Africa needs BIG, BOLD, AUDACIOUS STEPS–7 Critical factors to consider
Africa has been touted as the next frontier for economic prosperity, but the guys on ground are not as optimistic as possible. Economies like Nigeria have continued to grow by at least 7% for the last 5 years, but this has not translated to better standards of living for the people. From America, to Syria, to Egypt, to Nigeria, the prevailing strategy has been the caution that says: massage the status-quo, a little tweaking here and there; apply a few measured solutions and we’ll be fine. Unfortunately, this has not worked.
Civil strife has continued to worsen, unemployment rate is still on the ascendancy, educational systems are still far behind 21st century realities, and caution is not working. No matter where within the spectrum of political, business, and civil society we play, incremental solutions just won’t cut it. What we need are big, bold, audacious steps. We need new and challenging visions for the future. We will need them to create an innovation based economy that focuses on technology and energy, we need large amounts of daring to fund large-scale infrastructure projects, to establish public and private partnerships for socio-economic development, to fix our state agencies and even to lead our families. This is not a time for small ambitions and moderate manoeuvres. This is a time for bold moves.
We all agree that creativity is the primary leadership requirement of the post-modern world. We cannot navigate the uncertainties today without the ability to imagine an alternative future. As I point you toward the start-up generation of the last three decades, permit me to also point you to seven critical factors that have made them thick; factors we must keep in mind as we interrogate the imperative of boldness in the time of uncertainty.
One, it’s all up to you. DYI. Entrepreneurs bootstrap their new ideas until they can be tangible. Authors set up their own book tours and come up with their own promotional ideas. Film-makers distribute their own films and make their own YouTube channels.
Two, you are not alone. From Google to Apple, to Facebook, some of the greatest start-ups we know are products of collaboration. Nobody expects you to go it alone today. We will have to reach across the aisle to find those who possess the skills or resources we lack and forge mutually beneficial partnerships.
Three, it’s not just about money; it’s about creating value or the probability of value. We will not be able to galvanize the support we need to achieve anything bold and extraordinary without being able to communicate its value in unambiguous language to our respective constituencies and stakeholders.
Four, you don’t need a big organization to achieve your aims. Big corporate structures are fine for some things – they can spend $100 million on marketing. But they are slow and, by nature, conservative. Think the Nigerian civil service. But in artists and entrepreneurs, in contrast, are fast and risk-prone, lean and effective. Big innovations and big creative leaps don’t come, necessarily, from big companies. They come from dedicated, scrappy people working outside of large structures.
Five, reinvent yourself before you invent your next solution. As a creative and entrepreneurial person, you don’t like to repeat yourself. You’ll get bored if you have to climb the same mountain. So you continually train, learn, make, re-make, destroy and start over, because next time, you want your experience to be different, and better.
Six, promoting yourself and your work comes with the territory. You need to feel comfortable talking about yourself and your work. These are not the times for self-deprecating leadership. For many people, this is a hard one to overcome, especially because we live in a society where so much criticism is thoughtless and cheap. But if you come out of hiding, you will discover that even though selling your work yourself is a necessity, it is also a fulfilling experience.
And seven, if there’s no passion, you shouldn’t be doing it. If you clear away the brush, you’ll be able to see the trail. While the path may not be easy because life pretty much guarantees that nothing worth doing is ever easy, you’ll find that the steps can become clear.
Today, much is made of the leader who strives for consensus and this of course has its place. There is great value in these leadership talents and behaviours, yet they lead to a potential risk as well. When all decisions are made or confirmed in meetings, when everyone has a say in every situation, you will almost always get safe, conventional, traditional decisions. You won’t get boldness. Someone has to say, “Enough negotiating, we need to declare independence.” Someone has to say, “We aren’t going to make a better horse carriage, we are going to make an auto-mobile.” Someone has to say, “People will want the internet on their phone.” Someone has to say, “It is time for a new direction, a new vision, it’s time for something bold.” This is a part of the leader’s role. If you aren’t willing or feel unable to make a bold statement of vision or to decide on a new course of action, you aren’t leading. Does that mean the best leader is an autocrat, relying solely on their own vision, bombastically making bold decisions every day? Not at all. But boldness must be included in your leadership style and approach, and it will be most effective and valued when it is a balanced part of who you are as a leader.
What was your last bold act, decision or statement as a leader? When was that? How comfortable were you with that action? What results came from it? What do your answers to these questions teach you about your future? What bold thing will you do today? Go!