Written by Telana Simpson
The tweet read: “It’s no use using the same road, you never learn much”.
The four of us were squashed in the back of the van: a journalist, an architect, a coach and blogger, and an elder, with the film crew driving us down a bumpy dirt road in rural Zambia on our way to our next location, Chief Shakumbila’s Palace.
The elder Mutapwe sat next to me. He is the Representative of Chief Moono who we had just been visiting with, and Mutapwe had travelled far by foot from his community to meet us at the Palace Moono.
Our expedition was exploring the effects of modern technology on traditional culture, as part of Connect Africa’s exploration of the need for ICT solutions in rural Africa. Even with the very limited cell-phone coverage in the rural areas, Mutapwe had heard of the Internet, and so I shared its modern day use as I showed him how I tweeted his wise quote.
The conversation moved to leadership, as Mutapwe related how everyone should have access to information. He spoke of the desire of his people to learn about how others live in order to improve their own way of living. And he felt strongly that they should know- that we all should know. “There should be no secrets.”
In the past the chiefs and elders didn’t want those under them to know of their plans, or what was going on, because of their political maneuvering and need for control. They also didn’t want to give their followers any opportunity to ask or challenge the leaders, especially in public. This was viewed as extremely disrespectful.
Yet now times and traditions were changing, from polygamy to monogamy (spurred on with the AIDS pandemic) and to leadership, as the elders and chiefs realized that they are there to serve their communities, and a level of transparency was becoming the key in doing so. “Maybe in the future there will be no chief” Mutapwe reflected.
The parallels between what Mutapwe was sharing and the conversation I had recently had in the western cosmopolitan city of Johannesburg with the futurist, Doug Vining, were uncanny. Doug had shared how a much needed and new style of leadership was emerging in the world, termed “Naked Leadership”.
Here were two men, from different worlds and vastly different education backgrounds, sharing a current and organic trend in leadership, both highlighting the need for transparency.
In terms of Naked Leadership, old methods of working and leading cannot be relied on in today’s fast paced world. With the connectivity revolution, everyone is connected especially via cellphones (and soon the rural areas will be too). And so communication is more open.
People are in charge of the conversations, and thus leaders cannot be authoritative and try to control anymore- they can only influence the conversations. Leaders need to understand their following and engage with them. “Leaders need to let go to grow” Doug explained.
“Another trend is that there is no place to hide. The world is laid bare by social media, so there is no place to hide. You’ve got to be honest and transparent otherwise people will see through you and won’t trust you. Secrecy destroys trust. Conversations of openness create trust.”
And this is what echoed in my ears, as I travelled with Mutapwe, admiring a baobab tree through the van window, exploring the leadership ideas from the rural Chiefdoms of Zambia.
We need a more collective approach to be able to move through the complexities of today’s world – in urban and rural arenas. And the leaders of this world will be far more effective if they are naked about their agendas, truthful about their fallibility, and open in their communication.
And thus some leaders might find that they need to grow personally, to accept that this is the new reality and develop the ego strength to face it. Their depth of character will show in how they admit to their flaws and humanness, and how they handle being confronted and challenged, and held accountable publicly. And they will find that trust will become their greatest business and leadership asset.
It is no use using the same road of leadership. As Mutapwe said “you never learn much” that way and you won’t get very far today.
Today requires a new leader to step up, and to walk down a new road of transparency. Are you ready for this road?
Doug Vining shares more about Naked Leadership in this podcast:
About the Author:
Telana is a dynamic, transformational Personal Coach and Blogger who specializes in communicating and relating. She is fascinated by consciousness evolution and goes on adventures to push her boundaries and preconceptions. She offers coaching and training programmes to help individuals develop their ability to express themselves and their potentials and is a host of an online TV show.