Dare to Disagree: Great Teams must not be echo chambers

Openness alone cannot drive change or transformation. Openness isn’t the end, it is the beginning. But why?

As humans, our neurobiological drive is to seek association with people who are mostly like ourselves. Those who view the world from our glasses and those with similar stands. This however cannot lead us to achieve greatness. In order to achieve greatness both as teams and as individuals, it is critical that we surround ourselves with those who challenge the way we think. those who will critically appraise our own dogmas and what we believe. What are the key elements in so doing?How can we ensure that the teams we lead are not echo chambers?

Find People Different from Us

We have to intentionally seek people with different mindset from us. This in itself requires that we commit time and energy. It is important for leaders and teams to find and incorporate people with vast ideas, this not only frees people from the danger of a single story, but also enables us to appreciate the different view points within the teams.

Mind Wide Open

Knowing how to learn is better than Knowing. Brian Herbert said “The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The willingness to learn is a choice.”

It isn’t enough to find people who are different from us, keeping an open mind towards their views is critical if we are to obtain benefits from the diversity. Teams must not enjoy constant fights, however, individuals must be really good at defending their opinions and finding ways to challenging and improving those of the rest of the team.

Create Conflict

Conflict allows creativity, conflict when managed well has always enabled human species to progress and drive transformation. Conflict within organisations encourages open-mindedness and helps avoid the tendency toward group think that many organisations fall prey to. When mature teams or individuals in the teams have conflicts, three things can happen; strong relationships are built, minds are open thus encouraging innovation and encourages new thinking through incorporation of new ideas.

Bringing it Together

Constructive conflict requires us to find thinking team members who are not echo chambers. In order to create a thinking team and thinking organisations at large, we must encourage people to challenge our dogmas, conflict of ideas must be encouraged among team members and between different teams. In addition, team leaders themselves just like the team members need to create and encourage the challenging of ideas and allow their ideas to be challenged, an open mind and a mind open to continuous learning is not the end, it is the beginning of transformation.

Talk is cheap, well, not for a Leader

A “friend” of mine recently made this comment in the middle of a discussion we were having with him. It got me thinking, “as Managers and Leaders, is talk really cheap? or is it priceless and premium?”

In the Management positions that people hold in the organisations, most can be considered as also requiring the said individuals to provide Leadership. I say this because I am fully aware that Management and Leadership are two different concepts. One of the key things thus that Leaders and by extension effective managers must hold very dear is “talk” aka words. Those we lead in addition to following what we do keenly, what we say to them and the emotional effect that our words have on them cannot be understated.

In my position as a manager, and indeed as a life long student of leadership, I have always held dear that which I tell both those in my team, and those outside of it. Primarily, I pay keen attention to what I say to my team members and as such, talk to me is not cheap, Talk is actually Premium.

In “Talk Is (Not!) Cheap”, Jim McCann illustrates how the art of conversation leadership—the process he developed to engage others and create forward momentum in the workplace—can be used to inspire, innovate, and win. This and other books on the importance of conversational leadership (Using words and constant talk and deep listening) serve to show us the importance of the gift of the gab to leaders.

Ask yourself these three questions: abbreviated as KTN

Is it KIND

Simply put “If you can’t be Kind, be quiet.” I had this printed out and put on my work station for almost the whole of 2017. If there was something that I recognised early in my management and by extension leadership journey is that being able to practice empathic listening and talking is one of the most critical things as I needed to learn.

Emotional Intelligence (EI)/Emotional Quotient (EQ) is a critical skill of Leaders. When we are emotionally intelligent, then one of the things we are able to practice is Empathy. Kindness, and Compassion work together with Empathy to enable leaders not only be able to understand their team, but also inspire and influence them.

Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” –  Bob Kerrey  

We need to ensure that every word we utter and speak is kind and doesn’t serve to heart or put down those we relate with and in particular those we lead and work with in our teams. Being kind must not be confused with not being firm, in-fact when we are kind, we are able to put across our views in a more objective and by extension firm way as opposed to when we are not kind which only serves to show how inconsiderate and may be even uncouth we are in character.

Is it TRUE

Simply put “Speak the truth and it shall set you free.” Integrity is key if not the greatest virtue of any employee and indeed every leader. After evaluating if what we are about to say is kind, it is critical that we “fact check it” to ensure it is the Truth or that it is true. Remember, something could be true but how we say it may not be Kind, this is why as leaders, we need to ensure that how we say something is just as critical as to what we are saying – content of the message.

