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Mr. Mureithi is the founder and CEO of Premiere Consultancy Group Limited an outfit that offers consultancy and training services on corporate and personal development, with a key focus on leadership, change, growth and transformation.

LEADERSHIP IS A RELAY

By Chris Mureithi
I am a big fan of athletics because from the arena we learn many life and leadership lessons. For this reason, I was tuned into the just concluded Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It is at the Olympics where the best of the best converge and it marks the pinnacle of a professional athlete’s career. Athletes train for years in preparation for the Olympics.
While there was a buffet of sports disciplines on the show, I was more interested in athletics because that is the only discipline that my country Kenya seems to win medals. For the rest of the sports, we are mere spectators. The track and field events started on a low note when we lost the 3000M steeplechase which has been traditionally our crown but finished on a high when we struck double gold in the men and women marathons on the final day.
Of all the events that take place, none is more thrilling than the 4x100M relay race. In this race, four gifted individuals line up ready to each run a leg and pass the baton to the next athlete to run their leg and in the end, the whole team wins. While it is important to have talented individuals that alone does not guarantee success. As we have seen time and again, the US men’s relay team almost always has the best runners as far as talent is concerned but they haven’t won Olympic gold since the year 2000. The relay race is won or lost at the baton exchange. If you drop the baton the team is disqualified, if you hold on to it a tad too long you will run out of the designated area and the team will be disqualified. If you are too careful leading to a slow exchange the team will lose valuable time and the race will be lost. The exchange of the baton has to be perfect.
Similarly, leadership is not like a marathon where you have to stay all the way to the end and only one person wins, it is a relay where you run your leg and hand the baton to the next person and in the end, the whole team wins. Just like it is in athletics, how well you do in handing the baton will determine the success of the succeeding generation and the endurance of your legacy.
No matter how gifted a leader you are you will not lead forever, one day you will exit the scene either by retirement or by death. It is inevitable. While we talk of terminal illnesses, life itself is terminal, one day you and I will be no more. It, therefore, behooves us to have the consciousness of mind that we are called upon to run our leg and pass the baton. If you hold on too long to the leadership baton you will run out of steam and out of ideas.
Sadly, overstaying in leadership is almost considered a virtue in Africa which is why some of the longest-serving leaders in the world who are non-royals hail from Africa. These leaders started well for their first term or two but they held on too long to the baton and they ran out of steam and ideas and the only way that they have continued in leadership is through tyranny. And the result is that the countries where the leaders have overstayed are characterized by stagnated economic growth, political instability, civil unrest and blatant abuse of human rights.
A true leader’s first order of business upon assuming a leadership office is to identify one who will succeed them and begin mentoring them. It matters who comes after you. You could work so hard your entire life and build an enviable empire only to see it run down by the one who comes after you. In his book ‘A promised land’ President Obama starts by saying that on his last flight aboard air force one he had a bitter-sweet feeling. Bitter because of the unexpected outcome of an election where someone diametrically opposed to everything that he stood for was chosen as his successor. Obamacare was the hallmark of Obama’s legacy the very same thing that the incoming President Trump was determined to repeal. Obama’s legacy was in danger of annihilation thanks to the one who came after him.
Succession planning is increasingly becoming an important leadership facet. Succession preserves success. It is for this reason that leaders should start mentoring their replacements as soon as they assume their leadership role for that is the only thing that can perpetuate their vision and purpose. By mentoring others, you not only preserve your success but also ensure the success of the succeeding generation. If all you have achieved as a leader dies with you then you failed.

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