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November 14, 2018

The Leaders Of Tomorrow Are Here

President Uhuru Kenyatta with the Kenya Rugby Sevens National Team to the world cup championship in Moscow, Russia during the Flag-presentation ceremony at State house, Nairobi.Photo/PPS
President Uhuru Kenyatta with the Kenya Rugby Sevens National Team to the world cup championship in Moscow, Russia during the Flag-presentation ceremony at State house, Nairobi.Photo/PPS

A couple of months ago, while concluding a meeting with one of our advertising agencies, I asked if I could possibly interview the new KCB CEO. As casual remarks go, that one wasn’t taken too seriously as we all got back to the job of meeting revenue targets. Even I forgot about it for a while.

A week ago while at lunch with a friend, I met another set of people from the same agency and put the same request to them once again. You see, I never make “casual” remarks, when I state something in a business setting. I mean it. Suffice it to say, I got a call, tabled a meeting, met Joshua Oigara, hosted him July 9 on The Big Breakfast and the world will probably never be the same again.

There has been a tear in the fabric of our universe, a cosmic shift in the composition of who we are and who is calling the shots and how.

There’s a lot happening and a lot of it is going unnoticed and because of that, some of us are waking up puzzled, we’re getting caught off guard and worse still we are also breathless. Let me put it this way, the old guard is slowly being phased out (amid mumblings of it’s not possible – the puzzled), the former future leaders of tomorrow (aged between 40 -50) are out of breathe as they run to catch up with a world that is spinning way, way too fast, while the future leaders of tomorrow have arrived and are walking around with one raised eyebrow asking “kwani iko nini?”

When a 51-year-old who mixes English and Kiswahili in his speeches, who pockets as he strolls through State House, puts on a rugby shirt that’s a little too tight, refers to most of his staff by their first names and shows up for a press conference in rolled-up shirt sleeves – when that 51-year-old is President - you best believe the future is here.

Oigara is not a novelty, at least not by his standards – this is what he has been working towards. The reaction to Oigara’s presence on The Big Breakfast is what got me thinking about the 3rd wave of CEOs. It also got Shaffie Weru talking. He marvelled at the fact that even the new chairman of Co-op Bank is 33 years old. Fellow Kenyans, good neighbours and friends – the leaders of tomorrow are here.

Make way for an entirely new - and different - generation of leaders. From what I have gathered, they are the most numerous, daring, and ethnically diverse generation in history. This generation is going to rebel by behaving not worse, but better. Their life mission will not be to tear down old institutions that don’t work, but to build up new ones that do. In her article, ‘Managing Millennials,’ Claire Raines refers to this up generation as “the hottest commodity on the job market. They’re sociable, optimistic, talented, well educated, collaborative, open-minded, influential, daring and achievement-oriented.

I can tell that most people are still puzzled by some of the choices and appointments Uhuru Kenyatta is making. Bless our socks as media for going to State House and telling him “I had a dream….” and “we thought you would name some of us…..” Kenyans On Twitter (KOT) were unforgiving and probably said everything the President couldn’t say – those days are over – get with the programme. I haven’t met the President, but it seems to me that he is aware of his shortcomings (unlike past presidents) and he is not shy about appointing people who will get the job done and hopefully help him deliver aka make him look good. Rumour has it (note use of word rumour) that in the event one doesn’t deliver, he has asked you to sign your resignation letter – he’ll simply append a date.

The current batch of exiting CEOs followed luminaries such as Jack Welch, Sandy Weill, and Michael Eisner. These guys aren’t the movers and shakers as the men they replaced. But they are cunning. Years of being in cut throat corporate positions molded them that way. In fact, they have a lot in common with yesterday’s politicians. Have you noticed how daft/strange a man or woman we idolised barely two years ago sounds right now.

CEO 3.0 like Oigara and his ilk are about to make the room spin. Global growth is now the dominant strategy in every major company. Why? Because the global economy is taking root in areas that were once considered non factors. Also, Africa is where it’s at. The term Africa Arising is old – Africa is the new game changer. So the next batch of CEOs will have to position their companies in ways never experienced before – a world very open to competition. This world has new oil players (Uganda, Sudan, Kenya) new educations, new technology, and new entrepreneurial drive. The American dream has been exported.

So how will this new CEO operate and succeed? By doing what Mr Schwartz suggests – by building strong teams. They must hire people stronger than they are. Why? Well a lot more will be demanded of them and as such they will be madly demanding. You and I operate in a world where we look at each new quarter as our business focus, the new CEOs will seem alittle irritated about the here and now because they must execute beyond the next quarter. They must grow internally and only acquire truly valuable additions. And finally, they must take risks. If you are working for one of them, be ready for the time of your life or get out of the way or you will be crashed.

However, if you’re reading this and frowning, muttering to yourself about how crazy this Mutoko chick is – let me give you a little food for thought for the week. This isn’t the first time something like this is happening in Kenya. Think back, way back – tell me, how old was Mwai Kibaki when he went into government or politicis.

How old was Tom Mboya? How old was Njenga Karume. Let me put it in the words of an amazing gentleman I’m due to have lunch with on Tuesday – the crew that came into leadership with President Kenyatta (founding father) overstayed their welcome and grew horns.

The problem was compounded by 24 years of Moi that entrenched the same old, same old. In those 24 years, an entire generation missed out on its chance at governance and leadership and also creating a new Kenya. Those people knew only one President and one set of politicians and leaders. They never believed that they too could lead. The guy in their history books was also the guy in the newspaper. That generation make up what Nick Wachira calls the former future leaders of tomorrow. Someone hit the “pause” button on our country for too long. Our rebirth as a nation is way, way overdue – we have to press the “play” and then hit the “forward” button as well.

Young CEOs are changing the world of business, and they are out to prove that their leadership can be effective, regardless of their age. Therein lies the challenge for us rather than them. Everyone who is younger than the 3G CEO will be rooting for him because his success means they can build their dreams on his achievements. His age-mates maybe a problem because they may feel inadequate around him. It will be the usual – why him and not me?

Those older than him may feel they have been leapfrogged and resent it. No matter who you are and what age bracket you fall into, here are the only options open to us – we can bring our experience, perception and smarts to the table or we can step out of the way – there’s no two ways about it.

The leaders of tomorrow are here.

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