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What is the primary reason that prevents many Ethiopians from becoming leaders?

The theme of my speech at a community empowerment event organized by Jantilla on Saturday, February 2nd, 2019 in Silver Spring, MD at Double Tree by Hilton hotel was “Leadership in the 21st C”. One of the many outstanding questions that were asked during the Q&A session was “What are some of the barriers that are preventing many Ethiopians from becoming leaders?”

Before answering this question heads on, I had disclaimed by admitting that we cannot ever know why each individual Ethiopian hesitates from taking lead to pursue their passion. The barriers to leadership are subjective and vary from person to person, culture to culture, generation to generation even though there are some common obstacles that deter the vast majority from stepping up to the plate and playing their fair share in tackling the challenges their respective community faces.  I pointed out that one of the culprits why most people, not just Ethiopians, refrain from considering themselves as leaders to advance the cause they care about is the way leadership is defined. I confessed that this very reason led me to write and title my first book “Redefining Leadership.” The book was published in 2011 and is available on Amazon.

In this article, rather than recounting my full answer from this past Saturday, I thought sharing with you the Introduction part of the book. This is my hope that the excerpt below will paint a clear picture of why some misunderstandings have been keeping millions, if not billions, at bay from claiming their birthright of leadership.

“Leadership has a different meaning for different people. People from different cultural, historical, political, and religious backgrounds view it differently. Some people view leadership as a privilege set aside for those who have certain attributes and qualities. The existing definitions of leadership play a great role for this perception. Read a couple of dictionaries and books on leadership and you will be surprised to find out that leadership is defined in relation to certain aptitudes, and as if it is about leading others and organizations. For instance, most definitions have this pattern: ‘Leadership is the ability/skill/capacity to lead/guide/inspire/influence …others…’ As you can easily imagine, many individuals from various cultures may read these kinds of assertive phrases and think that they don’t qualify to lead because they don’t have these and other similar competencies mentioned in these definitions.

These definitions also don’t click for everyone, especially for those who are not interested in their leadership to center around doing something to, for or against others. These definitions aren’t wrong or irrelevant. Nevertheless, they define the term leadership using the most important tasks of leading without answering or offering some hints on why someone should lead in the first place. For many people, there must be a bigger reason than leading, guiding, inspiring, and influencing others before they take this kind of huge step.

Besides, these assertive words fend off many people from cultures such as mine and many in the East and South. In these cultures, making oneself vulnerable and submitting to others is more important than influencing or inspiring others. However, leadership isn’t all about leading others or submitting under another’s influence. Its definitions should embrace the very reason why someone should lead without sounding from the West or South or East cultures. Leadership was there before our cultures existed. It is an ancient ideal longer than the history of our cultures and will continue to exist as far as human civilization continues in this universe and beyond.

Leadership is also wrongly perceived as a career set aside for those who have certain attributes like oratory, charisma, courage, and confidence. Its scope as well is narrowed and considered as one of the social science fields. Not only that, leadership is related with formal authority, hierarchical positions, official titles, and governing power. These lead many people to assume that they should first meet certain requirements, show some proofs, and get acceptance or recognition from others before they lead. In worst cases, leadership has been portrayed in a negative light and perceived as a tool used by the few to dictate, exploit, manipulate, and abuse others. Because of these bad reputations, some leaders have shown, many may vote themselves out from ever leading…

Thus, leadership should be redefined, put into context, and reintroduced to reflect its true meaning and secure its rightful place among all humankind. It is our birthright as we are born to this physical world and the key to our fulfillment beyond time and space. Our being born to this world uniquely entitles us to lead this uniqueness. Yes, as we know who we are and why we are here and pursue it, we may maximize our potential, become resourceful, inspire and influence others, even may leave legacy beyond our generation. But leadership shouldn’t stop there. We should fulfill our mission in life; this is the accountability part. That is why I am saying that the existing leadership definitions overlooked these key truths and ingredients that would have changed the face of the world and inspired everyone to lead according to its passion, originality, and towards individual and collective success and fulfillment. No one should have been excluded, exempted, or left behind from leading.

