Some time back I wrote about the woes I was facing seating in a board with senior citizens who were still operating from the old Bwana Mkubwa mentality. It’s been a struggle getting things done because of the I want syndrome instead of the we want. That ‘I’ statement bothers me when constantly used in meetings.  I thought I was naïve expecting that board chairs are one among equals but in one particular board I serve in, the chairman is a jogoo that can’t be challenged. A different opinion from his is taken as a coup attempt.  I challenges his ideas frequently while majority of the other directors maintain the peace. I’m actually looking forward to leaving that board when my term ends later this year because there’s hardly room for creativity and contribution when a chairman leads with an iron fist.

Last year I got the chance to chair my first board and that has confirmed that I wasn’t naïve to expect leadership by consensus to be the norm. At the risk of sounding like I’m blowing my own trumpet, I believe I’m leading by consensus and everyone’s input is being considered. Maybe I should share this article with my board members for them to confirm whether I am right or my head is buried deep in the sand.

I have nothing personal against my chairman, just the old-school dictatorial way of running things that I can’t get used to. In the last board meeting of 2018 (which I missed), I learnt from the minutes that the directors present passed the appointment of a new director whom the chairman was pushing for. Majority of the board members had turned it down when it came up for discussion few months earlier. The gentleman appointed is a pleasant guy but I couldn’t believe how far one can push their agenda at the expense of morale of the other board members. Isn’t it for a chair’s benefit to have committed and engaged directors? That way a lot of good gets done and as chairman you get the glory. Anyhow different strokes for different folks.

I decided to call my mentor mzee Mike Eldon, for his opinion on two things. My audacious goal of applying for a job I consider huge, and secondly, how to handle my chairman and for the rest of my term on this particular board. Mike confirmed yet again that not all old folks are rigid. Many a time, I find him much more open minded than me. He spoke such wisdom that capsized my perspective kabisa on the issue of the new appointment to the board I sit on. An open old mind is like a rare gem. When you find it, keep it close for it will benefit you greatly folks.

Mike happens to know the new appointee and he asked that I do not challenge the chairman on the matter. That I let it slide and take the lessons of what not to do as I seek to serve on boards in future. Mike also spoke highly of the new guy and said it might be to my benefit that I get to know him and work together with him. That’s some of the best counsel I have received in 2018. I’m glad it came at the tail end of the year because it changed my mind set on how to remain productive in the reign of my kaa gumu kama Gumo chairman here.

My mind has been on overdrive mode as to what I’d like to achieve in 2019. A few months ago I wrote on this blog , my word for 2019 is Defining. Being the 5th year of the bamboo that has been my life, it will finally break above ground and start growing. In line with this, I’m willing to go after an opportunity that’s bigger than any I have applied for. I do feel this is the right time and I’m ready for the task ahead. I’ll do my part and see how that goes.

The lesson for me through all this is that our elders act as bridges to the rest of us. And we in turn act as bridges to those younger than us. Bridges because Mike held my hand across unfamiliar territory and helped me get to the other side of reason. At the same time, I’m not sure where my iron fisted chairman’s bridge would take me if I followed him.

Everyone we meet in our lives is a bridge to or from somewhere irrespective of their age. As I progress in my Defining year (and second half of my life) I find myself in need of frequent handholding as I learn the ropes in the realm of public service that will characterize my life for the foreseeable future. As a result, I have chosen to befriend older (and hopefully wiser) folks who have been down the same road before and are now masters of the game. My kids head teacher Ms Kariuki once told me that if you want to progress in life, identify and seek out people who are already in the space you want to get into. That way you learn faster and arrive at your destination sooner. Folks, may we be on the lookout for the right bridges to cross so as to arrive at our destination still having energy to impact.

Maybe this is a good time to evaluate the bridges in our lives. There could be some that we need to blow up all together. May we have the wisdom to identify bridges (people around us) that will help us cross over to our goals. But at the same time, may we learn from our seniors how to be good bridges that those behind us will want to use. One way to be a good bridge is just by adopting what your mentors and teachers do and doing your own version of it. For me, seeking out men and women I admire and investing a coffee (or a coke on the rocks as Mike prefers) date to pick the deep treasure that is their mind has been time very well spent. If these folks would charge me for their time I would have to sell my kidney and big toe to pay them.

It would be a moment of great pride to be considered a bridge worth crossing by someone. May we be found worthy.

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