Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Challenge of Leadership

It has been a while since I posted here but I am happy that others have kept this thing going.

One of the things I have spent time during the past few weeks contemplating about, and discussing with friends and colleagues, is the whole leadership thing. It seems to me that, in situations such as ours, the kind of leadership we have, or at least we build, will make or break for us. I have spent a few weeks researching and thinking about this matter, particularly the challenges for the next generation of leaders in Tanzania. So, I will do a couple of posts on this matter. But for today, I am posting what the Washington Post posted few days ago as The 10 Best Leadership Books of All Time. Enjoy:


The task here at the Leadership Playlist -- to share must-reads from the world of leadership -- just got easier, thanks to The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, out this month from Portfolio. The authors, Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten, who run the business book publisher and website 800 CEO Read, list and review the 10 best leadership books.

And how did they choose them? "We had three litmus tests," Sattersten told me in a phone interview. "Was the book accessible and well written? Are its lessons applicable today? And, third, would we apply the insights in our own business?"

Of the 10 leadership books that made the cut, four were authored by On Leadership panelists. Authors Covert and Sattersten gave me a quick, Twitter-style run down on each.

1. On Becoming a Leader, by Warren Bennis. "His message is, you can't be a leader until you know who you are. It's that simple," said Sattersten. "Once you know, you have amazing ability to lead successfully."

2. The Leadership Moment, by Michael Useem. "It's a book you read for the stories, not because you're looking for a solution," Covert told me. "I think the stories sit in the back of your mind, and when you reach a crisis situation -- which so many people are right now -- you can call on them." (And yes, I am related the author, he's my dad.)

3. The Leadership Challenge, by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. "It's the first book your read on leadership because it offers such a compelling model for thinking about leadership," said Sattersten. "You can use it as a basis for looking at everything else you encounter."

4. Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will, by Noel Tichy and Stratford Sherman. The book, about Jack Welch's leadership at GE, is the story of "the great corporate turn-around story of the 20th century," said Sattersten. And not because GE was faltering when Welch took charge -- on the contrary, said Sattersten, GE at the time was running "an acceptably profitable business," and yet still Welch was able to implement major changes. "It's like Tiger Woods changing up his golf swing at the top of his game," added Covert.

The other books on their list are:
Leadership is an Art, by Max De Pree
The Radical Leap, by Steve Farber
Leading Change, by John Kotter
Questions of Character, by Joe Badaracco
The Story Factor, by Annette Simmons, and
Never Give In! Speeches by Winston Churchill.

Covert and Sattersten also said they'd add recently published Tribes by Seth Godin to this list if they could update it.

With many saying Wall Street has witnessed a massive failure of leadership, I asked Sattersten and Covert if they'd like today's leaders to read these books. Answered Sattersten: "Yes, I'd like them to read the books. But what I'd love more is for someone to actually lead us."



the best leaders are the ones we make ourselves, the ones we watch over, guide to the seat: the ones we know everything about, not some shady character who rises to prominence through unknown means, probably ungodly, let alone some fallen angel who was attacked with nobody-knows-what.

leaders are a necessity in any complex social setting where organization is essential. leaders are essential in a social setting where existent leadership (government) doesn't care about the group, be it on tribal,racial or religious grounds. leaders are essential to rally the masses behind a cause. they help give a voiceto the people. but we should never be stuck with laments over the state of our leadership, but actively creating new ones and finding ways of protecting them from the beast. Africans worldwide own a lot of media by which new leaders can be created and brought to the attention of the masses. we ownradio stations, newspapers, magazines, etc.

i have noticed that in the past Africans have tended to settle for symbolic leadership, like some guy who fought in the freedom struggle on the continent, was attacked, imprisoned for 27 years, who becomes a leader when freed.

Anonymous said...

MMh The guys who was imprisoned for 27 years? That was so specific to Mandela? Hope that does not imply Mandela is an example of the worst breed of African leaders.

I have not read those books yet but the titles seems to be pretty impressive and I think it would useful for any level of leadership, I mean you do not have to be a president to lead!

salama said...

Nice. Books worth reading.

" seems to me that, in situations such as ours, the kind of leadership we have, or at least we build, will make or break for us..."(January Makamba, Feb.'09)

If you align this say with the state of leadership in our country now, and the future, it's kinda scary. Most of our leaders are full of talking points instead of fructuous ideas and true leadership.

