African Business School — Zimbabwe Decides 2018. 7 leadership lessons every candidate should learn & learn very well.
In Zimbabwe we lament that “Those that have power have no ideas and those that have ideas have no power”. The result, a Presidential election with 23 candidates. A watershed, the first ever since independence in 1980 without the face of former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe. It is also one of the very few where international observers were allowed to cover this historical event.
The result is now public, the rhetoric is quieter, the legal fraternity are tripping over themselves and the reality has now begun to set in. The time for heavy lifting, getting the economy back on track and meeting the expectations of the people has begun. Whatever the courts decide is a non-issue as the challenges the winners face are the same and daunting in every respect. The sun has set on self-enrichment and entitlement. An era of public accountability driven by technology is upon us. The winners and losers need to pull together to lift the country out of this quagmire and build the Zimbabwe everybody wants.
Here’ s what you need to learn going forward.
1. The Internet does not forget: Every promise, every uttering, every speech is on record and can and will be played back to you. The era of being “misquoted” and “taken out of context” is gone. The ability to manipulate the facts by admission, omission or translation is a thing of the past. Control now lies with the individual who can and will draw his or her conclusions about you and your party on the basis of what has been captured on the Internet.
You are truly a public figure and the public actually owns you. The public will decide what is and isn’t the appropriate behavior, response or conduct. Candidates fall because of arrogance not ignorance. This is especially true in the urban centers where Internet literacy levels are high.
No matter how good you are, you’re under surveillance from the Internet looking for that one error or cacophony of episodes to bring you to account. If you are in any doubt simply Google a name and see their public record to date, or better still set a Google alert which will curate this for you daily.
2. The court of public opinion decides: Our Elders say “In a court presided over by jackals — chickens are always found guilty”. Whether you’re in private or in public office, the public can and will put you on trial willingly or unwillingly, with or without your consent. A peaceful and organized voting process turned ugly when impatient people took to the streets of Harare to protest the delays in releasing the results. Soldiers intervened and lives were lost.
Life is God given and is most sacred. It is not for anyone to take lightly or to use as they see fit. The concern of any respectable leader must and always be for the people regardless of their political affiliation, views and opinions. The court of public opinion puts all the protagonists on trial regardless.
In times of crisis people look to the leadership for empathy as well as sympathy. To maintain followership leadership must oblige.
3. Where you put your X doesn’t matter it’s how you count the Y: When you don’t learn life will continue to teach you the same lesson till you learn. When you’ve learnt your lesson, life will give you yet another. We have had disputed elections in 2008, 2013 and now 2018. 3 times and still we don’t learn. Despite significant improvements in the “X” process we still argue the “Y”.
The 2018 lesson is the V11 form. This is a signed tally of the votes cast at each polling station. Each party has its officials at each polling station to sign and verify the results from the votes cast. In this case some 10 500 officials from each party at each station verify the results.
The solution, a click from your phone camera and a WhatsApp to your command center and the unofficial results are known within hours. Simplified “blockchain” technology of infinite records of the “truth”. The Truth shall set you free.
Hopefully we have learnt this lesson and we won’t be taught again in 2023. Let technology help you settle potential disputes before they happen.
4. Big Data Analytics is everything. Counting is a discipline which is taught very early on in life. In fact, a child learns how to count well before they can either read or write. In today’s society we have abrogated that role to Microsoft EXCEL with obvious consequences.
What you put in is what you get out. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) amended the results 3 times between the 3rd and 16th August 2018. To do this when there is court case pending, challenging the outcome of the Presidential election simply tarnishes the credibility of the institution.
Understanding the basics of math that the number of voters in the 3 ballots (Presidential, Parliamentary, Local Council) must tally as every voter received 3 ballot papers to cast into 3 separate boxes is key. If the numbers don’t tally the delta needs a logical and simple explanation.
Algorithms are designed to help with logic to minimize the chances of human error. The IFTTT principle (IF This, Then That) helps define the logical process of what is required when making sense of all the numbers and calculations. In a 5 million electorate the results can be known in hours, not days. The explanations for the delta are easily verified and explained and the legal circus is stopped before it can even begin.
5. Social Media rules. KUDOS to the authorities for not tampering with social media and allowing it to express its views no matter how divergent or controversial they may be. This is a sign of true transparency and maturity on their part. Something you don’t see happening in Africa so often. During a watershed event such as the Zimbabwe General Election of 31st July 2018 people were hungry for information. Traditional media is often seen as polarized and will represent the views of different constituencies.
Today’s voters look to social media for a refreshing and alternative view in which they can participate and reciprocate their own views. A conversation now takes place online in view of the whole world. The ability to manage multiple conversations and disparate views on a large scale is paramount. To do this and remain credible as a candidate has far reaching consequences going forward.
Opinion leaders and social influencers with engaged audiences become key. Their views matter more than those of traditional media. They are trusted more as their followership was not built on their opinion of a single subject, but over a period of time over multiple subjects. They have interacted with their audiences where views have been exchanged. Sharing has been their modus operandi.
For any political protagonist going forward, the need to build up an audience long before the election and win over the social influencers to help share you message is key. Ignore this and kiss 2023 elections Goodbye.
6. Winning the Poll is easy, winning the peace is hard: What started as a peaceful well organized civil election was marred by bloodshed on 1st August 2018 when live ammunition was fired at crowds of unarmed civilians. The phone cameras came out and the public recorded the events taking place for the whole world to see live. Pictures of those that pulled the trigger and those that fell are all over the Internet and will remain there long after justice is served.
Boris Yelstin said “You cannot sit on a throne of bayonets” it is uncomfortable, impractical and unattainable. Regardless of who gets inaugurated winning the peace will be hard. It will be hard in that the Economy will be the judge, jury and executioner. It will be hard in that to get the Economy to work you need international support and legitimacy. It will be hard in that to get international recognition you need to reflect the will of the people. Just like in any business, success is the applause you get when your customers are delighted by the goods and services you offer.
The same is true in politics, a successful economy leads to a successful country. The two go hand in glove. More and more the economy will hold hostage politicians who don’t understand it. It will determine whether or not there is peace or unrest. The era of free hand outs has ended. Accountability for actions and non-actions is now. The economy will be the referee as people will always vote with their hard-earned money!
7. Continuity is your legacy. The mark of any great leader is their ability to replace themselves. True greatness is not what you achieved during your reign of power, it is what is done after you have relinquished the realms of power.
Up until today we marvel at the engineering of the Romans and their straight roads and their aqueducts which brought fresh water into the cities. We marvel at the Arabs who gave us our numeric system, perfected astronomy and medicine.
In Africa we struggle with this transfer of power, wealth or success from one generation to the next even in our own families let alone our political affiliations and inclinations. How many powerful affluent families perish into the annals of oblivion once the patriarch or matriarch pass on. The children simply fail to continue in their parent’s foot steps to attain anything of their predecessor’s successes.
Succession planning is key and a guarantee of your legacy. One look at the political landscape in Zimbabwe in particular and Africa in general, you can see the glaring gap. Name and groom your successor to allow continuity, successful businesses do this so should everyone else. Ignore this at your own cost.
Fortunately or unfortunately elections are a beauty contest where the winner is the person with the most votes. We continue to elect candidates on the basis of their political affiliation not on their ability to deliver results that will improve the well-being of the people who voted for them. What this round of elected officials will learn and learn very quickly is that the Economy is putting them on trial and the Court of Public Opinion will be a lot more impatient for results.