Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Setting the Leadership Bar

October 22, 2013

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It’s the largest annual prize in the world.

And, the Foundation’s website is clear about selection criteria. You need to be a democratically elected African head of state that has left office in the last three years and demonstrated exceptional leadership. If chosen, you get a $5 million award, plus an annual pension of $200 thousand.

The Ibrahim Prize, established by Sudanese Celtel entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim, has set some standards for leadership in Africa. Standards are specified levels of performance which define expectations.  Across the world, and in the US we have standards for safety, education, manufacturing and for food quality. Professional disciplines, like evaluation and engineering, cite standards as a reflection of their maturity. Leadership has standards, too.

This year, for the fourth time since its inception in 2007, the Ibrahim Prize was not distributed. The aim of the award is to provide a financial incentive to African leaders to shun corruption. But, the Committee was unable to find a winner from any of Africa’s 50-plus countries. Ibrahim said, “We need to really point the finger at where the responsibility lies…Let’s put the light there and let us seek heroes.”

Fareed  Zakaria, CNN host of Global Public Square (GPS), covered this story recently. His analysis: “Africa’s leaders are locked in a marathon to see who can reign longest… a crisis of governance.” He says, many African countries have had the same men in charge for more than 30 years. While these and other states are “nominal democracies” their citizens experience dictators. Their elections and day-to-day culture includes intimidation, fraud, graft and violence.

Despite poor governance, some of the world’s fastest growing economies are African. The continent, according to Ventures Africa has 55 billionaires. There are also advances in education, healthcare, and poverty reduction. So, what’s the new wrinkle?  Zakaria notes that China is now Africa’s biggest trade partner. In contrast to the history of NGOs and Western countries which have tied aid to standards, China is willing to sign trade deals with no strings. This upsets a system which previously valued transparency, democracy and peace.

We know inept leaders and toxic politics can destroy nations, organizations, communities, and individuals. What leadership standards do you set for yourself and the organizations you support? What are the attributes and behavior of people you respect and will follow?

Don’t confuse leadership with a job title. Be ready to withhold the prize if nobody meets the standards. Otherwise, anything goes.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com


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