“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Managers (and Leaders) need to ensure that they constantly speak the truth. Truth in itself must not be confused with Fact – this is a debate we will have some other day :), for now, ensure that everything you speak is both kind and true. Be careful not to “stretch the truth” as that serves only to negate being kind and may actually move you towards the realm of lying.


In my MBA course, one of the cases we looked into (in Management Communications) dealt with how to deal with crisis as an organisation in the age of social media. In this case, we looked at how an organisational leader may need to communicate in a time of crisis choosing carefully what information is necessary to be shared with the public, under-pining how leaders need to carefully and without altering the truth pick the necessary content of their messages. Same applies to leaders and teams, it is important that what we talk about or say to those in our teams is necessary and serves to grow, inspire and motivate or make them better people.

After evaluating if what we want to say is Kind and True, it is important to weigh it on the scale of necessity. Not everything that is Kind and true should be said, and it must not be said to everyone, evaluate the impact and why or if it is necessary at that time or can be deferred.

Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid. ― Bernard Meltzer

Bringing it Together

Communication is transfer of meaning. Ensure you transfer the right and correct meaning as a leader. Evaluate what you want to say using KTN among other criteria before you say it. Your “talk” or words as a leader or someone in authority go a long way and have the power to not only impact the direction of the unit or organisation, but also impact forever or a very long time the lives of those you are leading.

Do not be like my friend and kill visions and dreams by just one comment :).

Africa must rise above self-Pity and get to work

Recently, Jacob Zuma was “removed” as president of South Africa (still ongoing). The issue of South Africa is quite an emotive and subjective matter. As a country where black people suffered in the hands of an oppressive regime, the wound of apartheid is ever so sour. Indeed many Africans lost their lives and went through unimaginable pain and sacrifice for the little freedom enjoyed today. Much work still needs to be done in South Africa and Africa as a whole.

In a discussion recently with fellow MBA Students in my class, which actually has black South African students, the discourse was as emotive as has always been. The discussion started with a post from one of us posting this message “Dear Kenya, It is possible to remove a sitting President. Sincerely, #ZumaExit.” As expected from a Kenyan, a quick response came in “Abeg, own your country first before giving us advice” This began a long discussion that revolved around various issues, top of which was that the removal of Zuma was simply a replacement of a corrupt man with one who was involved in Marikana Massacre (sic) which took place in August 2012 where black miners were killed while fighting for justice. The shootings were a massacre and comparison by the South African media was made to Sharpville in the 1960s. In addition, Zuma’s resignation according to my classmate was a reminder that white people still own and run the land of Shaka. In the discussion trail, on the one hand there was a submission that Zuma is largely anti-white but that he was not pro-black enough, whatever that means was left to imagination and debate. On the other hand, Ramaphosa was painted as a pro-white who was part of Mandela’s negotiating team that accepted political power and left white people with land and economic power.

In all this, I asked myself, what really is this discourse about? The discussion around South Africa in particular and Africa as a whole is one that goes back in history. The question that crossed my mind at this point is that do we as Africans want Justice or is it that as black people we feel entitled to the land and its economic fruits? Indeed as pointed out in the debate having power over your own land cannot be seen as entitlement but how must we engage in our ever so elusive quest to have power? Do we want people who are unapologetically pro black or do we want what I call conscious Leadership? It is my submission that as Africans we indeed must strive for firstly, execution excellence and Leadership that is full of virtue. In this regard, I am reminded of Alexander Harvard. , author of a book titled Virtuous Leadership. This is leadership founded on Character and virtue Professor Harvard argues that Leadership is a concept based on Philosophy and not a psychological discourse, I agree to large extent. African leadership needs to be Value based, yes but the higher level is virtue based leadership. His thesis is drawn from the old literature of Aristotle, Plato et.al who spent time contemplating what human nature is about. Four fundamental basic virtues – Practical wisdom, form the foundation of his submission. As Africa, we must hold these true and our leaders must practice the same. First, Prudence, basically the ability to make the right decision, every time. The right decision is not the correct decision, it is the right decision. Prudence gives leaders the capacity to make the right decision. Africans we must develop capacity through various actions. Secondly, Fortitude, also known as Courage. Africans must have the courage to move. This is fundamentally capacity to stay the course. We must arise and be angry enough as Africans to stay the course, we must make the right decisions and follow them through no matter the cost. Thirdly, Self-Control. The ideal of the greatness of Africa must be a conscious course that our leaders and indeed every African must follow. Last but not least, Africa like all humans is a social being. Justice must prevail. Leaders must be Just in their engagements. In a very simplistic way, justice simply means giving each person her due. With these three pillars – Self-Control, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice, African leaders both in the political and corporate fields can emerge as visionary and bring the much needed transformation in the continent. In general, African Leadership must rise and embrace Magnanimity and Humility.

