Costing short-term thinking: Lessons in leadership and responsibility
Joshua Awesome is a Coaching Psychologist/Executive and Business Performance Coach who has supported over 100,000 professionals across Africa and the globe. He can be reached via: Joshua@theawesomecoach.com
May 1, 2023133 views0 comments
The story is often told, not fully confirmed but it has gained grounds by its wide circulation, that in one African country, there was once a man who was known for being a strong critic of the country’s leader at the time. Let’s call him Dr. Tai. He was always speaking out against the leader’s perceived incompetence and championing the cause of the poor.
One day, the leader, whom we’ll call President I, invited Dr. Tai for a discussion. The President asked Dr. Tai what he could do to better the lives of the poor. Dr. Tai proposed a soft loan programme for all poor citizens to start small-scale businesses. As the loans were repaid, others could benefit from them until the programme reached everyone.
President I was impressed with the proposal and asked Dr. Tai to lead the initiative as chairman of the newly-formed People’s Bank. Dr. Tai coordinated the disbursement of funds to the poor, without any interference from the President.
However, after giving out the loans, many poor citizens refused to repay them and did not use the funds to start businesses. The People’s Bank eventually became bankrupt and liquidated.
Dr. Tai was desperate to find a solution to the problem and sought help from President I. The President acknowledged the difficulties of governing and warned Dr. Tai of the challenges of managing a single bank, let alone an entire country. The President advised Dr. Tai to go home and rest, telling him he had done enough for the nation.
Before Dr. Tai left, President I surprised him by offering him a position as either the Minister of Education or Finance. Dr. Tai, however, declined the offer, stating that the President had already told him to go home and rest. He left the President’s office, never to criticize him again.
This story highlights the importance of leadership and the challenges that leaders face when trying to bring about change. It also emphasizes the need for humility and the recognition that leading a country is a difficult task that requires a great deal of skill and experience.
Here are five reflections from a coaching, mentoring, and leadership perspective that can be drawn from this story:
Be mindful of the impact of your words and actions: Dr Tai was a hard critic of President I, and his words and actions had an impact on the relationship between the two men. As a coach, mentor, or leader, it is important to be mindful of the impact of our words and actions on those around us, especially if we are in a position of influence.
Take responsibility for your ideas: Dr Tai proposed the idea of a Peoples Bank, and he was appointed as its Chairman. As a coach, mentor, or leader, it is important to take responsibility for your ideas and ensure that they are implemented effectively. If something goes wrong, it is important to take ownership of the situation and work to find a solution.
Be prepared to deal with setbacks: The Peoples Bank project did not go as planned, and Dr Tai had to deal with the consequences. As a coach, mentor, or leader, it is important to be prepared to deal with setbacks and challenges. This includes having contingency plans in place and being able to adapt to changing circumstances.
Learn from your mistakes: Dr Tai made mistakes with the Peoples Bank project, but he was able to learn from them. As a coach, mentor, or leader, it is important to be willing to learn from your mistakes and use those experiences to improve your future performance.
Maintain integrity and values: Dr Tai’s decision to decline the offer to serve as a Minister of Education or Finance showed his commitment to his values and integrity. As a coach, mentor, or leader, it is important to maintain your integrity and stay true to your values, even in difficult situations. This can help build trust and respect among those you work with and lead.
If I were working with you or your team at a strategic leadership retreat here’s a question I would ask you to consider reflecting on: How can you balance the need for accountability and results with the importance of empowering and supporting those you lead to take risks, innovate and learn from failures?
In conclusion, effective leadership in Africa requires a combination of coaching, mentoring, and self-reflection. Leaders who are willing to learn from their mistakes and seek guidance from mentors and coaches are more likely to succeed in creating positive change in their organisations and communities.
As we have seen from the story of Dr Tai, leadership is not just about talking, but also about taking action and being accountable for the results. Leaders in both the public and private sectors must prioritize the needs of the people they serve and find innovative solutions to address their challenges.
Therefore, I challenge all African leaders to embrace coaching and mentoring as a tool for personal and professional growth. Seek out mentors and coaches who can guide you towards becoming a better leader, and be willing to learn from their experiences and feedback.
Let us all work together towards creating a better future for Africa, where effective leadership is the norm and the needs of the people are prioritized above all else.
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