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Soft Skills That Make or Break Your Success free download

Download for free more than 60 pages of the book ‘Soft Skills That Make or Break Your Success’.

To sign up with your email and then download the pdf file, click here…

Excelling in Your Management & Leadership Skills

Whether you are a business owner, project manager, department head, community leader, or just a professional who would like to excel in your ability to lead others, you need to attend this timely workshop. The workshop is going to be facilitated by Dr. Assegid Workalemahu Habtewold. He is an author, speaker, coach, and trainer who has been empowering managers and leaders in some government agencies, major corporations, and community organizations in the US.

You are already a leader and have achieved some form of success. However, it takes intentional growth to take your management and leadership competency to the next level. You need to learn the latest management and leadership insights, tools, approaches, and models from the experts to excel in your management and leadership competency. If your desire is to go to the next height, manage and lead others successfully, you should invest in yourself. You should be proactive and go ahead of the curve. This journey should start with developing the right mindset and some mandatory skillsets.

In this dynamic and interactive workshop, Assegid will share with you latest management and leadership insights, principles, models, tools, and approaches he has used to empower leaders in the US in the past 10 years by contextualizing them within the Ethiopia culture and workplace settings. The workshop emphasizes the importance of managing and leading yourself first before you successfully manage and lead others. You could also clearly see that you cannot manage and lead successfully without the ability to manage your scarce resources such as time, finance, and energy effectively. Managing emotions, forming and leading an effective team that functions like a well oiled-machine, properly managing your projects and change are also critical to succeed as a leader of the 21st C. Whether you are a beginner or experienced leader, whether you are at the top or in the middle, the management and leadership skills you develop in this workshop would empower you to lead 360 degree. It enables you to have continual influence wherever you may be in the organizational hierarchy.

Thus, sign up for this one-day intensive workshop to learn latest and practical management and leadership insights, models, tools, approaches, and skillsets that empower you to excel and take your leadership competency to the next level.

Learning Objectives:

  • Distinguish the difference between managers and leaders
  • Learn how leadership starts with self
  • Recognize the place of self-awareness to succeed in managing and leading others
  • Acquire tools that enable to manage self and attain personal mastery
  • Understand how emotions are formed and how to develop one’s emotional intelligence
  • Develop the ability to tap into one’s emotions to achieve great results
  • Realize the need to manage time and energy to increase productivity
  • Use tools and approaches that empower one to prioritize, schedule, and protect time
  • Form and lead a team that functions like a well oiled machine
  • Learn the most important principles of successful project management
  • Gain insights and methods to manage, lead, and finish projects successfully
  • Understand how to initiative, implement and lead change in changing times
  • Recognize different change models and choose the one that guides your change process
  • Pinpoint the source of resistances and how to overcome resistance to change
  • And more.

Target Group: Business Owners, Professionals, Supervisors, Managers, and Community Leaders.

Date: Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

Time: 9 am – 5 pm

Place: ICT Mart Bldg Arat Kilo, Behind Tourist Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Contact Info: American College of Technology (ACT) Tel: +251 95 504 0404

Pre-registration is required: To reserve your seat, sign up at Eventbrite. Limited space: First come first served basis.

Intensive Leadership Development Workshop

The initial flyer of the July 6th, 2019 intensive leadership development workshop. Take advantage of this opportunity and register by going to the Eventbrite page shared on the flyer. 200 USD per person value for free. Register quickly before the few remaining seats are taken. Volunteers and Sponsors are most welcomed. If you would like to volunteer or sponsor, reach out to me. Hope to see you there… #PROLeadershipAfrica

The Place of Leadership Development to Implement the Ethiopian Education Roadmap

Ethiopian Science and Academic Network and One Pupil organized a conference at Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC on May 18th, 2019. Congratulations to the team for organizing such a successful event. We need these kinds of platforms to deliberate and strategize on how to improve our education system, one of the key factors to transform our country. The theme of my 15 minutes presentation was “The Place of Leadership Development to Implement the Ethiopian Education Roadmap.” This article captures the main essence of the presentation.