In ‘Redefining Leadership’; leadership is simply defined as knowing oneself, the reason for existence, and pursuing it until fulfilled. In other words, leadership is primarily about oneself, not others nor founding and leading organizations. A true leader is a person who has discovered himself and his assignment in life and pursuing it until fulfilled. While in the process he may influence others and lead organizations towards achieving his own destiny, and contribute his share towards the collective destiny of his family, community, organization, national, and global levels…”

I would like to conclude this article by emphasizing the fact that countries like Ethiopia cannot attain sustainable economic development with a few leaders alone what so ever outstanding and great these leaders maybe in their leadership abilities. The magnitude and depth of the challenges we face requires raising as many grassroots level leaders as possible in every sector. Of course, I’m not promoting mass production of leaders for the sake of just having multitudes of leaders everywhere. Quality is very vital too. We need leaders who have the necessary competencies to lead with passion, clarity, capability, and character.

The responsibility to build the nation’s leadership capacity, nonetheless, shouldn’t be left to the federal and regional governments alone. Other stakeholders should also consider playing proactive roles in this regard. Each individual should also make some efforts to build their own leadership capacity. Remember, leadership starts with self. Self-leadership is the foundation of impactful leadership.

Wherever you may be right now, begin taking leadership initiatives in the area of your passion. Find a cause that matter to you and do something about it. Start small scale. If necessary, join the already existing organizations or start one. You may fail here and there. That shouldn’t discourage you. Learn as you lead. Don’t forget, ‘Leaders are learners’.  This is high time to claim your birthright of leadership to pursue the reason of your existence so that you may have a chance to fulfill your destiny and leave an enduring legacy at the end of your journey on this planet. This is an exciting time in Ethiopia. Tap into this golden opportunity, be proactive, and play your part to transform Ethiopia in one generation. Don’t sit on the sidelines and watch what is happening from afar like other onlookers. Roll up your sleeves and be part of the solution to change the destiny of your community and country once for all!

Don’t end up at the alley of irrelevance in the 21st c

Leading in the 21st C with a mindset and competencies of the 20th C leads to the alley of irrelevance, if not now, at the end of the day.
Whether you’re a seasoned or novice leader, you should understand that the new century demands new kind of leadership, and proactively developing your leadership to remain relevant in the new era.
If you’re already a leader, regardless of your title and the place you hold, this is time to audit and see if you are up to the task and challenge to lead in the 21st C.


If you haven’t yet made your mind, if you’re not yet in any leadership position, if you have been thinking that you’re not a leader at all, you should know that you live in this exciting time. The time you are in invites you to step up to the plate and play your fair roles as a citizen of the information era.


The severity of the challenges your community and organization in particular, and the human race at large face in this new century, and the vastly available opportunities the new era presents call upon you to take the mantle of leadership.


This is your time! This is the right season to make your mind, work on your mindset, and begin developing your competencies and character to remain relevant in the 21st C. And, my speech on this coming Saturday, February 2nd answers the following questions:

• Why 21st leadership is different than the previous century?

• What are the challenges & opportunities for leaders in the 21st C?

• What qualities are required to lead in the new era successfully?

• What do these all mean to you personally?

• What are some of the practical steps you could take right away to elevate your leadership to remain relevant in the new century?

• And more.

Go to the website of Jantilla to register and reserve your seat.

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at 3pm

A Somalian refugee challenged this year’s World Economic Forum goers

Africa needs NEW BREED Leaders in every sector representing the forgotten.

Mohammed Hassan Mohamud- a Somalian refugee who has spent the last 20 years, challenged this year’s World Economic Forum goers. In the section where he was invited to co-chair, while the majority of the speakers focused on Computers, AI, and Policies issues and their impacts in the 21st C, he was a voice to the voiceless who have been marginalized in some corners of the world away from the limelight and forums like this ones.

He helped those who were present to have touch with reality. He pointed out, “Look at me, I have no marketable skills,” he continued, “Food aid, or ‘beans for people’ perpetuated a mentality of dependency which undermined refugees’ ability to chase their dreams and aspirations.”

He is on the mark. The sustainable way to defeat poverty and for Africa to come out of her predicaments is to have people-centered solutions like empowering its youth!

Let’s talk about you, young man/woman. Let me ask you, what are you doing to tackle the major ills Africa is facing? Have you identified your uniqueness? Have you picked your unique lane? Are you serving your community using your talent and gift by taking lead in the area of your passion to tackle the major ills that have been tormenting Africa?

