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Career Lessons From Gaddafi

Monday, October 24, 2011 - 00:00 -- BY CAROLINE MUTOKO

Muammar Gaddafi’s death was as ugly as his life was super glamorous. Let’s face it, this guy was an African-Arab James Bond. As a kid growing up, the one thing I remember distinctly about Muammar Gadaffi was his cadre of female bodyguards (the Amazonian guard) and the fact that he never really stepped into a hotel. The man would land in your country and pitch a tent. A big tent mind you, but a tent all the same.

I was so fascinated by him, I actually know more about him and his lavish lifestyle than I care to admit. For instance, did you know that his female bodyguards were supposedly all virgins and they took a vow of chastity? Did you know that those women in blue battle fatigues were all trained killers and wore lipstick, jewellery, polished nails and even high heels? In fact, his female bodyguards were handpicked by Gadaffi himself and they swore an oath to give their lives for him (and one did in 1998) and it is claimed they never left his side, day or night.

I guess you get the drift – I was fascinated, as the world was as well. As such, as he came to his ugly end, I couldn’t help but wonder what lessons could be learnt from this man’s life, ouster and eventual grisly end. Please note, I’m not about to waste your time talking about what Africa’s legendary dictators can learn - that lot is already dealing with its own lot of nightmares – I’m talking about you and me. Professionally, here’s what I garnered from the 42-year career of Muammar Gadaffi.

Lesson number one: Sticking around too long at a dead-end job can mean getting fired brutally and unexpectedly. Some of us hang on to a job and use all manner of tactics to stay, when clearly the time to move on has come. Sadly, all it takes is one chink in your armour for all of it to come tumbling down. There’s a lesson here for all of us who stay at a job too long and even sabotage new entrants. The end will come and it won’t be pretty.

Lesson number two: Shape up or you will be shipped out. For those of us who refuse to upgrade our skills, learn from the changes around us and live in constant denial that things don’t look so good - we are setting ourselves up for forced eviction. When that memo goes out requesting that we re-apply for our jobs – we are about to be Gadaffied.

Another lesson we can take from Gadaffi is to take stock of our work environment regularly. Sometimes we can’t be bothered to see that things are changing. We’re busy using phrases like “we have done it like that since 1975, there’s nothing you’re telling me”. Refusing to appreciate and understand that the environment we operate in has changed, can change and will change, simply leaves us wide open for a brutal ouster.

Final lesson: Moving on and starting a new chapter in your life is always difficult, and Gaddafi was a 69-- year-old ruthless dictator who didn’t know how to move on. For the rest of us, the lesson here is, plan your exit before someone else plans it for you. Starting a new chapter in life is tough – but only when the circumstances are forced on you – if you choose when to leave and how – things are a lot easier, in fact graceful.

Knowing when it is time to leave is a skill that we all have to master. There are times when making a quick departure is so much better for our careers than sticking around.  It is also better for our psyche and morale. Pay attention to the signs around you. Is it time to go or to stay? For Muammar Gaddafi, the time to go was about 10 years ago. There is no guarantee that those who come to power in Libya will rule better than Gaddafi did, but that is the business of the Libyan people. A nation can only be truly sovereign and free if its people learn to assert their will – be it through armed struggle or non-violence.

What I find sobering about Gaddafi’s death is that he was pulled from a sewage pipe (months after calling the Libyan people 'rats' when they rose up against him). What a spectacular fall from grace. However, I believe what must have really sent a shudder through the political class was when it was revealed that the deposed dictator died wearing a hairpiece. Nobody needs to be totally undressed in this manner no matter how loathsome. His legacy, no matter what it was, went down that sewage pipe and the total humiliation was that hair piece. Africa’s James Bond is no more.