From the start, I disclaimed that I’m not here as an expert on
education, but rather, as a leadership practitioner who began taking lead as a youth leader in the early 90’s. As the president of AAU students’ union, in the late 90’s, I had also some golden opportunities to witness the place of leadership from a very close distance- from the classroom to the ministerial level. I was lucky to serve together with some great student leaders, and work with faculty and department heads. Unfortunately, I also observed some failed leadership while I was traveling to the different faculties of AAU, a few universities outside of Addis, and some government offices. In short, I had enough exposures to attest the vital place of leadership for our education system.

I was also there presenting as a leadership professional. I wrote books, articles, and blogs on the theme of leadership. I’ve been coaching and training leaders of some government agencies, major corporations, and community organizations here in the US. During my recent travel to Ethiopia, last November, I had chances to conduct some consultative discussions, make keynotes, and facilitate workshops for some corporations and learning institutions. I am grateful for the opportunities I was given. These experiences allowed me to closely witness the eagerness of the leadership of these institutions to bring leadership experts like myself to empower their people. I also saw the hunger and thirst for knowledge from participants. That is to say, I was there presenting as a leadership professional to share my thoughts on how leadership development is critical to implement the Roadmap successfully.

H.E. Fitsum Arega, Ethiopian Ambassador to the US

Before jumping to talk about the vital role leadership plays for the implementation of the Roadmap, I gave a context. Reminding the audience that Ethiopia is experiencing change, I pointed out that in the past people used to say ‘change or risk stagnation’. But, in the 21st C, it’s ‘change or die’. You might have already noticed, many individuals, organizations, and communities ‘died’ because they had resisted change. Like the dinosaurs, many ‘died’ because they failed to befriend with change. They were unable to make a deep change on time. Otherwise, all victims of change tried to catch up with it but it was too late. They were stubborn to undergo deep change when it mattered the most and paid dire prices.

Ethiopia now is in a critical juncture aspiring to undergo a
transformational change. This is encouraging. Hope is on the horizon. However, we should understand that change means one thing to some and another altogether to others. It is subjective. What is more? Change has also levels: Superficial and Deep.

For example, if my current shoe is hurting me, I just need to buy a new one. I don’t need to go through lots of structural and deep changes. However, if I had an accident and if I broke my leg, I need a deep change that may include amputating my leg and having a substitute. Another example. If a company is experiencing a revenue decline, it may need to make some quick changes to reverse gear and begin increasing its income. Nonetheless, if a company is losing its customers in mass and its market share going down the spiral, it has to go deep change before it goes bankrupt. This kind of change, nevertheless, demands to change at so many levels including the top leadership, the policies, brand, and the underlining culture of the organization.

Depending on where we are, we can choose either level of change. Both are relevant in their rightful place. But, we have to stop and make that call wisely. Sustainable development at the national level calls for a deeper change. In my personal opinion, the kind of change that Ethiopia needs at this juncture is deep change, not superficial. If we are on the same page on this, for a given deep change to succeed, the least, these must be carried out:
1. Reforming the culture
2. Putting in place the necessary laws
3. Building/rebuilding institutions
4. Remodeling the education system
5. Developing the people

Though each of these is important, in my presentation, I only
highlighted the last two points. In my future writings, I may cover the remaining top three. For now, as you may already know, Ethiopia decided to reform its education system. That is why we have now a new Roadmap. This is outstanding.

As I disclaimed earlier, I wasn’t there as an expert on
education that I didn’t talk about the actual Roadmap and its content. My focus was about the need to raise competent leaders who could implement the Roadmap so that its intentions are translated into concrete results. And, in turn, Ethiopia, through her new education Roadmap, may equip the next generation leaders who enable her experience true transformation in one generation.

Change isn’t a one-time phenomenon. It’s a process. Sometimes, it takes years, even decades. Though change is fluid and doesn’t take a straight-line, for the sake of understanding, let’s break down change into three phases: Initiating, Implementing, and Sustaining. Note that there are many major and mini-steps within each core stage. A given organization or nation may also pass through multiple stages at the same time. The activities that should be carried out under each stage also vary from a given change case to another.