This is high time you to join the NEW BREED Leaders of Africa (https://www.facebook.com/NewBreedLeadersOfAfrica/) like Mohammed Hassan Mohamud. Let it be the last time you sit on the sidelines as you watch your community suffers for too long while you are refraining to take lead…

Interview based on my two leadership books

Last November, when I was in Baherdar at Amhara Media, I gave a series of interviews to the host of YeAmerar Tebebe based on my 5 books. The video clip below was based on two of my books- Redefining Leadership, and The Nine Cardinal Building Blocks for continued success in leadership.

Before we talked about the core messages of these two books, he asked me some personal questions: My background from Harar until now where I’m in the US, whether being a leadership expert in the US is without challenge, why I wrote these two books, and many other interesting questions.

Remember, you’re a leader wherever you’re now and regardless of your titles. To succeed as a leader at home, work and marketplace, you need to grow as a person and leader on a constant basis. To be honest, I watched it again right now and found it very engaging where we did talk about some tough and sticky issues you don’t want to miss. This part one interview and the upcoming interviews I had with Ayele, I believe will equip you to excel as a leader of the 21st C.

Once you listen to these conversations, let me know if you may have any feedback or question.

If you are interested me to empower you further to take your leadership to the next level as a coach and/or if you would like me to speak to your team, don’t hesitate to reach out. Click here to know the services we provide…

Leadership Qualities to Succeed in the 21st C

As we celebrate MLK day here in the US, let me ask you this question: What leadership attributes he would have incorporated to his arsenal if he is still alive in the 21st C?

MLK is a household name around the world. He was one of the greatest leaders of the 20th C. We all admire his extraordinary leadership qualities.

He was clear about his mission in life. Not only he had clarity about his purpose, but he was also ready to die for it. That was why he said, “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” He was also persistent. Regardless of so many challenges and setbacks he was facing, he kept going forward. I like what he said in this regard: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

His infamous I’ve a dream’ speech displayed in full view his ability to envision deep into the future. As we all have seen thus far, his vision came to pass, at least, the most part. MLK also demonstrated a sense of urgency by making his cause his top priority. He frequently used the phrase ‘The fierce urgency of now’ in his speeches. For instance, once he said: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now … This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

Well, he had many other off the charts leadership qualities such as his extraordinary communication ability plus his solid character.

Let me ask you again: If MLK is still alive in the 21st C, what additional leadership qualities would he have added on top of the great leadership attributes he already had?

In my upcoming presentation at a conference organized by Jantilla on February 2nd, I will talk about “Leadership in the 21st C”. On top of answering some other important questions, I’ll share some of the key leadership qualities necessary to succeed in the 21st C. I hope to see you there and hear your answer to the above question.

Don’t miss this empowering program on Feb 2nd 2019

If you’re in the metro area, mark your calendar.

On Saturday, February the 2nd, 2019, Jantilla organized an empowering event, which you don’t want to miss.

As you enter the New Year, you want to start it with a high note by investing in your personal development.

Sign up online and also invite your friends.

Here is the Eventbrite link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/personal-growth-leadership-civ… Hope to see you there…

A discussion on the five dysfunctions of a team (video clip)

Governments, organizations, and partnerships around the world have suffered a lot because of team dysfunction. In this two-part discussion, I had a wonderful discussion with Ermias based on the book ‘The five dysfunctions of a team’.

By the way, I also briefly shared my observation about my trip to Ethiopia after 13 long years in the beginning.

We talked about the reasons why teams experience dysfunction and how to reverse that, and more. The discussion was very practical and applicable to your team.

Whether you’re a leader or a team member, you want to know whether your team is dysfunctional or not, and if it is, you want to learn what to do to make it a team that functions like a well-oiled machine…

Gera show 3rd year anniversary program (video clip)

Last month Gera show celebrated its 3rd year anniversary. The program was eventful. There were distinguished guests such as Prince Ermias and other VIPs among the Ethiopian community in the Diaspora. You may watch the full program. Just for your info, I was one of the speakers and I talked about the crucial roles media plays for a given community (for good or bad), Gera show’s unique contributions in the past 3 years, how we Ethiopians are lagging behind in tapping into the power of media even by African standard, and more. Happy anniversary for Gera show once again! https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=510346422787940&id=1107144229302725

Final Ethiopia Trip Report: Speaking engagements at various institutions

Because of the unstable political atmosphere in Ethiopia, I have never gone back to Ethiopia since I came to the US in 2005. In April this year, however, the ruling party elected a new Prime Minister- Abiy Ahmed, who has been spearheading a reform that includes inviting political opponents, some of whom were sentenced to death in absentia.

