The Triumph of Leadership

TO run the race and not pass the baton is madness, and to run a race on your own is incomprehensible. It was recently reported that William Henry Gates III (better known as Bill Gates) will be resigning from Microsoft. This is a company which he founded with his high school buddy, Paul Allen. He is leaving Microsoft in great financial health, while he is in the top three of the world richest behind his friend Warren Buffet and Mexican Carlos Slim. He has passed on the baton to the new generation of leaders who will take Microsoft to the next level. This is the essence of leadership – passing on the baton. Make no mistake; Bill Gates is a top class entrepreneur. However, Microsoft is now faced with new challenges requiring new thinking. There is a new generation of IT geeks who are changing the competitive dynamics in the industry. An “old hand” from the old school like Bill Gates might find the ball game a bit too fast to cope. Kudos to Mr Gates for understanding the times.

Success Without A Successor is Failure

The majority of first generation of African entrepreneurs did everything right except grow successors. The day they died, is the day their businesses died. How tragic! This is not limited to the world of business alone, but also to politics, religious and social arena. If the entrepreneurial spirit, exceptional organisational skills, managerial talent and excellent governance that was obtaining during the time Great Zimbabwe or Khami Ruins was built, Zimbabwe would surely be great today. Successive Zimbabwean generations have passed on this key DNA.

I could talk of the of 15th century Zimbabwe chiefs like Nyanhewe Matope or Nyatsimba Mutota. They built the strong Munhumutapa Empire underpinned by a clear succession policy. The challenge is on the current generation of leaders across the political divide to stop grandstanding and protect this great nation’s enduring traditions. As one generation passes on the baton, let them do it with honour, and those who receive the baton accept with humility. Zimbabwe as a nation has a collective responsibility to manage generational succession. The success of any nation depends on its ability to promote leadership succession. It’s a matter of survival as it is of self preservation.

Succession Is Not An Accident

There is one certainty in life – you will not always been around. This fact of life makes it imperative for you to consciously develop people around you who will carry your dreams to the next generation. One Moses of ancient Israel used to do everything, until his father in law, Jethro told him, “This idea of doing everything yourself, is not wise, delegate!” This principle of delegation known as the “Jethro Principle”, is at the heart of succession planning. The best way to grow leaders is to give them responsibilities. Put in their pathway, challenges and assignments which develop their skills. The late televangelist, John Osteen, prepared his son, Joel who has managed to continue with his father’s vision. The whole Kenneth Copeland generation is involved in church the ministry so that when Kenneth Copeland is off the scene, the vision stays alive. Arin Sarin the CEO of Vodafone will soon be leaving but a successor is already in place to lead the next wave of business challenges. The important thing is that these successors have been thoroughly prepared. When Jack Welch left General Electric a few years ago, he had 3 equally good successors, to an extent he had to get the other two jobs at 3M and Home Depot as CEOs since he could only appoint one.

A Time To Handover

Even our Lord Jesus, divine as He was, knew there was a time to handover. His model of succession has endured the test of time. His twelve disciples received the baton from Him, and went on to make ‘disciples of all nations’. 2000 years later, the vision is just as strong, neither has architectural integrity been compromised – the message is still the same. Succession is about knowing that the world must not revolve around you. If your vision will die with you, then it’s a small vision. The mark of true leadership is to know when its time to leave the scene and take the backseat. The triumph of leadership is the ability to handover the baton under terms which you can define not when you are about to faint or collapse before the finishing line.

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