The Roadmap is now in the Initiation phase. There may be some implementations underway though. At this point, it is very critical to think about developing leaders at all levels to implement the Roadmap so that it may achieve its goal and objectives. As the saying goes: ‘leadership makes or breaks’. Look at any nation or organization, even a family. If you see that nation or organization or family flourishing and advancing, no doubt, though there may be other factors, the single most important factor is leadership.

We may not agree with its definition and may remain to argue about what kind of leadership is necessary for a given organization or nation. Interestingly, like beauty, we all know leadership when we see it. When we walk into a place or organization or village, we will immediately sense the presence or absence of leadership. That is why the phrase ‘leadership makes or breaks’ resonates to many around the world.

You can have everything you need for a change and still may not succeed. If there is a lack of proper leadership from the top to bottom, the change will fail. For the Roadmap to get implemented successfully, we need competent leaders. However, we cannot have such leaders without investing our
time, energy, and resources. We need to plan and strategize to develop leaders.

In short, for the Roadmap to bring meaningful change and finally produce productive citizens who are part of the solution to transform Ethiopia, we need to develop the organizational and leadership capacity of leaders from the top to the grassroots- classroom level.

Every new effort starts with an idea, then you write it down, and finally, you implement it. Afterward, you evaluate to see if it worked and attained the intended results. If it succeeded, great, if not, you regroup and start the process all over again. At each level of this flow, we need leadership with unique qualifications.

When the Roadmap was released, it passed the ideation phase. After documenting the new ideas that aimed at improving the education system, next is gathering inputs to improve it and ultimately implement it. The latter is the toughest. That is why going forward, it is key to develop competent leaders at all levels to implement the Roadmap successfully.

We need leaders at all levels. The top leadership- at the Ministry level is the highest leadership that should focus on vision casting, and providing clear directions, and this Roadmap is one of the deliverables of the top leadership and those professionals who consulted and advised the leadership. The vision also needs effective strategies. The top leadership in close consultation mainly with leaders at university and college levels, I presume, have already come up with or may still be working on it to enlist potential strategies and tactics to implement the Roadmap. At the end of the day, leaders of faculties and departments, their admin staff, and teachers/faculty members are the ones who play critical leadership roles for the successful implementation of the strategies and tactics on the ground to translate the vision into realities. The vision may abort if there is a lack of competent leadership at this level of the hierarchy. Leadership is especially critical at this level in the hierarchy due to the fact that leaders/teachers not only they should equip their respective students technically, but also they are expected to demonstrate leadership in empowering their students by molding their attitudes, mindsets, people skills, and character. They cannot do that theoretically. They should lead by example. If they themselves aren’t well developed as leaders, they cannot fulfill this obligation. Remember, students may not pay attention to what their leaders/teachers are saying but rather what they do. There is a saying, “Your actions are so loud that I cannot hear you.”

Of course, at the end of the day, we need new breed technocrats in all fields of studies who are not just technically superb but also well equipped as problem solvers, proactive, innovative, and creative geniuses with ‘I can overcome and succeed’ mindset. These are important qualities of leadership. They should also develop character and demonstrate consistency, authenticity, and credibility to serve the public with integrity. These vital leadership attributes should be developed while students are still in school before they go out to serve. Parents and local community leaders, and other stakeholders at the grassroots level should also be empowered to play their respective roles for the successful implementation of the Roadmap.

Developing leaders should be done by following two routes: Short courses to achieve urgent and quick results, and long term programs for lasting solutions. Since implementing and harvesting the results of the new Roadmap takes years, if not decades, the relevant body at ministerial level should prepare for the long term development of leaders at all levels while partnering with other stakeholders to provide quick leadership development courses so that all stakeholders are ready to shoulder their respective leadership responsibilities to implement the Roadmap. The long term effort may require establishing a leadership organ (institute) or partnering with the existing leadership schools at various universities to custom design and provide some leadership programs according to the level of leadership of each stakeholder.

