• By admin
  • February 18, 2024

An Open Talk About Leadership

An Open Talk About Leadership

An Open Talk About Leadership 1024 683 OBG VIRTUAL OFFICE

The elevator tings to a halt as the shiny steel doors open. Suddenly a wave of crisp office
furniture and assorted air freshener blow inside to usher me.

My mind tries to replay the last memories of the place, but nothing looks familiar. From the outside, it’s all new like a mystery puzzling my wits. I walk across to the thick translucent glass door emblazoned OBG VIRTUAL OFFICE and as soon as I pull it, everything comes home.

“Good morning Mandla,” the receptionist says as she stretches her arm for a handshake.

“Morning Sheila,” I aver while holding her hand firmly.

“Kindly follow me to the meeting room. Your guest is waiting,” she mutters before leading the

“Hi Mandla,” a melodic voice floats over the air con breeze as I enter the meeting room.

“Hi, you must be Muthoni,” I respond.

She rises up, from her state-of-the-art seat, to greet me. Next to her glass of orange juice, is one
of my favourite novels, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

“Yes, I am. Can’t wait to start the interview.”

I proceed to set up my video camera then excuse myself to prepare a cup of vanilla latte from the
coffee machine in the kitchenette.

By then, Sheila is already back at the reception answering calls and forwarding mails.
5, 4, 3, 2…

Before we begin the real interview, tell me something I probably don’t know.
Uhm, an average person has about 60,000 thoughts in a day. And 95% are the same ones he/she
thought the previous day.

Interesting. You didn’t make that up, did you?
Look it up on your phone. Google is your friend.

Okaaay, now tell me something less spooky. Who is Muthoni Gitari?
I am a Work and Organizational Psychologist with a master’s degree from the University of
Nottingham, UK.

Go on…
I am passionate about providing workplace solutions, especially shaping work and organizational
culture, organizational development, leadership, training, selection and recruitment, executive
and career coaching, as well as occupational health and well-being.

Alright. So, today we are going to talk about leadership. In your own words, what is

The art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal.

What else can you say about the subject, as an expert in organizational psychology and
management science?

That it is a skill like any other that requires practice. Although one can learn the knowledge and
skills within a short period of time, it takes practice and experience to master it.

Can anyone become a leader?
Anyone willing and determined to be a leader, can indeed become one. Leadership is a skill that
can be acquired by concentrating on desirable traits and optimizing them to overpower the
weaker ones.

What is the ultimate quality of a great leader, if there’s one at all?
Different societies, cultures perceive leadership in different ways but in my view, INTEGRITY
is the most important quality. It is what builds up the ability to welcome challenges, criticism,
and viewpoints other than one’s own, and also the ability to build strong relationships through
trust and loyalty rather than fear.

And what’s the worst mistake a leader can ever make?
Failing to recognize that not everyone reasons, thinks or sees things the way he/she does.

What is the relationship between leaders and followers?
Leaders are change agents who propel their followers to new heights, while mentoring and
helping them grow along the way. For a leader to be accepted by followers or to be perceived as
an effective leader, he/she needs a justification to be in the leading position. This justification
might be a consequence of matching the followers’ implicit assumptions of what a leader should
be like.

Are all leaders at the risk of being corrupted by power?
Corruption is the degree by which someone’s action has deviated from a moral value set by
society or the community. Therefore, power is not the wind that bends the tree.

Is it possible for someone to be a good leader but not a good manager?
Yes. Absolutely. There are many managers who cannot lead and vice versa.

Do you think one’s age is a reliable indicator of his/her leadership capability?
No, chronological age and leadership are correlated to the attitude of the society to leadership. In
my opinion, one’s age is less likely to determine his/her success as a leader. Skill, vision and
passion, may be better variables to use when choosing leaders.

Does effective communication by leaders depend on age though?
Not at all. I want to be very clear on this: I acknowledge the existence of similarities and
differences found in values, work ethics, peer personalities, and needs of people born in different
generations. However, age is not the sacrosanct determiner of outstanding leadership skills.
Anyone can improve their communication skills, regardless of age or generation, through; self-
study, education, mentorship, training, etc.

Do you think leaders should embrace change, especially the “Old School”?
Yes, change is an ever-present feature of life, successful management of change is therefore
crucial for the success and survival of most facets of life. Change efforts often fail due to poor
management. It is recommended that change initiatives should embrace good leadership to
harness its cognitive, spiritual, emotional, and behavioural dimensions to manage the change
process. Nevertheless, change initiatives may encounter resistance from stakeholders. This may
be due to several reasons, among them, a lack of cognitive, and behavioural reasons for change
in addition to a lack of conviction that change is needed. For change initiatives to succeed they
require good leaders to drive them, leaders who understand the need for change, who can provide vision, strategy. If I can summarize John Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model, “Leadership involves defining what the future should look like and aligning people with that vision and inspiring them to make it happen despite the obstacles.” Thus, leadership and change are co-dependent for their success.

From what you just said, do you think Africa will elevate the youth to positions of
leadership in the near future?

Currently, most African countries are undergoing rapid changes in tech, infrastructure,
commerce, etc. Therefore, they need leaders who can come up with new ways of doing things.
The youth tend to be more creative and more open-minded than older people, who are generally
less; charismatic, change-oriented, and willing to take risks.

