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Becoming an impactful leader by increasing your self-awareness

Self-aware leaders are authentic. They had first influenced themselves- walked the talk, before they had attempted to influence and lead others. Steven Covey, the author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, proposed to have private victories before seeking public victories. He called the first three habits private victory. And, the next three habits public victory. Covey rightful argued that achieving the private victories make it easy to achieve public victories. Plutarch is also said it very well, “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”

By the way, leadership is illusive for many because they think that the places where they become better leaders are public arenas as they lead others. Unfortunately, the foundation of impactful leadership is self-leadership. That is why one of the greatest philosophers, Plato said: ‘The first and best victory is to conquer self.’

Self-leadership is a prerequisite for lasting and impactful leadership. If one fails to lead herself for whom she has control, how can she leads others on whom she doesn’t have any control? As the classic painter Leonardo da Vinci said, You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself…the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. …And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.”

However, as much as self-leadership is a prerequisite for lasting and impactful leadership, it’s not easy to lead self more than most of us would like to admit. In one of his leadership conferences, when the leadership guru John C. Maxwell was asked what has been his greatest challenge as a leader, he surprised the audience by saying, “Leading me! That’s always been my greatest challenge as a leader”. In his book Leadership Gold, he further argued, “I think that’s true for all leaders regardless of who they lead and what they accomplish. We sometimes think about accomplished leaders from history and assume that they had it all together.”

What have been your challenges as a leader? Have you succeeded in leading self? How much time and energy are you investing to increase your self-awareness? What are you and your people doing on a consistent basis to increase your self-awareness to become impactful leaders? Let’s know if you need our help to increase the self-awareness of your people.


Assegid (AZ) Habtewold is the owner and lead trainer at Success Pathways, LLC. He wrote a book entitled ‘The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks: For continued success in leadership’, and Self-awareness is the very first building block. He facilitates Increasing Self-awareness workshops. Here is the link to learn the learning objectives of our self-awareness workshop:

Honing your soft skills to succeed in your career

There is no one single significant job that doesn’t require one or more technical skills. Whether you’re a mechanic, an accountant, a soldier, a lawyer, or a surgeon, you need to have those important hard skills necessary to perform your job. If you look retrospectively, your technical skills are the primary reasons why you did set your foot in the door at your current company. They primarily hired you because you claimed and they believed that you could perform the job.

The problem comes when professionals think that the hard skills that brought them in will continue to help them stay there. It’s a faulty strategy when employees solely depend on their technical skills to further succeed in their career. Most professionals either get fired or fail to climb the corporate ladder not because of the lack of hard skills.

Mark Murphy pointed out, “Forty six percent of new hires fail in the first 18 months and 89 percent of them failed for attitudinal reasons. Only 11 percent failed due to a lack of hard skills.” Someone’s attitude dictates the way that person behaves and acts in a group setting. Their attitude shapes the way they handle themselves in the workplace. It determines whether they communicate effectively and get along with others in a team environment or not.

When an employee lacks those mandatory soft skills that could have enabled him/her to excel in the workplace, those hard skills that brought them in cannot save them. They become liabilities. It doesn’t matter whether they were graduated at the top of their class. As much as their employers rushed to bring them in, they cannot wait to push them out. They get ride of them as soon as they get their substitutes. If downsizing is imminent, those employees with weak soft skills will be the first that would be let go. Those with average technical skills but with suburb soft skills are preferred over those who are suburb in their hard skills but mediocre in their soft skills.

Whether you are a new recruit, an upcoming manager, a business owner, or a community leader, those technical skills that brought you this far, cannot take you far. That is why I like Marshal Goldsmith’s book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”

The question is which soft skills are critical in your current workplace or marketplace? What are you doing right now to develop and/or improve these soft skills? How do you monitor your progress? You may be okay individually, what about your team members? What soft skills do they need to succeed? What have you done to help them develop and master these skills?

Values-based Leadership

It’s common to witness people using some parameters when they choose their leaders. They employ the following indicators, consciously or unconsciously: a) Identity, b) Qualification, and c) Likeability. Identities such as race, gender, ethnicity, and religious affiliation, and so on are some of the identity factors that may dictate the choice of many people. In my view, these are flawed parameters. Yes, it’s tempting to favor someone with whom we share the same identity. In this diverse world of the 21st C, we should have used some other parameters than identity when we choose our leaders.