Whether in the short or long term, leadership development efforts should consider developing holistic leaders. The programs should incorporate contents that can produce all rounded leaders who have a) The right mindset and attitude, b) The necessary technical know-how and soft skills (people skill), and c) Character. Providing mere leadership programs that only focus on developing skills doesn’t lead to raising competent leaders. It is like pouring new wine into an old wineskin. We cannot raise new breed leaders who can implement the Roadmap and at the end of the day change the destiny of our country while providing the usual leadership training without addressing outdated and counterproductive mindset and flawed character.

That being said, how can PRO Leadership, a non-profit organization established in 2009 in the US, help in raising competent leaders who can successfully implement the Roadmap? Together with its strategic partners, the following are where it can help:
1. Creating platforms
2. Designing programs
3. Providing contents
4. Delivering motivational speeches, training, and mentoring
5. Evaluating these programs

The good news is that PRO Leadership is going to launch an Initiative called ‘Bridging the Leadership Gaps to Tackle the Major Challenges Africa Faces’ on May 29th here in the US and July 17th in Addis Ababa. The initiative outlined how PRO Leadership teams up with its strategic partners to empower youth and women leaders in Africa, starting from Ethiopia, by engaging the diaspora. During these upcoming two launching events, we will gather the inputs, advice, and suggestions of potential strategic partners.

If you’re in the DC metro area, please join us on May 29th, 2019 @ 5 pm at Veterans Plaza downtown Silver Spring, MD and let’s hear your opinion and how you may want to get involved. If you are in Ethiopia, mark your calendar and we look forward to hearing your inputs as well. In the meantime, PRO Leadership has already begun discussing with some strategic partners here in the US and Ethiopia to begin implementing the Initiative one community at a time, and you and your organization may join us implement this initiative within your own community. To learn more about PRO Leadership and the Initiative, please visit our website atwww.proleadership.org

Step into Your Greatness

There are perfectionists. They don’t start anything meaningful without making sure it comes out perfect. They wait, as the saying goes until all traffic lights turn green before they put their foot on the gas pedal 🙂 This is pathological, to say the least.

No one is perfect and nothing can be done perfectly. We and what we produce are work in progress. We shouldn’t wait until we or what we do appear perfect.

You are greatness material. The people that you admire, even sometimes worship, were like you before they stepped into their greatness. They did put one foot followed by another, one step at a time before they ultimately attained greatness.

You too can do the same from wherever you may be right now. Begin small. Use what you have on your hands. Maximize the opportunity that presents to you at the moment.

If you do so, the rest will be history. You will be one of the great world changers. Not only this, but also generations to come will celebrate your boldness, sacrifice, and service. I can see that you are heading toward greatness and there is nothing or no one could stop you. Of course, you may stop yourself, the worst enemy of all.

Remember, I am your cheerleader as you claim your birthright of greatness and step into your greatness. Read my two books to learn more about the kind of greatness you should pursue, and the stages you need to pass through before you unchain your greatness within to the fullest, the stories of great ones from diverse cultures, religions, age groups, and so on. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Learn from others, customize the lessons, and contextualize them in your own world and culture.

Go to Amazon to get your copies and also give gifts to the people you care about. It is your season to shine. It is your turn. Don’t let that pass you by. Don’t die full and insignificant. Die giving your best and as one of my mentors used to say ‘die empty!’

Some more tips to speak like a pro based on a short video clip

Two weeks ago or so, I shared some helpful tips based on a short speech video clip to help you take your speaking competency to the next height. Some of you may be advance speakers and may not need some of the tips. However, I thought, you may want to share these tips with those who may need it the most. If you missed the previous tips I shared 2 weeks ago, checkout the tips before further continuing to read this blog: https://successpws.com/?p=3107 

In this follow up blog, I would like to use another short video clip of mine to share with you some takeaways you may apply immediately in order to take your speaking ability to the next level. By the way, the speech was based on my latest book “Unchain Your Greatness”.  