I take leadership as a call.
And for this case, to be a true leader I think it needs sacrifice, truth, openness and a big heart. A big heart in terms of softness on males's side and toughness on female's side. A true leader will step up in a plate and make herself/himself ready to face all and the worst of challenges like, selfshness, defalcation, lust, and the wrong mentallity(yes, it's a challenge), to name a few. On our male counterparts,(particulary) To top all this, we need to add THE AUDICITY OF EGO.

When it comes to 'self defeating choices', most of our leaders(predominantly men) have succumbed more than women to the point of afflicting, even the powerful and the brilliant because of ego. A l`a wall street leadership who blew up the Banking system. And that brings me to my favourite article I recently read in the NY times.

(The NY Times,Feb 8'09)" ..just as the Banks needs bailouts of billions, they have another need they're unaware of: the world Economic forum in Davos they discussed whether we would be in the same mess today if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters. Wall street is one of the most male dominated bastions in the business world;Senior staff meetings resemble a urologist's waiting room" (lol!)

"Aside from issues of fairness, there's evidence that the result is second-rate decision making..elevated and high testosterone levels means more risk taking..So could it be that the problem on Wall street wasn't subprime mortgages, but elevated testosterone?..(I think so!)

Sattersten said he'd like them(Wall Street bigies) to read the books but he'd love for someone to actually lead us. I think women are ready to lead once more, may be there'll be less problems if we take a different approach.
The Times also added that, Wall Street could use an infusion of women as well as cash.(I heart the NY Times)

While on this, did anybody saw the Japanese finance minister in news, who appeared to be intoxicated at
G7 news conference? while his country's financial position is heading to the toilet?

My male friends, whether you agree or not, when it comes to decision making and leadership, most of the times, Women have an iota of sense and we can kick ass if given a chance.

Anonymous said...

Salama, we women should not wait to be given those chances, we should grab them and abolish the "I can not do this" mentality.

misokasick said...

That’s what I think a leader should be characterized. I disagree with you on other subjects, but I like how you described on what makes a person a good leader. I am just curious if your beloved freedom fighter Mugabe fits with this description. By the way are you by any chance referring to Mandela? I pray that Mandela is not on the list of your worse leaders? If he is, then please explain why you would categorize him on that particular group? Because I agree that Mandela has been symbolic figure in the western sphere and even in Africa, sometimes westerners idolize him, but I have also at times felt he is being portrayed so godly? Sometimes because of western ideologies, some great African leaders such as our own father of the nation (Mwalimu Nyerere) have not been acknowledged. Anyways, I still believe Mandela is a great leader, but I think for many westerners, the focus has been so much on the 27 years and have forgotten some of the unsung heroes who sacrificed for the African continent.

You have suggested that leaders are to be created and brought to the attention of the masses, unfortunately sometimes such kind of leaders receive a lot of opposition from the existing Government. A good example is Tsavangarai. By the way I agree that the media has a great role to play in creating and molding good leaders. As for Africa, if our media could scrutinize the leaders as the Media does in the US, I think we would have very honest leaders. Unfortunately, we are still struggling with ethical reporting in our media. Investigative reporters and Editors take their jobs lightly and end up with poor reports on their subjects. They are also easy targets of bribes.

"I take leadership as a call.
And for this case, to be a true leader I think it needs sacrifice, truth, openness and a big heart"

Well said and yes those characters make a good leader. I also want to emphasize on the role of women in leadership. In most cases, women do lower their ego and I do agree that women tend to be tough when necessary and they are more practical. Women do not take their jobs lightly. A leadership position for a women it’s such an honor, so she will work so hard to honor that responsibility. In fact, for centuries African has had strong women leading their empires. They have been able to deliver more than their male counterparts. Bahati mbaya sana, colonialism played a role in redefining an African women. Prior to colonialism, African women had crucial roles in decision making and their opinions mattered greatly. As you said, given a chance and capabilities we make great leaders because of our big hearts. just look at how we sacrifice for our children. Go Mama Africa go!!!


salama said...


Thanx, and you hit right at the point I missed.
"We lower our ego and tend to be tough when necessary". perrfecto!

And yes, we take our work very seriously and carefull. All this to prove to ourselves and others that, Yes we can, take care of our families and at the same time be rocket Scientists, CEO's, presidents, Professors, teachers, athletes, army personnels, analysts, and many more or whoever we want to be, because the sky's the limit. And keep in mind that, we can be all this and do all these in high heels.

As we often been refered to as "great" thinkers, and that, what do we always think about, well, it does work for us and everybody else out there. It's because most of the times we're in control of ourselves and those around us, who look up to us for advise, care, confort and security, in our homes, jobs and communities. Unfortunately, our obsequiousness is usually taken for advantage. A simple primer on the state of the world, women do most of the good stuff and get most of the bad.
No whine, just fact.