It’s also alluring to take side with a leader with whom we share similar gender. That was what the former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, did recently when she declared: There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” As you might have already heard, her effort to take away women supporters from Bernie Sanders’ campaign backfired. Likewise, many of us are biased when it comes to educated people. We all know that this is a flawed parameter to use. Terminal degrees, masters, and professional degrees cannot make someone a leader. Likeability is a globally admired trait. The heroism, charm, and/or down to earth humility of some likeable persons attract almost all of us. Many of these personalities are skillful to make us feel important, respected, and loved. This in turn entices many of us to put them in charge. In the work and marketplace, we need leaders who have more than just charm and friendliness. Don’t misunderstand me here. It’s great if we get leaders who are educated and likeable. Nonetheless, these parameters should not be used alone. In my humble opinion, we need values-based leaders.

Below are the three values that I propose we should employ to select and back our leaders. This is just a proposal. Otherwise, we may subtract, or add some more to create shared values. Hope, we’ll have opportune times to do so in the near future.

  1. Integrity. What we need is leaders whose words mean something. Leaders who are ready to die in order to keep their promises. The White South African Minority regime trusted Mandela to lead a smooth transition because they found him, for decades, as a man of his words. They risked it all, released him from prison, and ‘put him in charge’ since he was a man of integrity. Here’re some of the questions we should ask as we choose our leaders: Can we predict this leader? Can she deliver what she promises? Does he walk the talk? And more…
  1. Excellence. Integrity without the quest for excellence is toothless. Why we need a leader who says what he means unless he delivers it with excellence? I’m not saying we need perfectionists. Excellence can be achieved only through continuous learning. We need leaders who read, study, and grow on a consistent basis to perform their duties and deliver what they promise with excellence. Mandela used his underground moments to grow. When he was given an assignment for which he didn’t have the knowledge or experience, he studied and also asked those who knew. For example, when he was assigned to form and lead the military wing of ANC, he started the duty by reading, consulting experts, and by reading lots of books. He also reviewed some case studies on guerrilla fight from Cuba to Algeria to Ethiopia. Mandela also read and reflected a lot while in prison that contributed to his success in statesmanship.
  1. Service. What is the motive for a leader to seek leadership? To serve or to be served? Some leaders pursue leadership to be served and exploit. What we need is leaders with servant heart, who believe that serving others is their calling. We need leaders who walk away when their term is over. Mandela didn’t have a political ambition; his preoccupation was serving his people as they fight against apartheid. He refused to take the presidency. They literally begged him to become the president of South Africa. Since he was humble, he gave in, and agreed to lead just for one term.When that one-term was over, he walked out of office unlike other African dictators who cling to power until they either killed or jailed or ran away to exile. We need leaders who have talent, career, or business to turn to when they are done leading- not those who most probably cling to power till they retire or die.

In conclusion, we need values-based leadership. But that doesn’t mean we need to look for perfect and flawless leaders. That cannot happen; no one is perfect. It should be enough if they’ve decent values for which they’re committed. As we choose and support our leaders, let’s pay closer attention more to their values than their identity, qualification, and likeability. We should be enlightened followers with clear parameters on how we choose our leaders. When our leaders know that we have expectations like that and values-based leadership matters to us, they change and do their homework.

Winning Others Using Your Values

I’ve been a student of values
In the past more than one decade, I’ve been a student of values. As vice chairman of research department of a political part back home in Ethiopia, I still remember drafting a concept paper in 2002 that was aimed at elaborating the core values of our party. I had also a very productive discussion in 2006 with a leader of a multinational corporation; I was working for, about its values. Since 2008, I’ve been providing workshops, mentoring programs, and consulting to help my clients understand the power of values, and how to harness this power in their favor.

