The famous leadership guru John Maxwell once said “the person who thinks is leading and yet no one is following is only taking a walk.” It is every leader’s wish that their legacy will continue to live on years after they exited from the current leadership position. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many African C-level business, civil and political leaders. The moment they leave office, their leadership or business legacies vanish shortly after, leaving the new leader to either start all over again or totally ignore all the investment, cultures and projects started by their predecessors to go down the drain.
There is even the sad reality where certain leaders can be at the helm of affairs of an organisation for decades and yet the moment they retire, completely new people are brought in from outside to take over the mantle of leadership, because no one from within is seen to be “competent enough” to step into their shoes and run the affairs of the organisation.
What then should the African C-level business executive, entrepreneur, politician or civil leader do to ensure that their legacies stand the test of time long after they are gone? In my strategic leadership and entrepreneurship work, which I have done for the past 23 years, I always tell every leader or entrepreneur that they should, from day one of assuming any leadership position or initiating any business venture, start thinking about their exist, develop themselves for higher and bigger opportunities and devise strategies to nurture the next generation of leaders within the organisation to take over from them. Leadership is not position or title.
Neither is it about the trappings that come along with the position. Rather, leadership is about one’s ability to create a mental future state with the capacity to inspire and influence others to achieve that vision and even surpass it when the leader is no longer around. The test of true leadership is the ability of the leader to leave a legacy that will continue to live in the hearts and minds of his followers after he or she is long gone. This can only be done by ensuring that conscious leadership programmes supported by the right internal culture to groom someone or a group of individuals is undertaken.
Sadly, statistics amply demonstrate that in Africa, only few C-level leaders and entrepreneurs are willing and appreciate the need to mentor their followers to continue with the vision of their organisations. Thus, in most cases in Africa, it is not uncommon to see that the moment an entrepreneur dies, so does the business. Some have even argued that “why must we invest in our staff by way of training and mentorship when they keep leaving after we have trained them? But I have always asked “what happens if you don’t train them and they chose to stay within the organisation for as long as they can? What results will you expect thereafter?
Many C-level executives operate with an entitlement mindset and usually get entrapped by the trappings of their positions. As a result, they operate with the notion that if they groom others, those they train will take over their positions. But the truth is, the true success of any leader is the success of his or her successor, not the money or material investments you leave behind when you are not in the position. Remember that the trappings are for the position and not you, hence they don’t follow you when you are no longer in that position, but the people you mentor and influence their hearts and minds continue to follow you.
Case in point, Jesus Christ, the most exemplary and quoted leader in the world, right from the start of his ministry, publicly made his intentions known to his staff, (the twelve disciples) that: “It is expedient that I go, for if I go not, you cannot do and surpass the things that I have done and taught you”. He publicly announced his exit and had a strategy for it.
Mr Dei-Tumi is the chief copywriter for Human Capital International, a human resource, leadership, entrepreneurship
and mentorship organisation.