While watching the Youtube video below, I encourage you to take some notes. Write down what worked very well and what need to be improved…

How did you find the speech? This is my hope that you have enjoyed it. 
If you may remember from my previous email, I coach people to speak like a pro. This time, let me coach myself so that you too may learn from this conversation with myself 🙂 

What went very well:

  1. Finished on time. Like the previous speech, I finished this one within the time frame I was given.
  2. Connected with the majority of my listeners using proper eye contacts. Hope, you could be able to see from the video that I was making eye contacts to engage people in the conference room.
  3. Used the stage very well. If you may remember from the previous video, I was constrained. The stage was very tight. This time, the stage was very wide, and I fully used it to the max. Don’t forget, you don’t have to move around a lot unless you have a fairly large group. Regardless of the size, however, you should come out of the podium and come close to the audience when you speak. Don’t allow any barrier between you and your listeners create blockage.
  4. Purposeful gestures. I used my gestures purposefully. One quick tip: Your body is your weapon of communication, especially your hands. Nonetheless, you should avoid erratic and purposeless use of your hands. Once in a while, you may consider using bold gestures. But, be cautious. The occasion, the audience type, and the topic may not warrant such bold gestures 🙂 Let me ask you: When in the speech did I use bold gestures? One good example is when I talked about the great ones burned their bridge. Another one is when I was talking about how they turning setbacks into assets, their scars and defeats into testimonies, etc. Where else did you notice bold gestures?

What would I do differently if I get a chance to give this speech again?

  1. Share some stories. Since I had 7 minutes to summarize a 200 something pages book, when I was preparing for the speech, I focused on sharing the four stages to unchain one’s greatness without paying attention about mixing some stories. Looking back, I should have given some examples for each stage. 
  2. Insert some humor. In the previous video clip I shared with you, at least, I inserted one sense of humor and I smiled more than I did here. Some how, I was too serious devoid of any humor 🙂 To refresh your memory, I told you that nowadays, people would love to be entertained even if your topic is serious. You might have already seen that in your own case, people like speakers who are friendly and approachable. Well, I missed a golden chance in this speech but I’d consider to add some humor, smile, and laugh more if I get another chance to deliver this the same speech again. 
  3. Use the book. If you watch the video, I went there with my book and put it on the table but never used it 🙂  Did it happen to you? Do you relate with that? I have a story or a statistics or a graph you would like to share, boom! You forgot to share. 
  4. What else needs to be improved?

This is my hope that you have drawn a couple of lessons, which in turn may help you take your speaking ability to the next level.

If you may have any questions, feel free to reach out to me @ assegidh@gmail.com or give me a call at 703-895-4551

Some tips to speak like a pro based on a short video clip

You may already know that I’m a motivational and keynote speaker, and workshop facilitator on themes such as greatness, soft skills, project management, and leadership. I serve diverse audience including leaders in government agencies, major corporations, and community organizations.

However, you may not know that I also coach and mentor leaders. One of the coaching and mentoring themes is presentation and facilitation skills. I coach and mentor by doing the following:

  1. Share some stats, facts, and insights to improve one’s presentation and facilitation skills. For instance, I share the science behind why we feel nervous, how it impacts your performance, and how to overcome it, and so on.
  2. Demonstrate how it is done. First of all, speaking/presenting is totally different than facilitation. For example, the video clip below is a motivational speech. I may come back again another time with a clip to talk about facilitation. In each case, I demonstrate to show how it is done properly. I demonstrate how to gesture purposefully, move deliberately (if you have a large crowd), make proper eye contact, start with high impact intro, make smooth transitions, conclude forcefully with some call to actions, and so on.
  3. Give feedback. My coachees and mentees then practice by implementing the above two (the

You may already know that I’m a motivational and keynote speaker, and workshop facilitator on themes such as greatness, soft skills, project management, and leadership. I serve diverse audience including leaders in government agencies, major corporations, and community organizations.