Since then, thousands of Ethiopians in the Diaspora returned home after many years of exile. After 13 long years stay in the US, me too, I decided to visit my native country this past November.

During my four weeks stay, I had chances to:

  1. Visit my family,
  2. Give interviews to some government-owned and private media, and
  3. Conduct some keynotes and workshops for some universities and corporations.

Since I returned from Ethiopia, I’ve been reporting about my trip. If in case you missed my previous four reporting, you may check out the links below:

  1. Ethiopia Trip Report: Media Appearances

2. Ethiopia Trip Report: Workshops for media institutions

3. Ethiopia Trip Report: Events organized at the University of Gondar

4. Ethiopia Trip Report: Events organized at Addis Ababa University

In this final report, let me quickly share with you the institutions I served and the main discussion points. I will start my reporting with the first event I conducted and end it with my final event on Friday, November 30th, 2018.

  1. Center for African Leadership Development (CALD). I group coached the coordinators and facilitators of the iLead program designed and delivered by the Center for African Leadership Development (CALD). I also got a wonderful chance to give a motivational speech based on my latest book “Unchain Your Greatness” to a larger audience who are also alumni of this empowering program.

2. American College of Technology (ACT). I conducted a one-day seminar for business owners and corporate leaders from diverse industries. The theme of the workshop was ‘Taking Your Management and Leadership Competency to the Next Height’. Some of the participants were owners of private businesses while others executives and still others department head. At the end of the session, we had certification award ceremony.

3. Ethiopian Railways Corporation (ERC). I gave a keynote on the theme “Overcoming the 4 Leadership Challenges in the Field of Engineering.”  We have seen it again and again around the world where railways playing a backbone role for the transformations many nations experienced. The opportunity gave me a chance to show the leaders and engineers of ERC the four leadership challenges they should overcome and how to play their crucial and backbone role as the nation is attempting to come out of poverty and attain sustainable economic development.

4. Millennium Medical College @ St. Paul’s Hospital. The theme of my talk was ‘The Roles of Soft Skills in a Medical Profession’. Less attention has been given to soft skills, especially, in many technical professions including the medical profession. I was glad that the leaders of this institution saw the importance of developing the soft skills of their students. The insights, stories, and models were taken from my third book ‘Soft Skills That Make or Break Your Success’.

5. Bank of Abyssinia. As the nation opens its arms and invites FDI in some very crucial industries such as banks, airlines, energy, defense, telecom, and so on, for sure, there will be many global companies that will soon be flooding into the country to take advantage of the recent reforms and policy changes. One of the competitive advantages of these foreign companies, on top of finance, is world class customer service with a robust corporate culture and a team that functions like a well-oiled machine. That was why I facilitated a very interactive and dynamic session with the top leadership and district managers of Bank of Abyssinia including those who lead managers of up to 80 branches. The theme of our discussion was ‘Creating a Corporate Culture of Bank of Abyssinia that Motivates Continually.’

6. Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). I conducted a consultative discussion with the leadership of ECX, an innovative organization that continues to empower our farmers and traders. We talked about the need on how an institution like ECX, which has diverse stakeholders with varying interests, choices, and priorities should build its own team’s organizational and leadership capacity continually to serve its stakeholders with extraordinary excellence. The discussion was informal and very productive.

7. x-Hub Addis. The theme was ‘Leaders as Project Managers’. The Founder of x-Hub, Tewodros Tadesse, was asking me thoughtful questions about leadership, some of the most important project management competencies leaders should have, and more. In the end, the audience had also a chance to ask questions where we had vibrant conversations. Since one of the top challenges our country faces are failures in delivering projects within budget, on time, and by meeting the expectations of stakeholders, the theme of the discussion was timely and very relevant.