When and why I decided to write about values
I’ve been drafting, in the past couple of years, a manuscript about values. The impetus to write a book came in 2013 following my presentation on the theme “Values-focused Consulting” for members of the Association for Talent Development- ATD (formerly known as ASTD) Maryland Chapter Consulting SIG in March 2013. Beyond my expectation, the discussion was lively, interactive, and dynamic. The feedbacks were very encouraging. Many of the participants, who are experienced consultants, enjoyed the discussion. Some of them, after the meeting, came up to me and encouraged me to take this message to other groups. For that matter, I produced a four-session TV program at Ethiopian Satellite TV and Radio (ESAT) in 2014 based on values. The interview with Dr. Bob Krone, the co-Founder and President of Kepler Space University, and Emeritus Professor of Systems Management at the University of Southern California, concluded the program.

The book should be out by the end of this year, or even earlier than that. I’ll definitely keep you posted my progress, and hope you could be able to attend the book signing. The good new is that, in the meantime, I’ll share with you some of the insights, stories, and tools from the manuscript. In this blog, I’d like to talk about how you can use values to win others.

Values are crucial to win voters
2016 is Presidential election year; thus, let me give you some data to show you how values are crucial to win voters. In general, in those countries where there is democracy, people tend to vote for those candidates with whom they share key values. That is why the same candidate is loved by some and hated by other voters depending on his values. For instance, on February 2 2016, Fox News Channel reported, “According to entrance polling of Republican caucus-goers conducted by Fox News, Cruz won by garnering the support of evangelical Christians and those who wanted a candidate who shares their values.” The majority of voters, conscious or unconscious, rally for a candidate that shares their highly held values. And Caucus-goers weren’t exceptional.

The same news also observed, “Sanders overwhelmed Clinton among caucus-goers under 30, a group that he won 84 percent to 14 percent.” Similarly in New Hampshire, many polls showed that 85% of young people under 30 voted for Sanders. Why do you think Bernie overwhelmed Clinton in that age group?

Do you remember the Occupy Wall Street movement in the late 2011? I still picture in my mind those youngsters wearing the “99%” t-shirts occupying the Zuccotti park in New York City, Wall Street financial district, to protest the economic inequality in the US. When they were cleared from the park, they moved to occupy major banks, corporate HQs, and college and university campuses. The initial key players of that group were young guys in their 20’s. Of course, later, these youngsters inspired older people to join the movement.

The dominant value that attracted and glued the group together was fairness. The movement, slowly but surely, died because of so many reasons. Now, it seems that those young guys who felt their cause was crushed found Sanders who has been a unique candidate that positioned himself as a fighter against the one percent billionaires and bankers.

Smart politicians and enlightened voters understand the power of values
Smart politicians understand the critical roles values play. That is why they go out to study and understand the values of their constituency to earn their votes and supports. By the same token, enlightened voters are also those who don’t give their votes to those politicians who fake it during campaign. But rather, those who vote for candidates that are truly committed to those shared values long after the election is over. That is why some politicians once elected, change course, and say and do things against the values of their constituency, for which they had vowed to fight for. This is especially true if a politician is in her final term, and finds herself no need to campaign for another term.

Question time
Let me ask you:

  • Are you a Democrat or Republican or Independent?
  • Why did you choose to join the party?
  • For whom are you going to vote during the primary and in November?
  • Why do you vote for him/her?

My answers to the aforementioned questions
Please write down the answers of the above questions. It won’t be fair if I exempt myself from being quizzed. Therefore, let me quickly provide my responses. I’m a democrat. You may wonder because of which value (s) I decided to become a Democrat. This is a valid question. I share some values with the Republican Party but I share more values with the Democratic Party. One of the values that swayed me to join the Democratic Party is diversity. You may have different values than mine and you may also be a Republican. It’s okay. The goal here is to self-evaluate and discover which values dictated which party we should join.

Nonetheless, so far, I’ve not decided for whom I should vote.

I like Hilary. Electing her, as a President, is going to be historic- the first woman President of the US. But, Freedom is one of my values. I’m worried that if she gets elected, she may continue Obama’s policies that favor dictators in Africa. For that reason, I am not yet ready to vote for her.

Bernie Sanders is authentic, and sometimes maverick. I admire such a personality. But again, I’m a strong supporter of market economy and entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, Bernie is an extreme leftist, promoting social democratic ideologies that undermine market economy and entrepreneurship.

Any ways, we are at the early stage of this year’s Presidential election. We don’t know who is going to win in November. Whoever wins, however, it is because enough Americans share him/her values.