However, you may not know that I also coach and mentor leaders. One of the coaching and mentoring themes is presentation and facilitation skills. I coach and mentor by doing the following:

  1. Share some stats, facts, and insights to improve one’s presentation and facilitation skills. For instance, I share the science behind why we feel nervous, how it impacts our performance, and how to overcome it, and so on.
  2. Demonstrate how it is done. First of all, speaking/presenting is totally different than facilitating. For example, the video clip below is a motivational speech. I may come back again another time with a clip to talk about facilitation. In each case, I demonstrate to show how it is done properly. I demonstrate how to gesture purposefully, move deliberately (if you have a large crowd), make proper eye contact, start with high impact intro, make smooth transitions, conclude with some call to actions, and so on.
  3. Give feedback. My coachees and mentees then practice by implementing the above two (the theory and demonstrations they learned from me). Mostly, I video record their speeches myself (or ask them to record their speech from somewhere and send it to me) and we sit down to give them feedback on what worked well and what needs to be improved.

That being said, today, I would like to give you some tips to help you take your speaking ability to the next level by using my own speech.

While watching this clip, take some notes. Write down what worked very well and what need to be improved…

Hope, you liked the speech and also took some notes about what went very well, and what needs to be improved. Let me tell you what I think about my own speech above:

What went well:

  1. Respected the time. I finished within the time frame I was given.
  2. Great eye contact to connect and engage with the audience. This is one of my strengths. 
  3. Full of energy. I was happy that I was there and I was also present 🙂 You know it, or at least, they figure out whether you were there or just performing…
  4. Smiled and threw a couple of sense of humour. Of course, I could have smiled and inserted more sense of humor. Remember, nowadays, people don’t just be informed but also entertained. They also appreciate speakers who are friendly and approachable… FYI, these are the areas where I’m still working on 🙂

What should be improved:

  1. Didn’t prepare well for the place. I could have come early and worked on the setup of the stage. It was tight and constrained me alot. It is important to come the previous night or 1 hour early to make sure everything is right or, at least, to adjust yourself with the stage and room setup well before you step on the stage.
  2. Stuck behind the podium. In the beginning, I was holding the lectern for dear life 🙂 That is a no on. I don’t usually do that. You will see that in my future clips. If possible, don’t even hide behind the podium 🙂
  3. Weak demonstration. I could brought my book to show the level of greatness in graphics than explaining it verbally.
  4. What else needs to be improved?

This is my hope that you have drawn a couple of lessons, which in turn may help you take your speaking ability to the next height.

Stay tuned for such tips in the coming weeks and months…

If you may have any questions, feel free to reach out to me @ assegidh@gmail.com or give me a call at 703-895-4551

Interview on SOAR Community Media

In this less than 15 minutes interview I had with the CEO of SOAR Community Nebula- Mali Phonpadith, I shared about my passion, a person who lent me the first two self help books I read that impacted me at the early stage of my life, the key characteristics of change agents, my hope for Africa, and the upcoming conference on African Leadership on May 29th, 2019 and more.

You may check out this link to watch the interview video clip: https://nebula.soarcommunitynetwork.com/viewpoints/7203757 

Let me know your feedback…

The Highest Level of Greatness (7 min motivational speech)

In the video clip below, Assegid was giving a 7 minutes motivational speech. Assegid provides motivational and keynote addresses based on his books, which you can find from Amazon.

Victims of one’s own culture: Why many Ethiopians aren’t leaders?

The theme of my speech at a community empowerment event organized by Jantilla on Saturday, February 2nd, 2019 in Silver Spring, MD at DoubleTree by Hilton hotel was “Leadership in the 21st C”. Last week, I wrote a follow-up article concerning one of the reasons why we Ethiopians don’t have as many leaders as we need. If you have missed the article, check it out from this link: “What is the primary reason that prevents many Ethiopians from becoming leaders?”

In that article, I shared how the way leadership is defined discourages many from taking lead in the area of their passion. In this sequel article, let me share with you another reason that prevents many Ethiopians from becoming leaders, from playing their fair share in transforming our country. In my book I quoted in the previous article- “Redefining Leadership”, which was published in 2011, I pointed out four major barriers that keep many at bay from claiming their birthright of leadership. One of the four reasons is culture. During the Q&A session, we explained how our culture doesn’t incentivize outward looking individuals and how this, in turn, discourages many from going out to take leadership initiatives to advance the cause they care about. Rather than recounting what I said at the Jantilla event concerning the impacts of culture, I thought to share with you an excerpt from the above-mentioned book to show you how many people are victims of their own culture:

“Culture is simply the collection of beliefs and values a given society or organization reflects collectively. These shared viewpoints, principles, rules, and behaviors bind stakeholders together as they live, work, and fellowship together. Culture is an environment that nurtures and shapes the various personalities of those who dwell in it. As a person with a medical background, let me give you a metaphor using culturing microorganisms in a laboratory to explain how a nurturing culture is. First of all, each microorganism requires a certain dose of feeding substances and composition of some chemical compounds. Using media such as plates, cultures are built in the lab to harvest some useful microorganisms. The final nature of a given organism is dependent upon the content of the culture it was fed.