Are you saying that the youth are better suited for leadership now, in this “New Africa”?
Yes. Leadership tasks like making complex decisions, require rapid information processing
which has been found to decline with increasing age. However, other activities such as
mentoring, rely to a greater extent on experience and accumulated knowledge as well as social
competencies that are constant over time or even increase with age.

What’s your take on multi-generational workforces?
Because change is an ever-present feature of organizational life, the ability to survive in a global
and highly competitive environment is dependent on the ability to accept, appreciate and lead change. Currently, organizations in Africa are evolving at a fast rate; facilitated by the rise in
technological advancements, globalization of markets, effective and efficient transport and
communication infrastructure, which demand a revolution in management practices. Effective
transformational leadership is not dependent on chronological age and the ever-changing
dynamics in Africa, means that younger leaders may be more suitable to lead multi-generational
workforces within organizations. This should, however, be accompanied by a disclaimer that
leaders elected or appointed are watchful of their attitudes towards the age of their employees
since it shapes the organizational age culture.

I’m sure you’ve come across the next question countless times: Are people born leaders?
If I was counting, this would be a million and one. Anyway, according to the Situation
Theory of Leadership; leadership emerges in its truest sense. This is because it hails from the
discovery of individual identity – an important factor that is usually left out of examinations,
interviews, and analyses – and a strong drive or desire to challenge the status quo. Hence, I
believe that true leaders are shaped from experience; making mistakes and learning from them,
in addition to studying and mimicking what great leaders do. Algebra comes before calculus,
right? The fact remains that leadership too complex to be simplified as a sheer biological
circumstance. As I stated earlier, leadership comes from the belief that one can achieve a
particular goal through instilling excellence in others.

Briefly describe the predominant leadership style of your generation.
I belong to Generation Y, commonly known as Millennials or Nexters. Most of us are diverse,
tech-savvy global thinkers, with an inherent preference for the informal. We often combine the
teamwork of Baby Boomers, the can-do attitude of the Veterans, and the technological literacy of
Generation Xers. Nonetheless, we are still aliens in the traditional workplace, with few getting
lucky to land positions in leadership, where we tend to lean toward a transformational/participative leadership style.

So let’s pretend you’re the founder and chairperson of a Fortune 500 company. Which type
of CEO would you prefer to have in your company: A humble one or a charismatic one?
And why?

A humble one any day. Humble leaders are more likely to admit their mistakes, deflect credit to
others, and be open to new ideas, advice and feedback. They bring out the very best in people
because it’s easier to trust them. And it goes without saying, that trust is the highest form of
human motivation. Charismatic leaders, on the other hand, are usually prone to narcissism which
may derail them to focus on highly self-serving and grandiose missions. Keep in mind that what
a leader believes about himself eventually influences what he/she thinks about his/her employees
and how he/she treats them.

Do you think leaders should treat all their employees equally?
First, let me state that there’s a fundamental difference between equal treatment and equal
performance; a common grey area of debate. A leader can treat his/her employees equally or
fairly by holding them accountable to expected outcomes and not processes. That way, employees will have a somewhat “level” playfield, whereby they can use their strengths and
creativity, to deliver the desired results with the utmost satisfaction. However, it’s important to
note that, in performance terms, virtually no one is equal to anyone. In fact, the same is not even
equal to himself on different days.

Many a times, leaders, even the very best, find it difficult to delegate to subordinates. Why

Delegation is an essential leadership skill. However, I think most leaders delegate with
reluctance, and rightfully so, because they feel it takes too much time and effort, and they could
probably do the job better themselves. Nonetheless, effective delegation of tasks to others, is
perhaps the single most powerful high-leverage activity.

How has technology impacted on leadership?
The quality of our lives in this “Information Age” is determined by the quality of our
communication. Thanks to rapidly changing global technological trends and innovations,
convenience and ease-of-service in peoples’ lifestyles has improved tremendously, including
accessibility to new networks and professional circles. There’s no question that constant online
communication and networking has made the world a smaller place by fostering real-time
sharing, data aggregation and boundless learning, hence enhancing the scope of transformational
or participative leadership. Technology is the driving force behind this new style of leadership
which grants leaders the most wide-reaching channel of communication available. Nowadays,
leadership is not about direct power, but about influence.

You’ve talked about the positives only. Is there a negative angle?
Of course. The Internet, especially, is full of distractions that bombard our brains with
continuous tons of information, opinions and ideas. It’s impossible to consume or process all of
it, and these distractions can prevent a leader from finding the strength and wisdom required to
challenge conventional thinking. Therefore, it’s imperative that leaders unplug themselves from
the Matrix…

Excuse me?
Just testing your attention.

Nice one. Awesome movie.
Yah. So basically, leaders ought to unplug themselves from the Net from time to time and seek
the solitude required to develop their own sound, independent thinking and original ideas.

Okay, let’s wind up. The most successful leaders are often put on pedestals that befit
superheroes. Where do they get this “
super power” that makes them appear invincible?
Wakanda Forever!

Okay, being productive isn’t always about doing the most. Successful leaders master how to
manage their energy, and not just time, early. This is the key to high performance and personal renewal. Furthermore, they’re more conscious about where they invest their energy; two or three
necessities that will make a real difference.

That marks the end of the interview. I’m extremely grateful for your time, Muthoni.
Thanks for having me. I really enjoyed myself.

I’ll edit the video and you should have a copy before it goes live in the next two days.
Cool. Let me text you my email address.

And if my watch is correct, it’s lunchtime. Care to join me for lunch?
Yeah, sure.

1 comment
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