of us high income, high impact professionals and not necessarily having to be confined to a vocation of domestic assistance her entire life. We found out about her high school final grades and thought they could be improved. And so we (my wife and I, parents-in-love and other family members) decided to invest in her, everything from extra classes through re-sit examinations. Even when she was finally given a shot at college my mother-in-law would get her books and do mock interviews with her to prepare for the entrance interviews. Long story short, she made it into nursing college.Now, that is the graduation we went for that day.
Today, Benedicta is a nurse. She graduated from the Nurses & Midwives Training College in Teshie, Accra, Ghana. From house help to nurse; and that is what brought me to the Easter challenge because at Easter, we see the ultimate leader Himself laying down His life for the people He saw value in. At the risk of sounding holier-than-though, the previous family she left to serve ours was just about to invest in her to be a fried pork seller by the street.
Everybody knows John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But what a lot of people who are not schooled in Trinitarian theology don’t realize is that this scripture is basically saying that God so loved the world—God so saw value in you and me—that he gave Himself for us, because God is Father-Son-Spirit. The ultimate leader laid down Himself for our uplifting.
This giving of Himself or laying down His life for us is spoken of by St. Paul’s to the Church in Philippi in such humble and humbling terms. He begins in Philippians 2:5 by exhorting that “your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Let’s take Eugene Peterson’s contemporary version:
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” 
Wow! God becoming a man was not just humbling, it was humiliating. Yet even when formed and found in appearance of a human, he could’ve been a very proud man but no! He was down-to-earth and mingled with tax collectors and ‘sinners’. In fact, it was on the night he was betrayed–during Holy Week–that He washed his own disciples’ dirty and stinky feet and wiped them with a towel around his waist.
The way up is down, for because of this humble attitude and action, “God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.”  Even those who are not voluntarily honoring Jesus now will bow one day, compelled. All shall bow to the one who first bowed the lowest and is now raised the highest.
As a leader, I want to challenge you to choose one person, choose one thing to do this month (we’re still in the month of Easter) that involves laying down your preference, time, or money, sacrificing something, dying a little so that someone can live, graduate, have a better life etc. I challenge you to do that because that is the essence of ultimate leadership. Leadership is not about us, it is about those who take inspiration, follow, and learn from us who we get to empower and guide; those around us.
It’s sad to see so many places in the world, especially in Africa, where government official think it is all about them. Unfortunately, even in the church there are a myriad instances where pastors are doing extremely well socioeconomically and there are congregants who are not faring well, at all. Sometimes these leaders are literally fleecing the people, milking them dry till they bleed. That’s not leadership at all, and certainly not servant leadership. Leadership is laying down our lives, laying down our gifts so that others will be blessed. It is going down to pick the downtrodden and lifting them up.
Cecelia Chan poignantly put it this way: “Instead of laying a red carpet for yourself to walk on, lay a bridge and let the young people walk over to you.” This is my challenge to you, at Easter and beyond: lay down yourself for someone else’s uplifting. God bless and honour you too as you learn to lead like Jesus.
 Philippians 2:5-8, The Message
 Philippians 2:9-11, The Message
Just before one of my recent trips out of Ghana, I asked the driver who usually takes me to the Accra airport if he would like to go with me for the experience (he’s never been airborne). His response wasn’t what I expected. I admired him for his brutal honesty and was deeply saddened at the same time. He said, “Dr. P, I won’t lie to you. If I go with you, I’m not coming back.” And he is not alone.
As I’ve been interacting with young people in Accra mainly, but in Ghana generally, it seems the Ghanaian dream is: to get out! i.e. to get out of the country to seek greener pastures. The Ghanaian dream is to exit the nation and l find that so sad on many levels. At the same time that excites me. Let me explain.
THE BAD, SAD & MAD
l find it sad in the sense that whatever the push factors are, they are potent enough to drive a collectivist society that is really keen on kith and kin, in other words one in which friends and family mean so much, to want to leave spouse and children, or parents, to go and struggle in another land just to keep body and soul together. What would make many of our people expire in the wilderness, literally die in the deserts of the Sahara en route to Libya and such, or be buried alive in the Mediterranean Sea between Africa and Europe in desperate attempts to get a better life?
