Monday, December 05, 2005


There’s a sort of catch 22 situation going on in President Kibaki’s kitchen cabinet. This week he will make a critical announcement, which will change some of his men’s lives.

He could choose those that seem to agree with him and be sure that the squabbling will end. He could also bring in the Orange Democratic Movement - ODM and seek to work with them. Either way he will experience a catch 22.

This is how l see it. It is good to have the president’s ear. It is also noble to work with him without squabbling. But in the process of being agreeable to country’s CEO there’s a tendency to suck up. The President’s advisers are supposed to be people who are not tainted. People who live above the politics of the day in order to advice the President in making objective decisions. If you ask me, the President’s men didn’t act objectively.

By not bringing into the flock the Orange Democratic Movement the president will lose objectivity. There’s a lot of talk going on. A lot of speculation is doing rounds as to who is likely to be named. Either way, l believe it will be to his leadership’s detriment to keep the ODM out. No l am not sympathetic to ODM, l am being observant.
A lot of leaders don’t like to have people on board who challenge their ideas. They deem it safe to have all the boys and girls who agree with them surround them.

They should take a lesson or two from Jim Collins, a CEO who was featured a few months ago in Fortune magazine – Europe edition. Jim has a board that is comprised of people who don’t agree 100% with him. According to him these people are very key to his success as a leader. Why? They keep him alert. He likes to explore their line of thought to know exactly why they choose those views. He also says it keeps him humble because he usually thinks through his options before presenting them knowing very well they might be trampled on. You might wonder why go into all the trouble then? You see, this is the trouble that President Kibaki doesn’t want to face. Or should l say his ‘closest allies?’ That, among other reasons is why the draft constitution didn’t see the light of day.

Trouble is when you have everyone agreeing with you, you never see your pitfalls. People who seek the CEOs attention always have an agenda but the CEO doesn’t always see the bias. No one needs to hear the truth more than the CEO. Even though this is true, according to Harvard Business Review David Nadler the Chairman and CEO of Mercer Delta Consulting notes that, ‘in the CEOs presence, people are guarded, unwilling to raise difficult topics.’ This then feeds into people telling the CEO what he wants to hear. If he hears something negative he responds to it with difficulty because those around him will not allow him to dissect it with the open mind it requires.

Half the time these advisers are taking care of their jobs. The closeness they have with the CEO blinds them as to whether they are loyal to the boss or to his effectiveness as a leader.

In this case, the advisers who surround President Kibaki didn’t tell him the truth when it came to the referendum. I believe they told him what he wanted to hear and what they thought he wanted them to say.

African leaders need to learn from this. If you surround yourself with people who don’t stretch you, the pitfalls will not be very far. There will be unrest because the information you receive is biased. Sadly, even the advisers won’t know that their info is biased. This information is biased because although the adviser should be independent, there are all these people lobbying him. Why? Because they know he has the president’s ear. Yet half the time what the advisers hear from their sources is propaganda and not intelligence.

It’s a tricky business of being the country’s CEO and being the country’s CEO adviser. It’s unique. You need to define boundaries and have what Mr. Nadler calls – Zone of connection. Simply put it’s the balance between strong personal bonds with strong personal boundaries. Creating this helps the adviser keep his value to the CEO because he won’t get compromised.

As for the president, the lessons that Mr Nadler gives could be turned around to help him get the right men on board.
Personal advise – don’t bring all the boys and girls who agree with you on board. Instead have a balance. Get stretched and seek to work with those that have different thoughts.

Also don’t try and incorporate them like you did with the Coalition government. Don’t allow their voices to be drowned. Because then you will only have the suck ups as part of your cabinet.

Either way Mr President, it’s a catch 22 situation you have in your hands.


acolyte said...

Very nice illuminating post.Blog a little more when you have the time won't you?

Magaidi said...

Very well put.

Poi said...

Nice, very well said...

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