by Dr Masimba Mavaza | There’s something heroic about a President who parachutes into a country that’s facing an existential threat. While such turnarounds are never really a one-person show, it’s the head of state’s boldness and resolve that invariably stand out. They get the credit and the cover story.
They are the ones who will either put the country forward or backward. The hands of these leaders bears the marks of the rough pulling of the country in a bid to catapult it to the top.
But just as impressive, if not as celebrated, is the President who upends the status quo when all is (seemingly) well. Such efforts require at least as much leadership, tenacity, and vision. They may not seem as miraculous or necessary as a change-or-die turnaround—until you consider how hard it is to instil a hunger for change in a successful state, and what’s on the line when complacency sets in. President Munangagwa has inherited a country ravaged by sanctions and littered with opposition which is not productive. The opposition which rejoices when people are starved into voting them.
Can you imagine the new president walking into a historically successful country which has been fractured by factionalism and sanctions? This president has inherited an economy which is already in the coffin each person in the system has no good reputation, strong corruption history and almost no appetite for broad change. He is given a recycled team to work with who are excellent in praise singing and blasphemous mouth full of praise which brings a curse to the country and the president himself. Most ministers around him believe seriously that being a good minister is to sing praises and sing them again.
This trend tend to highly self-destruct and counter progress.
These less competent members tend to be highly self-confident. They are convinced they have the winning model and the ability to win. Ingrained patterns of behaviour have been rewarded over and over again and this rewarding system is inherited. Internally, egoistic trends grow, and politics intensify. Self-criticism is often muted. With so much success for so long, what’s the point of being too harsh, anyway? The President must not be measured on his predecessor, he must be measured on his success. Turning around an economy is not an inauguration speech, it is a real hard work.
But the borderline between confidence and complacency is thin. Over and over, historically strong leaders have slipped into periods of decline, sometimes precipitously. In fact, the fame of a leader is so short. So how can the leader of a dying country reset the direction and re-energize the state before a crisis hits? Every situation is different, the president must jump out of his honey moon and hit the ground.
The president must confront reality the most important quality of a leader is to force his leadership to deal with the world as it is, not as they wished it to be. Using the right yardsticks and benchmarks, asking challenging questions, and conducting follow-up reviews on ideas they must step outside of their inherent comfort zones. The leader must establish the fierce urgency of now. It is common that people find all sorts of reasons to avoid uncomfortable change. Pace and energy go together. With competitive landscapes being reshaped faster than ever, the leader needs to set the agenda and the tone. He needs to walk the talk and not talk the walk. Most elected cadres believe that they are hitting the ground but yes we hit the ground going where. The president might have people who on the same ground with him, hitting it with the same force but going different directions.
The President must avoid the false security of “a safe pair of hands, Executives who are solely a safe pair of hands are there to preserve the past, not invent the future. To successfully lead the country forward the president should challenge his ministers to become change drivers. Many will step up in unexpected ways. But over time, tolerating those who simply want to preserve the status quo, even if they do their jobs well, sends debilitating signals to everyone else. Action must be taken against all in a similar manner. The state the country is in does not need golden gloves. The luxurious ministerial system we have inherited must be abandoned and the piece of cake must be shared.
We need to tackle organizational sclerosis. Many presidents face two related challenges. First, they are slowed down with protocol, with too many layers and too narrow spans of control. So leaders get distant from the work, decisions take longer, and strong performers feel over managed and under empowered. Second, collaboration often deteriorates as individual success begins to outweigh team success, particularly in activities that cross boundaries within the business. Designing organizations to be lean and creating an environment that fosters the right behaviours and interactions can provide a burst of energy and effectiveness. To make these changes stick, the president will need to win the hearts and minds of a range of stakeholders, service users, service providers, , customers, investors, and, increasingly, regulators and donors so they appreciate why it’s worth challenging the status quo.
This isn’t just about staving off decline. It’s about creating a healthy sense of restlessness, motivating people to experiment and act differently, and getting the country, as a whole, to move at a much faster speed—to be more adaptive and agile.
It takes a special kind of leader to deviate from a tried and true road—and bring a confident, successful country along on the journey.
The disadvantage Munangagwa has is that he only has eight month to prove a point. This is a mountain to climb and a really high mountain.
We have an opposition which says they have been left out of the gravy train. Can a father take his family to fight for a piece of meat on winning it he then wants to own it at the expense of the children? Those who took part in the change can continue doing so to assist us to succeed in the long run. But for ED the run is not long, it is only eight months a miracle turn around needs to be done now and not tomorrow. Those crying for positions must think of the country first, those willing to sing praises must join a church. Zimbabwe needs you, do not wait and see what Munangagwa would do but jump in and join in and see what you will do. It is not what the country should do for us, but what we must do for our country.