Shame on the fathers and mothers who are making life impossible for our young people. I can totally understand why five hundred (500) years, or even two hundred (200) years ago, we would be forced to get into ships to sail to the Americas but today if anybody brought that same ship people will voluntarily fill it en mass and say, “Take me to the Americas, take me to the Caribbean, take me to Europe, take me to wherever. l want to work for whoever, for whatever; just to get out of here.”
I remember being in a conference last year at Cape Town, South Africa when someone did an incredible presentation on what Ghanaians and other Sub-Saharans go through in wanting to reach Europe by all means, literally. It was revealing how a revived craze is trying to go around the Senegambia coast to the Canary Islands, an Atlantic maritime route largely considered “the most dangerous sea passage for Africans trying to reach Europe.” Regarding the Sahara route, one of the funny but sad question was: “How many Africans can fit into the bucket of a Toyota Hilux pickup truck?” They say, “One more!” One more!! They keep filling and filling and filling these truck buckets with human beings and carry very little fuel and food supplies so they can travel light and transport more people. Whenever there is a breakdown or some delay, people die like flies. The dream becomes a nightmare. O WHY?
On the other hand, what good can there be in all of this, legitimate and illegitimate attempts at migration alike? Why is there some excitement in my heart? There is titillation because God is a global God and he calls people whenever He wants wherever He wants them to accomplish His eternal purposes. Yes!
One day Paul of Tarsus, the lawyer-turned-preacher, was in Athens, Greece and delivered a ‘TED Talk’ at the Areopagus. Luke the doctor-turned-investigative writer records in parenthesis how “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21). “Ideas worth spreading,” TED would say. But I digress.
One of the things Paul shared was that God who made us all from one original man, Adam, is the one who determines our boundaries, where we live, and in what period or era in history (Acts 17:26-27). People movements are actually God movements. You see that throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. A personal attestation to this scriptural reality is how I never wanted to leave the land of my birth, Ghana, to be domiciled in another land, especially outside of Africa. I had no such plans. And I married a woman with a similar mindset. We were doubly resolved. Ironically, my wife, Anyele, was born in Canada and moved to Ghana when she was barely two years old but had no desire to return to the land of her birth. In fact, she had never used that Canadian passport to get back to Canada. Two dozen years later.
One evening in August 2006, God spoke to me so clearly. This was barely three weeks after we were married. I was in a Lausanne Younger Leaders conference near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia when I heard this in my spirit: ‘It’s my world and l send you where I want you.” Huh! Then in January 2008, the LORD spoke very clearly to us both from Genesis 12. It was just our ‘usual’ morning devotion on an ‘ordinary day’ when these words literally jumped off the pages of scripture: “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household. And go to a land I will show you.” With no such prior plans of ever leaving Ghana to school or work, in a dramatic fashion our lives were turned upside down. By June I was serving with the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (peacekeeping soldier) as a military captain and medical doctor to the U.N. staff and troops mainly, and some local Ivorians. By July, Anyele had been ‘kicked out’ of Ghana too to Montreal, Canada, going to pursue her master’s in economics at McGill University. The first time she was back in two-and-a-half decades.
So that’s the exciting part, that God may be calling people to fulfill His grand purposes in the Arab States, Europe, in another Africa country, the Americas, Australasia… wherever. But l pray that we would be able to help those who are going to go well. And also let our contacts in their destinations receive them well. It behoves on the Church in Ghana, in particular (which accounts for over 70% of the population), to find a way to prepare people well, including blessing them with a healthy diaspora missiology, so they may go well and thrive. It cannot be overemphasized that merely getting to America, Europe or China, is no guarantee one will be successful. We give money to poor people in Canada. There are homeless beggars who have come to squat on our property in America. And the poor in the West are not of only one colour of skin.
Having said that, surely we can do more, much more, to help whoever longs to, or is called to, stay in the land of their birth and make it in Ghana, Nigeria or anywhere in Africa, to be able to make it well also, and very well for that matter.
WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU
Find out what God’s great purpose and plan, position and place (including geographical location) is for your life, for the One who made and redeemed you is a global God. It might not be what you thought. Bottomline: You are only going to prosper where God has purposed and planned you to be planted. Make sure you are planted by God in that place–whether it is in Africa or elsewhere–and in that particular period, where and when you will prosper. Think on these things.