Values to win clients and team members
I’m not here to talk about politics except to use the above stories as background to show you how values are vital to win others. In this article, my target audiences are leaders and business owners. My goal is to demonstrate on how they could use values to win clients and team members.

  • What have you learned from this article, which you haven’t prior to reading this article?
  • How do you plan to translate these lessons into improving your personal life, career, and business?

Values matter in life, business, and national affairs
In conclusion, values matter more than we’re willing to admit. They matter not just in politics. Not only they dictate for whom we vote during elections, but also how we lead our life, run our business, and organization. We should be aware of the fact that people take into accounts our values before they make decisions. Decisions like whether they should become our supporters, partners, and clients. That is why we should invest our time, energy, and resources to discover, define, communicate, and refine our values. We need to make conscious and intentional efforts.

If you’re a business owner and leader, you should pay closer attention to your values, and use them to reach out to those clients and teammates who share yours. You should use values as your competitive advantages to distinct yourself and business from your competitors.

If you may have any question or need my help in using values to win others, don’t hesitate to contact me.

The danger of a single story and what to do about it

A novelist who found her authentic voice
Last week, an American trainer friend of mine forwarded to me a TED Talk video link, which was filmed in 2009. The theme of the talk was “The danger of a single story ”. In this Global TED Talk, novelist Chimamanda Adichie shares how she discovered her authentic voice. The main thesis of her talk was that individually and collectively, we have multiple stories and thus we shouldn’t be ensnared by a single story. Her message warns us not to buy into just one story about a person, culture, or country, which in turn leads to misunderstanding and stereotyping. The talk was very powerful. Over 9 million people have watched it. She has a point; a single story has danger.

Nigeria’s single story created by the media- Corruption
Chimamanda is from Nigeria. I have had some Nigerian friends over the years who shared with me great stories of their country. Unfortunately, for their dismay, the media uses one story about their country, corruption. It’s true corruption is high in Nigeria but it’s unfair to pick this one aspect of Nigeria and stereotype all Nigerians as corrupt. Since I heard multiple stories of Nigeria, thanks to my friends, I’m ‘safe’ from a single distorted story of Nigeria. Nonetheless, many people may not have the chance I have had to hear more success stories of Nigerians. And therefore, they fall for that single bad story created by the media. Unfortunate!

Ethiopians are also victims of a single story
As an Ethiopian, I’ve my own frustrations in this regard. The media uses one story about our country. It paints her with a single tragic story of famine regardless of multiple other awesome stories. Yes, as I write this article, millions of Ethiopians are starving, thanks to the maladministration and faulty policies of TPLF. But, is that the only story we have? No.

There are multitudes of remarkable stories out there that should have also gained the attention of the media. Regrettably, the mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about our patriotism. Our forefather defeated the fascist Mussolini. Ethiopia is one of the two African countries that weren’t colonized. What is more? The media isn’t enthusiastic to share the world about our great coffee, which is one of the signature coffee brands of Starbucks. They may create some sound bites for a brief moment about our long distance runners who hold multiple world records. Sadly, this is not the success story they repetitively broadcast to the world.

This is our responsibility to brand our businesses and ourselves appropriately
However, in this commentary, my goal is not to complain about the media bias that harms our image at the world stage. Partly, this is our own fault. We have to take responsibility. Nigerians, Ethiopians, and other countries, which think that the single story used by the media leads to stereotyping, should work on their brands. They don’t have control over which single story the media picks every time but they have control over doing something to counter act and offer the world with their other noteworthy stories.

The world is neutral, at least for me. These countries and cultures should reach out to people in other countries and cultures. They should brand themselves with great stories that the world hasn’t been able to hear from the media. This way, they could paint a favorable picture of their countries and cultures in the minds of people from other cultures. By doing so, they could be able to ‘save’ the latter from the stereotyping that may come from single stories they don’t want the world to remember and know them by.

Organizations and individuals should do something about it
The results of the media’s stereotyping using single stories create division, resentments, and even hate among people. Let me just give you one example. Think about the effect of this at organizational level. The workplace now is diverse. These negative single stories may affect relationships among co-workers, to say the least. Some employees who don’t have exposure to multiple stories about a given culture may develop biases toward their co-workers from other cultures based on negative single stories of their colleagues’ cultures. This may deny the team unity of purpose, synergy, and focus. It may even lead to conflicts. These things create dysfunctional teams, and cost organizations a lot at many levels. And therefore, organizations with diverse employees should do something about it.

