As a young graduate, I was taking a walk with my mentor on a garden. While at it, he decided to ask me some questions.
Mentor: if you saw a mosquito here, what will you do?
Me: I will kill it.
Mentor: if you saw a cockroach here, what will you do?
Me: I will kill it.
Boss: if you saw a butterfly out here, what will you do?
Me: I will let it be.
Then he said to me, “never be a pest, be a butterfly”. People will let you be, if only you add beauty & value to their world. Being a butterfly means being of value pleasantly to others and you ensure to preserve that beauty past you. It’s obvious that if you bring happiness and value to people, they’d let you be and will mirror you too. They’d even nurture you and the dream you have because they have tied their own happiness and value to it too. We mustn’t always be the center of things. The truth is, value comes from not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. As a leader and businessperson, you need that. In the words of Gerald Brooks, “When you become a leader, you lose the right to think about yourself”. Anything less of this creates a joke on us.
The same law is applicable to governance, whether in a political or corporate level. In 1999, a new president emerged in Nigeria from a lot of unpreparedness; from the jail to the presidential sit came a president. For 8 years, he tried to reorganize the country and reposition it. We believe that he comparatively did well and tried his best. He wanted to run for a third term, and when the objections became heated, he left hurriedly without very structured succession. He tried, but he never really built any sound and healthy succession intentionally in the whole 8 years in power. Amongst all his achievements, history would always count this against him. It felt like if he couldn’t win, we wouldn’t win. This mistake we still see in today’s government and our businesses. We need to create and sustain heights that more people can stand on with our full support. Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.
Whether sports, politics or business, to have a winning team, you as a leader must first win not for you but for the team. That winning will bring forth joy, motivation and the trust that attracts the right people to multiply it. Winning teams are aligned around a shared vision of success. If you want to attract top performers to your team, you have to first of all be performing to get them excited. You also need to show the way.
Everyday we see people fight their way into exhaustion. Even though they succeed, they are soon to realize that it wasn’t worth it (maybe its at the expense of relationships, reputation, spirituality, health or even its sustainability). That success even stops further chances of more success. In other words, that success is the greatest enemy of their overall success. Sometimes we don’t succeed more because we had succeeded initially. We let small success and the distractions that come with it stop further success.
At certain points, we need to ask, are you trying to be successful or a success fool? Foolish or defective success is when you succeed at a cost much higher than its benefit, or even doing what you were not sent to do. Defective success is climbing your career ladder to the top only to discover you’ve been climbing the wrong wall. The easiest way to achieve this is to try succeeding at all expense and at the detriment of others. Defective success is missing the big picture, the ultimate target. It is the worst of all sins. As a matter of fact, the term sin really is a Greek Word, (ἁμαρτία hamartia). The word “sin”, the original meaning is the failure, being in error, missing the mark, especially in spear throwing. The real sin of life doesn’t only converge for the purpose of making heaven and hell. The worst sin really is to miss your mark (purpose). Somebody once told me a non-religious definition of hell. He said “On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” There’s nothing more important than finding and becoming that person now.
In business, we spend our whole life trying to grow; we create platforms, initiate plans, invent concepts and brands and even ideas that surround us with too much of now and too much of us, then we leave, and then what next? The terms achievement, success, significance and legacy are all synonyms to greatness. However they are ascending in comparison with clear-cut difference. In the words of John C Maxwell from one of his books, he says “achievement comes to someone when he is able to do great things for himself. Success comes when he empowers followers to do great things with him. Significance comes when he developed leaders to do great things for him. But legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.”
I lost a mentor a few years ago, he was a radio show host by the name of Chaz B. Chaz B at some point was a chauffeur in the US. He drove mostly celebrities. We once had a chat in his house, around the time of his death, he told me a story of his encounter with a customer in America, who happens to be Donald Trump. He explained why there is always a large imprint of Trump in the skyscrapers owned by Donald Trump in New York. It was because he wanted anyone who flew into New York to see and always remember what he has built. He told me how easy it was for people to forget you, except you leave a mark that can always be remembered, a sign and a voice. As much as that inspired us all to brand boldly, I still feel that a mark doesn’t have to be physical. It can be mental, psychological and ultimately impact and contribution to the body of knowledge and succession.
The fortune 100 companies have consistently exhibited the concept of impact and succession in business. Coca Cola. For example, the year 1997 saw the death of one of the greatest business leaders of our time. It was the death of Roberto Goizueta, the then chairman and CEO of one the world’s most recognizable brand, Coca Cola. Just a few months before his death, he gave a speech to the Executive Club of Chicago. In that speech, he made this statement: “A billion hours ago, human life came on Earth. A billion minutes ago, Christianity emerged. A billion seconds ago, the Beatles performed on The Ed Sulivan Show. A billion Coca Colas ago was yesterday morning. And the question we are asking ourselves now is what we must do to make a billion Coca Colas ago this morning”.
Those weren’t just words; he meant his vision except that in a few months time after that speech, he died. But he died as an exceptional leader. Well, usually, companies that lose such leaders unexpectedly go into turmoil but with companies like Coca Cola, continuity and legacy are always a priority. Goizueta as CEO of Coca Cola was known for his leadership and business sense. Goizueta inherited a $4Billion dollar brand in 1981. When Goizueta became CEO, the business grew from $4 billion into being worth 150 billion dollars. That’s over 3,500 percent increase. Within this timeline of Goizueta’s growth, many shareholders became millionaires. High stock wasn’t the only thing he left, he left something more. On the day his death was announced, there was shock but there was no panic in the organization for they knew what he left – continuity. That was the Coca Cola legacy at work. His central ideology of Coca Cola, just like any great institution, recognizes the need for leaders to duplicate themselves. Ralph Nader says, “I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers”. Anything less than this is defective success.
Strategy. Business StartUps and Corporate Restructuring Consulting
Uwaoma Eizu is the lead strategist at Hexavia! He is a graduate of Mathematics with two MBAs and over a decade of experience working with startups and big businesses. His core is in building startups and in corporate restructuring. He is also a certified member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Institute of Strategic Management of Nigeria and the Project Management Institute, USA. By the side, he writes weekly for the BusinessDay newspaper.