Monday, July 15, 2019

Choose wisely

As we age, we should be changing not only our wardrobes and our appetites, but also our roles and responsibilities. Coaching others, reducing our active responsibilities, allowing new thinking to enter the arena – this is how thoughtful persons evolve. They go before they are asked to, or before nature intervenes. – Sunny Bindra
As always, Mr Bindra gets to the rub and you can't but help and wonder at the thing of it. More often than we think possible, we tend to evolve, our tastes tend to refine, though for many of us, not our wardrobes - the mountain of dad-jeans jokes is proof enough. In my estimation though, one thing that also ought to be considered is a strong moral and ethical core. It defines the nature of our evolution. In many occasions it is shed off with the accumulation of wealth and power, sometimes in direct proportion.

As children we are taught many lessons, both good and bad. What we choose to retain determines how we lead. Social and and economic status is irrelevant to what we retain. If the bulk of our lessons are bad ones, and we lack the capacity or willingness to jettison them, we will make bad leaders. Our visions will inevitably lead to bad ends for many people, even if we personally make to the other side better off. It is the old software programming rule: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Throughout our lives we have the chance to learn new things. But if we have been conditioned to filter out the good and retain the bad, we almost certainly will turn out to be bad. Often, though, we get the opportunity to do the reverse, regardless of our past. It may be a charismatic mentor, a Road to Damascus moment or some other life-altering event. Many of us seize these opportunities and go on to redefine our worldviews. But when we fail to do so, and we just happen to wield great power, the results are often devastating.

Uganda offers a fascinating case study of what happens when longevity is paired by a relentless shedding of good lessons and the adoption of bad ones. President Museveni isn't the only political leader who has sat on the throne for decades. The queen of England has served as head of state longer than some of the longest serving presidents on Earth. President Museveni had a clear moral and ethical agenda when he led a successful revolution. He had countless opportunities to see a vision greater than himself for Ugandans. Instead, he has seemingly adopted every trope about autocrats, from nepotism to conflicts of interest. Unlike Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore whose vision was coupled with a strong sense of destiny for the island nation, President Museveni's vision has increasingly become about him. Uganda's fate now, it seems, is Museveni's fate. It will not end well.

In Kenya, there are countless examples of longevity and bad choices in the corporate world such that the departures of leaders with celebrated moral ad ethical standards is national news. The late Bob Collymore was the ideal that even politicians claimed to aspire to. He may have made a few morally or ethically dubious choices, but few could legitimately claim that he didn't publicly abide by certain strong ethical and moral values. The same is not true of his contemporaries whose corporate records are littered with cheated shareholders, business partners and customers. While they have thrived and been celebrated in the pages of business magazines, their continued presence in corporate circles is tolerated rather than welcomed. They are the man at the ed of the bar to whom many are courteous but few are willing to be seen drinking with.

If you lack a moral and ethical core that prizes doing the right thing over turning a profit or gaining an advantage, you will most likely be successful. But it is unlikely that you will be celebrated. You will be emulated by the unthinking, but you will not be lionized. You will build an empire, but it will crumble to dust when you shuffle off this mortal coil. Ancient empires have crumbled because they became rotten to the core. World leaders have fallen and been forgotten for espousing the worst values. If you are not careful, you will be a footnote in history, treated as cautionary tale. Choose wisely.

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