You too should do something about it wherever you find yourself and/or your organization’s image is tarnished by unfavorable single story. Chimamanda used her pen, and speaking ability to tackle the danger of a single story. In her writing and speeches, she makes sure the world knows the other side of Nigeria, its culture and people. What can you do to help amend yours and/or your business’s image?

As a leadership facilitator, I provide workshops on themes such as diversity and inclusion, and conflict resolution to some government agencies and technology companies. These workshops are aimed at empowering leaders from diverse cultures so that they may create some room and learn various great stories of team members from other cultures. The ‘multiple’ stories, frameworks, and tools we share in these workshops enabled leaders improve their cultural intelligence, and become architect conflict resolvers.

Using a single story isn’t always a bad thing
In this blog, I would also like to draw your attention toward the importance of telling a single story to brand yourself and your organization. Telling single story is not always a bad thing. We all have manifold great stories. Regardless of our multitudes of stories, nonetheless, some of us keep telling people the story or stories that we consider favorable to us. It is called branding. There is nothing wrong in doing so. The truth of the matter is that some of us succeeded while some of us haven’t yet in branding our organizations and ourselves. The former persuaded others to buy into their single beautiful story.

Michael Jackson branded himself as King of Pop, regardless of the existence of some other unfavorable stories of his shortcomings. He was skillful in branding himself, and thus, the world embraced King of Pop gladly. Apple and its founder Steve Jobs have many stories. Some of the stories are not so pretty. Yet, the company keeps telling us a favorable story that represents Apple- Think Different. Using every available resource they got, they have been creating powerful ads to reinforce this story of the company, a company that thinks different than its PC maker competitors.

What to do about it?
Here are some suggestions to overcome, or at least mitigate, the damages of a single unfavorable story of you and/or your business:

  1. Seek feedback. First thing first. If you aren’t aware of the existence of hostile stories about yourself and/or your business, there is nothing you can do about it. You’re blindsided. That is why you should invest your precious time to seek feedback. If the great one asked his students “who do people say I’m?” why not us?
  2. Decide your brand. If you haven’t discovered your brand yet, this article should motivate you to consider having one. Your brand should be based on your core values. You don’t need to duplicate anyone’s brand. Be yourself and help the world recognize you with your distinctive attributes. You’re unique. No one in this planet has your fingerprint, retina scan, DNA, etc. No one should also have your unique brand…
  3. Identify your true stories that could bolster your brand. People easily catch pictures. As the saying goes, “A picture worths a thousand words”. Stories are powerful to create pictures. Nonetheless, make sure these stories are authentic and align with who you truly are and what you stand for. Let me clarify one common misunderstanding. Many people think that their beautify logos could do the trick. Your logo is just one element of your brand. Stories have fundamental place to create and promote your brand.
  4. Promote your brand. Use all available platforms; of course, the ones that you are comfortable with and can afford. The good news is that, these days, you have a decent chance to create and distribute your multiple true stories around the world, thanks to the Internet. Unless you are lucky and no one has ever heard stories about you, especially the negative ones, people heard or read other stories about you and your business. You need to promote your brand consciously, intentionally, and proactively in order people to know your true beauty. Let people also see the other side of you. This requires being vulnerable, and bold enough to share some of your stories from which you learned from your mistakes. Remember this. Sometimes, people resonate and connect with your stumbling, setbacks, and disappointments. What matters are not whether you failed, made mistakes, or stumbled. What people care about is whether you have learned some lessons through the process; most importantly, who you have become and whether you have used the experience to become better and to do good.
  5. Be the Ambassador of your brand. Yes, large companies use superstars, celebrities, and ad agencies to promote their brands. These messengers act as ambassadors and tell these companies’ stories on their behalf. For your own personal and small business, you cannot afford to hire others do ‘the dirty work’. You are the ambassador of your brand. Learn how to tell stories, brand yourself, your website, social media, and so on. It may take time. But, at the end of the day, you are the one responsible. Go out to the world in person, and in the cyberspace to promote your brand.
  6. Seek feedback again. Don’t assume that people capture your brand from your ads, press releases, and promotional materials alone. You need to seek feedback again and again. Ask people informally, using surveys, and any other method that may enable you to solicit feedback. Use these feedbacks to improve your brand, to make it clearer.

