Last week was International coaching week (ICW). This is a global event run by the International coach federation (ICF) of which I am a proud member hehe. ICW aims to make coaching understood, accessible and more visible to the world. It’s a week where coaches become evangelists preaching the gospel of coaching in the hope that coaching will be not only accepted but embedded in society and organizations. I love coaching because it deals more with unlocking potential than focusing on problems.

We had many events and several webinars with relevant topics. I happened to moderate one on the place of purpose and vulnerability in leadership. My two guests were Dr Martin Oduor Otieno and Janet Mawiyoo. Janet is a giant in the Not for profit space and has impacted the continent with her purposeful leadership. Martin has been a captain of industry in corporate Kenya and has now transitioned into supporting leaders to lead vulnerably through coaching.

As my two guests shared their journeys in leadership I couldn’t help but admire how they transitioned from success to significance. They seem happier and more fulfilled. This further validated my decision to also exit my business a few years ago but also reminded me of my experience in March this year when together with many others (but few workers) we put together the biggest golf tournament in the region. Read that experience here…….

Then last Sunday Sunny Bindra through his column in the Sunday Nation shared why letting go of power and position is so hard for many. Having held leadership positions and looking for more, Sunny’s article was spot on for me. We know of many African leaders who have led forever. Most began with good intentions then power got to their head and they eroded the gains made earlier. As a result, many nations have suffered for long at the hands of leaders gone rogue.

Is there anything like a bad leader? Or is it often a case of someone getting a leadership position they shouldn’t have gotten in the first place? Sounds like being set up for failure. That is the case for many so-called leaders. We have men and women who have been promoted to high levels of incompetence. Folks if our blessing comes before we are ready then it could destroy us. Know anyone like that? or are you in that position?

Could it be that many people in leadership positions don’t understand their brief and so use the trappings of power to misbehave? Perhaps they know nothing better yet we judge them harshly. They are just passengers on the bus that found themselves in the driver’s seat yet are not good drivers. We can and should remedy that urgently. It’s easier when we lead with clarity of goals so that when times up we are eager to move on to bigger and better things.

I have often been intrigued by how a leader knows he is unwanted by his (forced) followers and yet feels nothing by continuing to occupy the position and even entrenching him or herself further. That’s a level of blindness I’m scared of. Why do many hang on even when facing a growing loss of credibility? Sunny asks. Dr Mark Goulston shares that, “ If leaders lose a job that is too rigidly connected to their identity, they will literally fall apart and feel useless, purposeless and worthless”.

Maybe that explains the secret between Martin’s and Janet’s successful transitions on their leadership journeys. Their roles, titles and jobs were not entangled with their identity and that has made it easier for them to leave with less fuss. Now I understand why rich and old chairpersons of boards refuse to leave boards even when it’s clear they got to the point of diminishing returns long ago. They cannot stand alone without the titles and perks of those positions. What a sad reality.

I remember once when I was venting my frustrations to a mentor on how I was being frustrated on a board I sat on by some senior citizens. His advice was to save that experience in the Google cloud of my mind where it cannot be deleted so that when I am a chairman in future I will remember what not to do.  Wise counsel that was. May I never forget that.

These individuals do not have anything they always wanted to do. Retirement is a threat to be resisted and denied, Sunny says. Martin and Janet seem to have the antidote for that. They seem to have kept their other interests, hobbies, and good relationships alive even as they grew their careers. The perfect balance in this leadership and transition journey is to be fully engaged in the position we occupy while keeping our other passions alive and growing. That’s the color I want for my life. I hope you do too folks. “Because life is so rich. It has so many delights available, so much contribution we can make in so many diverse ways” Bindra nudges us.

Are you in that demanding full-time job? Try and keep an active eye on those things that nudge your heart. Those childhood dreams. Because when it’s time to leave that position those other interests will welcome you with open arms and you will have both a soft and more exciting landing. The grass is greener on the other side in this case.

At the end of our webinar, I was even more excited about endings and Sunny couldn’t have ended his Sunday story better. He said, “When your time is up, blow the whistle yourself and walk away. And do it while they are still clapping”.

Drops Mic…..



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2 thoughts on “Leadership Entanglement.”

  1. Mike Eldon says:

    I love my third age, with advisory rather than executive roles!

  2. Ruth Mageria says:

    Spot on, Lucas! I am at that age where I am diligently working to ensure that my “roles, titles and jobs are not entangled to my identity.” When that time comes, I want to leave gracefully, and find something else “waiting for me with open arms.” 😊

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