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November 14, 2018

Learning from the teachers

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.— Theodore Roosevelt

 

I can’t agree more to this statement by a great statesman. But it is always easier said than done. In any business, getting the right person to do what you want done is a herculean task. I have been an employer and I can say with certainty that I have gone through that. The so-called young generation turn up for interviews with very impressive CVs. Once on the job, the first month or so works well for both the young employees and the employers.

But come the next few months, even before the probation term is arrived at, the new employees start acting as though they own the company that has employed them. They do what they think is right without following the laid down company policy. They start calling their bosses-old school, analogue, out-dated, tired, and all those derogatory names.

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The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.

Kenneth Blanchard

Recently there was an appointment by the President, of a senior citizen, to a position of high authority. The person chosen has been there, seen that and done that. He has been tried and tested. He has even been taken to The Hague, associated to some serious charges that can only be dealt with by the International Criminal Court. He went there, confronted the monster and came back with a smile. He had won. Without going into too much detail, this gentleman has over time demonstrated unparalleled leadership qualities. That does not in any way mean that there aren’t young people ready for such placements. But the youth must accept the fact that they need tutoring to get experience on the job. Theoretical knowledge is not enough to run a sensitive organisation or a government department.

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He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander. —Aristotle

How I love the bush life. It is a class where complex lessons are taught to those who wish to learn. While driving around on a game drive in Samburu reserve, a client asked me to slow down so that he could take a photo of an anthill. Here, the anthills are red in colour and tend to be built higher than other parts of Kenya. Since the place is very hot, the ants know how to trap cold air from higher grounds and direct the breeze to the interior to cool the living quarters. The anthills are built so well that even when they are abandoned, they become home to several species of animals. The animals that take over such places attract their predators, which are also prey to other predators. An abandoned anthill can even be busier than when the ants lived in it.

While the client was busy with the anthill, I was busy trying to interpret the behaviour of a baby squirrel that was at the bottom of the anthill. It was obvious the mother was not around. This particular anthill had become a home to a ground squirrel. Being a solitary diurnal animal, the mother had gone out looking for food and left the baby alone. A snake had taken that advantage and was about to stage a strike. The baby, completely lacking any meaningful tactic to deter an attack, was hopelessly vulnerable.

He could only make noise trying to call for help. As fate would have it, the mother arrived just in time. She saw what was happening and immediately employed her well-rehearsed survival tactic. She made herself look very large and extended her claws towards the snake. This distracted the snake’s attention from the child. The baby quickly sneaked out of the side hole and joined the mother. Both of them turned to the snake. Sensing danger from a double-pronged attack, the snake dashed into the hole beside the anthill. The mother and child quickly buried the snake alive.

For less than 10 minutes, a lifetime lesson had been taught. Next time when the adult go for hunting, the baby would know what to do when trouble strikes.

Instead of complaining that plum jobs are going to the old guards, let’s join them and learn a trick or two. When they are comfortable we can handle situations, they will gracefully retire and let us into their shoes.

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