Likewise, we are the products of those cultures (s) that fed and nurtured us. For that matter, the progress and competitiveness of organizations and nations depend upon their cultural elements. For example, Harrison & Huntington compared the economic data of Ghana and South Korea in the 1960s and found out that these two countries were having similar GNP and almost on an equal footing. However, after some decades later, South Korea became an industrial country with lots of economic success. The authors attributed this contrasting difference to South Koreans cultural values, which embraced ideals such as working hard, educating their citizens, investing, and promoting discipline, and the likes.

Whether it was the hunting-culture or today’s cyber-culture, culture shapes the personality of the individual as what he eats and drinks shapes his physical appearances. Culture plays a significant role in cultivating the individual who would have gone nowhere without the collective knowledge, identity, and guidance he has got as he grows from nobody to somebody. Throughout the years, we are fed and cultivated to become who we are today. Our thinking patterns, decision-making processes, and the way we behave and act deal with time, relate with others, interact with nature, view the future, perceive the invisible world, etc. are highly influenced by our respective cultures.

Though at times we may have counter-cultural stands and refuse to get molded all the time, the sum total of who we are at present is the product of those cultures we have been exposed. We should be grateful for the opportunity we were given to find ourselves embraced within those environments that finally helped us on our way up. We started naked, alone, and empty, and look at where we are now. We read the books, observed the arts crafted, used the system built in a given culture, and so on. Therefore, we owe our cultures. Yet, culture plays some negative roles against individual uniqueness and leadership.

If you don’t wrongly mistake me, almost every culture has some elements that discourage individual uniqueness. Some cultures, especially those individualistic, produce many unique individuals while others discourage individual uniqueness altogether. I call the latter communal cultures that are common in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and South America. In these cultures, individuals are ‘forced’ to group thinking. Very few break through and become leaders of their unique destiny while the majority is led into lifetime obscurity in the name of showing loyalty for group identity and destiny.

Though communal cultures discourage individual uniqueness and leadership the most, almost all other cultures within the individualistic culture have some cultural elements that undermine individual uniqueness and leadership. There are cultural myths, taboos, and sayings that discourage people from taking leadership. Let’s look at some sayings from representative cultures.

In my country, there is a saying: “Silence is gold”. There is a similar saying in Spain: “A closed mouth catches no flies”. Without talking, there is no way one becomes unique and takes leadership initiative to share with others his message and vision. These kinds of mottos are disincentives for individuals to go out and pursue their uniqueness through leadership. There are similar myths in western cultures too such as “Don’t blow your own horn”. In the Far East, “The nail that sticks up will get pounded down”. In the Middle East, “Woe to leadership, for it buries those who possess it”.

Surrounded by the noises such as the above and many similar discouraging myths, since childhood, it is very hard for many to venture and go out to pursue their uniqueness by leading their own destiny towards fulfillment. As leading is considered making noise, self-promoting, troublemaking, we can imagine how many individuals find no incentive to claim their uniqueness, communicate that to their respective peers and communities, and stride forward to bear the fruits of leadership.

What is tricky about culture is that many of us may not even know that the way we think, the pattern of our behavior, the way we decide, and act is the result of our cultural orientation. We may not question those things that don’t promote individual uniqueness and allow us to claim our birthright of leadership and lead a distinct path towards fulfillment. These things operate at a deeper level without much awareness and control from our conscious side of the brain. That makes it a very dangerous barrier against leading an original life and pursuing a distinct path.

