STATEMENT DURING THE LOVE MALAWI FESTIVAL DINNER WITH EVANGELIST ANDREW PALAU UNDER THE AUSPILES OF THE EVANGELICAL ASSOCIATION OF MALAWI
First I have a confession to make. This is the first time I have spoken at a gathering of this nature and definitely the first time before internationally reknown evangelists like Andrew Palau and his group. I have never held any leadership role in the church. However, the church taught me one important concept of followership. For he who cannot follow cannot lead.
So you can understand my reluctance to the invitation sent by Rev Mwalabu through his envoys Mr. Chibonga and Mr. Kumwenda. These two gentlemen were so persuasive that I had no time to say “no.” They started speaking under the assumption that I had already accepted. It was only after they left that I realized that actually I had not been giving an opportunity to say yes or no!
However, the comforting statement they said to me was that I was not expected to preach. They asked me to speak about my personal experience on leadership in my career. There is a bus company in the United State called Greyhound whose slogan goes “Go Greyhound and leave the driving to us.” So I will leave the preaching to you, Evangelist.”
So here we go.
The first lesson I learnt in my leadership journey is that leadership can be developed. Some people claim that leaders are born. This implies that these people are marked out early in their lives to become leaders. So the rest of us can do little or nothing to become leaders. This view makes most people to have little or no self-confidence. The truth of the matter is that it is possible to become a leader through patience, persistence and hard work. Take my own case.
Can you believe it that I was a stammerer? Every person who stammers will tell you how frustrating it is when you are unable to take the voice out. The Chichewa word for stammering is “Chibwibwi” which describes the fact that one repeats the same sound. Consequently, one becomes hot tempered. Yet I became a teacher and later a politician two jobs which require a lot of speaking.
The Biblical leader who was a stammerer was Moses. I think he was frustrated by his condition. You remember that Moses killed an Egyptian who was fighting with an Israeli. I think in trying to talk to this Egyptian to stop hitting the Israeli, he spoke with his sword. You remember the conversation Moses had with God at the burning bush. Moses at that point shows that he did not have much self-confidence as a leader. When asked by God to go to the strongest king at that time, the Pharaoh, to tell him to release all Israelis he did not say “Yes Lord, I will go and confront Pharaoh and take the Israelites out of Egypt.” He spent time arguing with God – “They won’t believe me Lord,” “what will I say who sent me?” “Please Lord you know I am not eloquent I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” “Please send someone else….” etc. But such a person later argued his case before Pharaoh and managed to convince the king, and took the Iraelites out of Egypt. We honour him as one of the greatest leaders of all time.
In my case, it was through a different route. I chanced on an article in the Readers Digest entitled “How to Stop Stammering” I had read other similar articles on the topic before, but this one was special. It started with a question “Have you ever seen a stammerer who stammers while singing?” Obviously I hadn’t for I could sing without stammering. So I started to imagine I was singing as I spoke! And here I am speaking eloquently to you.
The second lesson I learnt in leadership was inspired by an African proverb from Ghana which says:-
“An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.” This is an ancient African wise proverb but it has recently been re-discovered in the West through a book co-authored by Jocko Willkin and Leif Babin called “Extreme Ownership.”
The equivalent Western idea is called “There are no bad teams just bad leaders.” The authors were Training officers of the elite fighting force in the U.S Military called SEALS. You may recall that it was members of this group that killed the notorious Osama bin Laden.
As trainers they noticed that there were two teams where one team always won in competitions and another that always lost. They tried to swap the leaders of these two teams and they found to their amazement that the team that always lost started to win and the previously winning team started to lose.
At one time I was in-charged of Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education Headquarters. I also noticed that the performance of a poor school improved when I posted a good headmaster. The same is seen in the area of sports. We have seen a football team that never won anything take the cup and also vice versa a team that always won start losing when the coaches change.
So our ancestors knew this through the proverb I quoted above. “An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led a sheep.”
The explanation to this phenomenon is quite important in leadership. The authors say that when you are a leader you should take full responsibility for everything in your organization and not blame someone or something.
This means 100% Responsibility and 0% blame.
As a young teacher I was told that if a student fails an examination it is you as a teacher who has failed. You have failed to find the best way of teaching that particular student.
The Bible tells the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When the two sinned by disobeying God’s Commandment not to eat the fruits from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, they did not take responsibility but blamed someone else including blaming God.
We know the story that when Adam and Eve were confronted by God to find out whether they had eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam said “it is the woman you gave me that made be eat it. Eve also passed on the blame to the serpent.
When I look back at my career, I have found that the times that I failed in leadership was when I did not take full responsibility but passed the blame to someone or something. As leaders we must try to reach 100% full responsibility and 0% blame.
Remember, leadership can be developed through patience, persistence and hard work. And also there is no such thing as a bad team, there is no such thing as a bad family, there is no such thing as a bad church, there is no such thing as a bad political party, there is no such thing as a bad country, just bad leaders.