Secondly, Africans must realize that history will judge those of us who lived in this time very harshly. As pointed out by Martin Luther King Jnr,

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it


As Africans, we must realize that in one way or another, our fates are tied together and that we must all stand up to be counted in the liberation of Africa. When one shouted in the group “WAKANDA FOREVA” it dawned on me that we truly do not understand even our own history. For start, Wakanda is a Marvel Comic invention of the white man so to speak, and for us to purport to use it as a rallying call for Africa, it shows that we as Africans do not appreciate our own history and identity.

We must realize that history is written to suite the person who writes it, it is our duty therefore to ensure that we write our own history as a people and that that history is one of greatness.

Really as Africans we must stop and pause and ask ourselves the difficult question of whether we are angry enough and how much we really want to determine our destiny. We must then strive and work towards that common goal starting with ensuring we have the right leadership in place not individuals who are greedy and full of filth. Each of us must realize that any of us suffering affects us and rise to the occasion, from South Africa to Sudan, Kenya to Congo, we must realize that we are one and only by coming together and stopping the self-pity narrative fix our own systems.

We must purpose to have leaders and people of convictions and the required tenacity to fight on until we liberate the mother land. I remember one person in the group pointed it out to me that .”… If it was closer home, and the differences as tangible as it was for the current and previous generation in south Africa would you feel the same..”  my answer is a resounding YES, I would feel the same, we must fix the leadership of the continent.

We must take ownership of our own destiny. We can shout the WAKANDA and lift a fist all we want, but tangible action must be taken. It starts with you and I, It starts with ME! Let us write our own history ladies and gentlemen, the time for pity party is over, it is time to act and act now! Let us LEAD!


 Is a Father and a Leader in the making. A passionate student of leadership.

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Reflections: The Jar of Life

Consider an Empty Jar to be filled with Golf balls, Pebbles, sand and Tea, which one goes in first?

Recognize but for a moment that The Jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the most important things – Family, Friends, Health and Your Passions. The pebbles are the second in line your Job, your Home, Education et.al. The Sand is everything else, really the small stuff…

Now if you put the sand first in the Jar, then you won’t have room for the golf balls and the pebbles. The same is true for your life, Of you spend all of your time and energy on the small stuff you won’t have time for the important things that matter.

Pay close attention to the things that are important and critical to your Happiness, take care of the golf balls – e.g. Show kindness to family, make time for them always.

Set your priorities right starting with the important things – golf balls. Then follow up with the pebbles and then everything else is just sand.

However, no matter how full your life is, there always is time for a cup of tea with the one who makes your heart beat – that one person.

Adopted from an old tale

Yours Truly,


The Leadership Prayer 

Lord let my actions INSPIRE others to DREAM more, LEARN more, DO more and BECOME more. 
Let my FAITH answer the Door Each Time Fear Knocks.

Let My LIFE be a TESTAMENT of your goodness and Faithfulness.

Let me show MERCY and KINDNESS to all. 

Teach me to Number my Days aright, That in the fullness of time I may gain a Heart of WISDOM.

Let my EARS be quick to Listen and My Mouth SLOW to answer.

Let each time I open my Mouth to speak, That every word may Edify, ENCOURAGE and MOTIVATE.

Yours Truly, 


The coin and the Rubber band story 

I like to have off the cuff discussions with members of my Team. On most ocassions, I use these to gather feedback and to genuinely empathise with my team and Listen to them.

Of great interest to me has always been in moments we don’t agree on issues from how to design and address a client’s needs with our technical solutions to where whether we need to hire someone else. As the leader of this highly intelligent crop of individuals  ( I have a CCIE, MBA , Two First Class Honours Engineering Graduates in my team et.al ) as expected,  they have their own views with regards to Why, How and what stuff we need to do.

The two sided coin

However,  I have come to learn that in order to be effective both as a leader and manager of this great team, I must be able to be comfortable with the fact that we can disagree but that doesn’t mean they are not with me – we may have two sides head and tail but we are still a single coin.