The frustrating thing is that the majority in a given culture defends the above discussed and similar counterproductive myths, taboos, and sayings without questioning and knowing why they were installed in the first place. This reminded me of the most popular psychological experiment of Harry Harlow’s. This experiment involved a couple of monkeys, a banana, a stair, and cold ice water spray. The banana was hung on the ceiling and the stair put under it. When one of these monkeys stepped on the stair to reach the banana, all of the monkeys were sprayed with cold ice water. After a couple of trials with the same brutal cold ice water sprays on all the monkeys, the monkeys developed group-thinking and stopped trying. Not only that, they attacked newcomers who tried to step on the stair even when there was no more cold water spray. This continued even if all the monkeys who witnessed the cold-water spray firsthand were substituted with new ones.

The insight from this experiment was that even if the initial monkeys substituted with new ones, which hadn’t been there when cold ice water was sprayed, continued to attack newcomers who tried to get the banana. What these monkeys knew was that they were beaten the first time they tried even if they didn’t know why. They also watched while other newcomers were beaten. Soon after, they joined the group-thinking and started to defend the banana from newcomers even if they didn’t have any clue why this beating started in the first place. The same with culture; people zealously defend unproductive cultural myths without knowing why they were installed in the first place. I have been beaten and watched others beaten because of similar group-thinking without fully understanding why these group-thinking were put in the first place. What I am saying here in this section is that ‘there is no more cold ice water spray in place that we should stop beating one another but rather let’s enjoy the banana’…”

Knowing how many people are blindly loyal to their respective culture, I don’t expect a lot of people to immediately break through cultural barriers to taking leadership initiatives just because they read this article. This is my hope, however, that this article sparked curiosity in you if in case you’re one of the victims of your own culture; if in case, your culture discouraged you from venturing out to take lead in the area of your passion.

Don’t misunderstand me. Yes, communal cultures like ours have so many great cultural attributes we need to keep and promote. However, our culture needs to be reformed if our desire is to come out of poverty and enjoy sustainable development, which cannot happen without raising enough leaders at all levels. Please understand that I’m not suggesting copying and pasting a foreign culture from somewhere. That doesn’t work. I’m talking about indigenous reform- reforming the existing culture by keeping what has been productive and substituting those cultural attributes that have been counterproductive without losing our Ethiopiawinet.

Countries like Ethiopia must pass through a deep change to enjoy prosperity, stability, peace, and harmony. Unfortunately, deep change is impossible without cultural reform. The culture we have had brought us this far. If we would like to go somewhere better than where we have been so far, we don’t have any other choice but to reform our culture so that it empowers us to have the right mindset, attitude, discipline, principles, and standards, which in turn enable us to transform Ethiopia once and for all and in one generation.

Remember the metaphor I shared above. A given organism is a product of the culture that fed it. Using one and the same bacteria but two different cultures, you can harvest two totally different bacteria colonies: A very deadly bacteria that can be used as a deadly biological weapon, and another benign bacteria that can be used for vaccination. The difference between the two is the culture that nurtured them.

Culture- whether individual, corporate, or societal, matters. It’s one of the most important competitive advantages. You cannot experience true and lasting transformation without reforming your culture. Period. Deep change that doesn’t entail reforming the existing culture doesn’t lead to somewhere better.

Let’s reform the culture that predisposed us to the troubles that inflicted us for decades, if not for centuries. Let’s create a culture that nurtures our people and enable us to defeat poverty, despise corruption, incentivize cleanliness, promote hard work, embrace discipline, and encourages excellence and quality. Let’s have a culture that allows our people to identify their uniqueness and venture out to take lead to serve their respective community with leadership excellence in the area of their passion. Ethiopia cannot compete regionally, continentally, and globally successfully without tapping into the full potential of her people. Sadly, no one can release his/her potential without knowing who they truly are, their unique lane and passion, and without developing some key leadership attributes. What is more? Ethiopia cannot unleash her greatness without unleashing the greatness within each citizen. Let’s create a culture that adequately produces great citizens that can transform Ethiopia into her greatness and enable her to play her unique leadership roles regionally, continentally, and beyond.