Increase Your Holistic Self-Awareness

As a leader, individual self-awareness focusing only on you isn’t complete. It’s rather one-dimensional. You should continue to increase your awareness to find out your unique spot in relation to others, with the environment, the universe, and your Source. You should ask tough questions, think, reflect, meditate, and if necessary, seek the help of others.

Besides, you should try some proprietary and free tools that can help you understand yourself in comparison with others. These tools may help you identify your relative position in terms of some personality parameters such as whether you are introvert or extrovert, whether you use your senses or intuition, organized or disorganized, dictated by logic or feeling, judge or perceive, and so on.

One of the most popular tools that can help you assess your personality is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (BMTI). However, when you take the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, you may consider hiring certified administrators to interpret the results for you and your group. Of course, you may take the free version from When we combine the four opposing types (Extraversion-Introversion, Sensing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling, Judgment-Perception), we get 16 personality types. By taking the online test, you could be able to know your 4 letter personality type, and other helpful and important information. Try it. Taking this assessment increases your self-awareness about your personality, from what kind of engagements you draw energy, which communication approaches you prefer, and more. This self-awareness also  better equips you to become a better communicator and connector since now you understand other people’s preferences.

johariwindowJohari Window is another tool you may use. Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham designed it in the 1950’s. It is a simple grid you can use to map your (your group’s) personality awareness. You pick those adjectives that best describe you from around 56 lists of adjectives, and then ask your group to describe you by selecting those adjectives they think may describe you. Using these data, you could be able to fill the four rooms in the grid (Open, Hidden, Blind, Unknown).

There may not be that much work required from you about those behaviors, motives, strengths, and weaknesses that are known to you and others (Open). Nonetheless, depending on the level of trust you have developed with your team, you may consider sharing some of those that are only known by you to your group (Hidden). When you do so and become vulnerable, you may create connection and bond with your team members. On the other hand, it’s embarrassing to have blind spots your people are well aware but you aren’t (Blind). Either dig deep and find them out yourself or ask for feedback. The people who love and care about you may not reveal your blind spots for fear of offending you. Open up and ask their feedback and get enlightened. The people who would like to manipulate and use you won’t tell you your blind spots. They may intend to continue using them to their advantage. Get these off your back by uncovering your blind spots J

On the other hand, the quadrant that represents your undiscovered self (Unknown by both you and others) may require you to sit down and reflect (and even hire a coach) and identify your subconscious (unknown) feelings, attitudes, fears, wounds, strengths, talents, gifts, etc. You should tap into your latent potential, and also uncover those things that are sabotaging your success. You cannot release and maximize your potential, and claim your greatness without unearthing the unknown. Until you deal with it, you cannot find your uniqueness that gives you the comparative and competitive advantages you need to succeed and thrive. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t stop knowing yourself in relation to others. You should also help raise the self-awareness of your people.

Let’s stop this discussion on the importance of increasing your holistic self-awareness. If you’re interested me to facilitate a workshop to help your people increase their self-awareness, please check out this link to learn the objectives of the workshop:

Earning the trust of others take time and consistency

trustA couple of weeks ago, some friends called and shared with me a change of heart of a leader who has been against working together. They said that this particular leader has been undermining other leaders in the metro area, whom he thought are competing with his organization. They added that, for many years, many leaders tried to convince him reconcile with his rivals but he refused.

Suddenly, he publicly admitted that he was wrong, and now he seeks reconciliation, and unity of purpose. What is more, he took an initiative to contact leaders he have had issues in the past, and arranged a conference in a hotel. The purpose of the conference was to let bygones be bygones, and work together from now onward.

My friends had been wishing this division among the local leaders resolved long time ago. Now, they got it but they doubted whether he meant it. They said they would wait and see before they jump ship. My friends’ hesitation prompted me to further invest time to figure out what is going on. I believed that, first; I’ll learn some lessons. Second, as a leadership expert, I thought, I’ll share whatever lessons I will get from this story to my mentees. That was why I decided to contact a couple of other leaders who are familiar with the issue (some of whom have very close involvement with the case), and got the same kinds of reactions.