It's true, very true, that, when women have more power and influence in their families, jobs, communities generally and even in political affairs, the impact can be profoundly positive. Because when families flourish, communities flourish and when communities flourish, nations do as well.

And now, to the update of the news I cant' get enough of.
The Japanese Finance Minister who showed up at the G7 news conference intoxicated, has resigned. I wish our leaders(in Tanzania and Africa) could do that. If you misbehave and realize that you lost the trust of your people in you, just STEP DOWN! and let others take a lead instead of being m ng'ang'anizi.

Jamaa showed up at the conference while "kapendeza" kwelikweli. He said it was the cold medicine he took that made him drunk, but he's been known for his love of a 'glass'. But then, who's me to judge, I don't blame him, You know the world economy is really bad when world finance leaders start showing up at conferences tired and drunk. I bet other world finance ministers wish they could be like him, with the state of the world economy who wouldn't want to go there drunk? I'll have a glass of whatever he had!
Poor thing looked like he needed his mama and some soup. Too bad there's no soup ya makongoro in Japan. He would've felt better.

Thuwein said...

I think leadership is a trait just like height or breast cancer, it has to be genotypically inserted in you --u can not read yourself into this fine leader but what you can do is to transform and nourish that leadership trait to maximize its potential. Sort of like Michael Jordan practicing everyday-we already know he is talented but he has to practice so as to fully utilize his GOD given talent. The point I am trying to make is many of our problems can be solved with the right leadership, but those who are leading us although they might be gifted-but they refused to nourish their talent and some of them are merely talented as leaders. And when they reached their peak somehow they do not want to acknowledge that. No matter how talented Michael Jordan is-he can not compete as a 46 yrs old. You see! Our leaders have to understand these basic stuff let go of usukani when you are no longer able to drive us into path to righteousness.

I fervently believe that we are one GREAT leader away from transforming our country-but the mechanics to elect that leader are yet to be known and part of the reason is our 46 yrs old Michael Jordsans are yet to realize that they have absolutely no game any more.


SALAMA et al

This is quite an interesting discussion for many reasons. we ahave engaged in critical and often long winded pontification of what happened to our leaders, the problems with leaders and organisation today! many have given deep incite in terms of what the problems with past and present organisation and leaders were, but when it comes to providing sound examples of good leadership in present time the same does not seem to apply.thats quite interesting to say the very least!

@Misocka- i can harmonise with the fact that some of what you have said is factual. my issue is that your over all conclusion is not truthful- which means that you are lacking (or ignoring) certain factual information!

For some reasons you have decided to bring Mugabe back in this discussion whilst in previous post you never wanted anymore of Mugabe/Land issues.

Since you've brought it up then i will make couple of points clear;

Land is a fundamental issue to Zimbabweans. So is the issue of how western governments demonise non compliant African leaders, while turning a blind eye, to others who are destroying their countries. So please do not attempt to put words into my mouth, to suggest simply because Mugabe is a an African i , he will get my 100% support, which is presumptious and offensive.

I know why I support Mugabe on this land issue, and why I stay silent on other leaders, who I know little about. I also know a bit about the systems and strategies used to demonise African; which is CLEARLY at play in this instance and if the whites and thier friends were not so quick to demonise African leaders, we would perhaps be in a better position to seperate reality from myth and propaganda.

I respect Robert Mugabe as a leader and radical. If evidence is found that genuinely descredits him, then he must face his fate (but given most of sponsors of change in Zimbabwe are the same that stll detain people without trial in Belmarsh and Guantanamo bay, i will have my reservations) But that said, these are the principles I live and fall by. But by the same token, we do not take the enemies propaganda, or those from within the country, whose motives and authtenticity we are unable to confirm and side with our enemies against one of our own. Never, ever.


Yes i will say it over and over again, MANDELA basically Held the hand of the greatest mass murderering rapist devils in South Afrika by taking them to truth and reconciliation commission, instead of bringing them ot true justice. then he villified his wife for something she does in thename of the freedom they were fighting for-weather it is a mistake or not. Mandela is nothing more than a sell out, and regardless of what ever intellectual comparisons you seek to make (which disagree with)

The issue in question is who are our African leaders and I would suggest a couple of riders eg how are they formed or developed and what effects which brings us to the starting point of the question. Leaders and organisations are inseparable.Somebody suggested we did not have any leaders. Excelent point and a common view and so is I suggest is also an understanding of what important factors which have affected our leadership supply?.