Notes:

  1. I’m very much thankful to all who reached out to me, created connections, and supported me in many ways for the successful accomplishment of these programs.
  2. Ermias Legesse asked me to share my observation during my four weeks stay in Ethiopia in ESAT’s DC studio. We had also a vibrant discussion based on the book ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’. Below are the video clips:

Here is also another interview released recently. This interview was based on my two leadership books:

Ethiopia Trip Report: Events organized at Addis Ababa University

Since I returned from Ethiopia, I’ve been reporting about my trip. If in case you missed my previous three reporting, you may check out the links below:

  1. Ethiopia Trip Report: Media Appearances

2. Ethiopia Trip Report: Workshops for media institutions

3. Ethiopia Trip Report: Events organized at the University of Gondar

In this report, I’d like to share with you the highlights of my visit to Addis Ababa University (AAU). For your info, AAU is my alma mater. When I decided to return to the motherland after 13 long years, I vowed to pay back my former university, which gave me so many growth opportunities. On top of doing my first degree, AAU (the then student leaders) gave me a chance to serve its community as the president of AAU Students’ Union in 1997/98. This was the institution where I had a chance to serve nationally, travel to some African countries, and become a better person and leader.

The majestic main gate of AAU

Fortunately, my request to serve my alma mater got positive responses from the President- Prof. Tasew and Drs. Demeke Achisew & Kassu Jilcha, Directors of External Relations and Career Development Center, respectively. At AAU, I had three wonderful opportunities to serve. Let me quickly give you the summary of these events:

  1. With AAU Leadership. The university’s top leaders including Vice-Presidents, Directors, Executives, Deans; Middle and Lower Level Managers were invited by the President to attend this keynote. The theme of my presentation was ‘AAU Reclaiming Its Historic Responsibilities in the Nation Building Process’. The focus of the speech was about how AAU could play its fair share on the ongoing change process by raising competent change agents (Technocrats). I underscored the fact that the country, more than ever, needs a generation that can shoulder the responsibilities of transforming Ethiopia in one generation. In the end, we had a Q&A session where we had hot discussions about the kind of deep change and cultural reforms Ethiopia needs, the roles of the university in these regards, and some other proactive roles this historic university could play as a national learning institution, which had played crucial roles in the past as the nation went through so many transformations. I also shared some of the soft skills students need to develop so as to succeed while they are on campus and after graduation, and as they play their fair share on the ongoing change process. I also suggested incorporating and making these soft skills as part of the curriculum like other mainstream courses.
With the university’s leaders at Nelson Mandela Hall in Sidit kilo, the main campus of AAU

2. With AAU Career Development Center Team. I found the Director of the Center- Dr. Kassu, as a very dedicated and passionate servant who is working tirelessly to serve the student body. He invited trainers from all the campuses to attend this workshop. By the way, I was impressed by the prime attention the university gave to career development. The Center directly reports to the President. I showed the team the crucial roles soft skills play by taking some insights, facts, stories, tools, and approaches from my third book ‘Soft Skills That Make or Break Your Success’. I suggested the incorporation of certain soft skills on top of teaching students on how to write killer resumes, develop interviewing skills, and conducting mock interviews. Though the latter three skills are important to get one’s foot in the door, they are not enough to impress experienced recruiters. Most importantly, unless these skills are coupled with certain soft skills, they’re not adequate for students to thrive and continue to climb the corporate ladder.

The Career Development Team

3. With the Student Leaders. I had a consultative meeting with Addis Ababa University Students’ union leaders. The experience took me 20 years back in memory lane. I shared with them what it looked like to be a student leader back in the days, the things that helped our team succeed, the challenges we faced, and some of the results we have achieved, and more. They asked questions on how to overcome the challenges they are facing now, how to serve their constituents with excellence, and so on. We talked about some of the soft skills and leadership competencies they need to develop in order to serve the students body in particular and the AAU community at large with leadership excellence. We also discussed how they may play crucial roles in the nation-building process by tapping into the opportunity that presents itself in current Ethiopia. They asked me to continue to support the union’s leadership to build its organizational and leadership capacity, and I said yes… I want to thank student leader Juhar Sultan Yusuf, who was communicating with me before I even set my foot in Ethiopia to bring the student leaders together.

AAU Student Leaders…

Will share with you the last report on my Ethiopia Trip very soon. Stay tuned!