Are you leader enough to understand that somebody can disagree with you and still be with you?  For instance, on the issue of hiring,  they looked at the fact that we would reduce the workload greatly if we brought another team member but I looked at the fact that we may not currently have enough business to sustain the wage bill.So bringing someone in is a great idea however it means we need enough business to sustain the additional overhead. 

As a leader, I ought to be able to understand that disagreement doesn’t mean betrayal. 

The rubber band story

Do you know your limits and that of your team members?  In assigning duties to my team mates and taking up duties myself, one of the key things I do is keep in mind both their individual capabilities and team abilities. See,  the rubber band is designed to stretch so whenever you are stretching it you are using it in the way it is designed but if you over stretch it it breaks.

As a leader, you want to be challenged and stretched same for your team however you don’t wanna pop them or yourself. Learn your limitations and those of your team both individually and as a unit. Do not let people push you beyond your competence, instead be patient with yourself and your team and challenge them.

The coin has two sides,  they are not the same however, both make what is known as a coin. The rubber band is designed to stretch not to pop!

The Silence of the Eleven |The voice of the One

Who do People say I am? Is a famous Question asked by one of the world’s greatest leader – JC. However, before we go to the answer from Peter to this question I would like us to take note that what is incredible is not the answer that Peter gives, It is not the statement of the One that amazes me rather the Silence Of the Eleven. – Read Story here.

From this text we can learn three Key Lessons on Leadership:

As a Leader be comfortable with Controversy.

Often when you are in Leadership, you probably leading people who do not know who you are. The Position of a Leader is a position of controversy, but that is alright. Controversy builds your Character as a leader.

John Quicy Adams says “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Thus as a leader ensure you are committed to the vision and Purpose. Your actions thus must always further the vision upon which you are committed.

Commitment has to be accompanied by Character. Remember Hitler was committed, but his Character was rotten thus commitment without Character is Dangerous. When you have great Character then controversy will not distract you from your goal. As a leader, remember your team is always watching you. How we treat people we perceive that we do not need is a great indication of people’s Character.

Take Time to Choose and Know your Team

It is about the 12. Picking your Team is one of the most Critical tasks a Leader has to get right. In your team there are different groups or categories. Let us look at these:

Confidants – Looking at the Text above Peter was indeed a confidant. He knew Exactly who JC was. The confidant’s commitment is to YOU not the mission. Trust them. A Leader must have someone he or she can talk to. The confidants feeds off their relationship with you.

Recently I had a conversation with my long time friend and Confidant Lenin Oyuga. He gave me a concept that I have since found to be very important. He called it “The Last six ” . Your casket when you die can be carried by six people, take time to think about who these people will be. These are people who are with You till the end no matter what.

Constituents – These are people who are with the mission. They are with the course, the mission is what attracts them. They are with you as long as you facilitate their mission, they will resign immediately someone approaches them with a mission that furthers their objective, It is never about you. The difference between them and Confidants is they do the same thing but with different Motives, One will be with you even when the mission is compromised the other will leave you in a heart beat with your heart beating. You have to be able to work with people who come and Go, some of your employees came to leave don’t get bitter. A great example in my view for this in the text is Judas. When he saw that money could further his course off he went.

Comrades – When you are in a fight and someone joins you in a fight, do not always think they are your friend. Comrades are not for what you as a leader are for they are against what you are against.

As a leader you ought to have all these. You MUST understand among your Team which one is which. For example as a leader you can never confide in your comrade, he or she will use it against you when the fight is over. You can never have a room full of confidants 🙂 .

You can only pass the mantle to someone who knows you

Identify Peter, the person who knows who you are. Then pass the mantle to him. Groom him/her for your position when you transition. He or she is the person who will speak up for you, he will defend you with a sword when that time comes. Peter got to preach the inaugural message because you cannot pass the mantle to people who do not know who you are as a leader.

In my first Leadership (Team Leadership) role at Dimension Data I have learned to always remember that as a great leader you cannot inspire people to follow your lack of commitment. You MUST be committed and have Character. As a leader you ought to hang tough – be comfortable with controversy. Great leaders Never commit to more than their competence. Like a Rubber band, it is designed to stretch not to pop. If you stretch it too much, it will Pop. Similarly as a leader, be willing to stretch but watch out not to Pop.Know your Limits.