Leaders do not drop out of the sky or disappear. They are formed and shaped by many things. So my post if you care to read it goes systematically through what I suggest are some basc, not exhausttive, but real core issues which have had a massive impact on the social level. Social forces in other words.

Government policies you many not appreciate have a massive effect on our leadership supply, then specific social welfare policies of which your post seem to suggest are anti women. Beg to differ. What is shows is how various changes in one specific context actually affect our leadership supply.

Maybe we could specifically ask:

1 who are the leaders of various communites and organisations,

2. how they become leaders

3 what is their role in the creation of strategies or structures or approaches to problem solving etc etc etc.

Not how many women were in XYZ, but who were the big players in getting things off the ground, building and shaping key events...all in a very specific context, place or time.

Hence it makes little sense jumping around the world to understand what is happening or happened in Dar es Salaam. Neither is it necessary to simply focus on women simply beause they are women outside the specifics already mentioned. If they were big players then they were studied or fall within our sights if not......

Magilu said...

you can't have leaders if you don't have followers, that said, there are many type of leaders and everybody who follows hope to have a good leader. I know some have say, "the best leaders are the ones we make ourselves..." I tend view leadership as a calling I agree with Salama on this point. A calling within a community, it can be a community of people, tribe, nation and so forth. To say that we make leaders ourselve is to remove almost all responsibilities that a leader needs to bare and accept for what he/she will do. In other words, since we made him and protect him, it's not his fault that the gov't doesn't function right or people are suffering because of his inaction. I would like to think that we help mold a leader by supporting him, advising him, and even constructively criticize him. He/she is the face of the community/nation. If a whole nation is imprisoned then it's leader should epitomize the struggle of the whole group. This is why Mandela was the leader of new South Africa, this is why Josef Tito was the leader of Yugoslavia and this is why Ho chi Minh became the leader of Unified Vietnam because they lived in that struggle, they sacrifice for that struggle. 27 year maybe nothing but to man who had no family and community he belong to... that is a lot. People have to identify with their leaders, we live in the time's of universal suffrage; we need leaders that are not Kings and Queens ruling from Castles and palace but those who live among us and know what we go through!
Having saying all that, doesn't mean all leader are good. In fact many leader today have many flaws that impact their nation. When a leader don't have a good ethics or character the whole organization suffers. Corruption, lack of discipline, inequalities and all sort of deprivation in authority grows like virus in a body. If a leader is corrupt then corruption will sow roots in all he/she do. If a leader is cruel, then that's what the followers will get...cruelty. Leaders need to have qualities that will empower his/her followers not just himself, meaning both the leader and the followers must be willing to bring something to the table to benefit the other. we can't just grow leader like we grow corn in a farm..... we've to find one out of many with the raw essential not put essentials in him/her!

misokasick said...

I like how you used a scientist and sportmanship approach in describing a leader. I do agree on looking at it as a game of baskeball or any soccer game. As we grow older our bodies do not function as effective as they used too. Anyways, I would agree that all the Michael Jordans and Romarios have to retire from this sport called politics. retirement is not easy though and many old folks do not take it lightly. It is a major shift for many old folks. Anyways, the attitude of Mzee Mwenzetu would have to be put aside and look for new ideas. I think in order to not make the old folks feel abandoned, we could still consult them in areas that we need their inputs. You should still have no called me.


misokasick said...

The Last Sentence should say you still have not called me.

salama said...


I didn't mean that we should focus on women just because..
I agree that the leaders of many communities and organizations are predominantly men and of course they worked hard on their way up there through education, hard work and the 'I can do' mentality. And, it's the same way I believe women are going. But, we all know that throughout history women have been second citizens. In most cases, we have to put in a little 'extra' to prove to our male counterparts that we're pretty much the same as them (or we may even be stronger)
It might seem like just another form of sexism to suggest that we're better or taken differently but, that's the truth.

By the way, in case you missed you copy of today's financial News paper, it seems like there's little or no choice at all except to N-word the big Banks. See GT, this's happening because most decisions(In the Banks) were made within high levels of testosterone.

@ Magilu,

Well said in your comment, when leaders don't have good ethics their constituents suffer and adopt whatever the outcome. That means, whoever follows that kind of leadership will pretty much be like her/his predecessor. Or, to put it in other words, it's contagious, especially in Africa. Too bad that most of our leaders haven't been a paragon of leadership intergrity.

Thuwein said...

I will one of these days.