All of the leaders that I contacted are happy that this leader admitted of his wrong doings, and pledged to change course. Nonetheless, they have some reservations. They wondered whether this is just a stunt or for real. They wanted to see some fruits before they totally buy into the change of heart of this leader who has been known, for years, as a strong force against working together. It is very hard for them to quickly forget his hostility against them for decades.

The main lesson is that building trust takes time and my friends’ dilemma not to trust a change of heart of this particular leader right away is understandable. They need time. It is fair that they decided to wait and see until fruits that generate trust will back this change of heart. They want to see real changes first before they jump and join the wagon and consider this change of course of their counterpart authentic.

While I was reflecting on this story, and drafting this blog, I shared the following two statements on my social media accounts, and I would like to share them with you:

  • PROMISING, VOWING…cannot earn us trust. Trust can’t be generated overnight. No SHORT CUT! It takes DOING over a very long period of time.


  • It takes a fraction of the time it took us to generate and build to tear down the trust that we have developed over the years.


By the way, this issue has been a talk of town among my community. For his followers, he is known for his commitment to serve others for years. They consider him very humble, caring, visionary, and resilient. For many others, nonetheless, he is known for his animosity toward other leaders and organizations, and as a strong force against working together.

Of course, we may not cause a widespread conversation among our community when we turn a page in our life and organization. But, wherever we are in life, the people we influence- even if they may not be thousands, they need time to trust us.  This is especially true if we have a bad reputation in the past on that particular issue we are claiming we have changed.

The most important emphasis is that we cannot earn trust automatically even if we earnestly ask our people to trust us. We should earn it. Even if people would love to take us at our words, it takes time, consistent efforts, and making genuine changes before we reclaim and/or earn the trust of others. Trust comes when people know, really know, that we have their best interest in our heart.

The authors of ‘The Trusted Advisor’ David Maister and et al. noted, “There is no greater source of distrust than advisors who appear to be more interested in themselves than in trying to be of service to the client.  We must work hard to show that our self-orientation is under control.” Trust isn’t only needed from an advisor but also from leaders like you and me. And this is our duty to demonstrate to the people we influence that we are genuinely interested in serving their needs and aspirations. Otherwise, they will be led to second guess every move we make thinking that we say what we say and do what we do to serve our own needs and priorities.

In the above story, some people doubted the change of heart of the leader because they are not yet sure whether he has their (all parties involved) best interest in his heart as he takes this road of reconciliation and unity.

Therefore, this is leaders’ duty to go out and deliberately earn trust by doing, not by vowing, promising, and talking- by demonstrating that they have the best interest of others in their deepest heart.

Hope, this article inspires you to further hold the importance of TRUST high as you lead your family, organization, business, other relationships, etc.

Myles Munroe: The embodiment of dying empty

Shocking news
On November 10- Monday morning, as usual, I clicked my Internet Explorer to check my email. And I saw a familiar face and curious to read the title of the news. It was the photo of one of the individuals who transformed my life. It was Dr. Myles Munroe’s.


I never thought for a second that the title would stun me. It read, “The well-known motivational speaker and religious leader Dr. Myles Munroe killed in a plane crash”.For a while, I thought it was a dream. Then, I opened more major news outlets, and it was a true story. It happened the previous night on Sunday around 5 PM in Grand Bahama. Nine people including Dr. Munroe killed in a tragic accident.


This news was one of the worst that I have ever received. A man who had contributed so much to his country and the world ended up dying in a plane crash just one day before he opens his popular annual Global Leadership Forum.


I was saddened, and no words could be able to express what I felt within me. This is a man who taught me about many possibilities. I remembered reading his book ‘Becoming a leader’ in the late 90’s while I was in my final years at Addis Ababa University. Not only that, since I came to the US in 2005, I have been watching his speeches, and read many of his books on leadership, vision, purpose, potential, succession plan, and more.


However, I don’t want to talk about his death in this article. Rather, I’d like to strike a conversation with you about his legacy, and most importantly, the lessons we should learn from his life and legacy.


What is the most important legacy of the man? He died empty.
Dr. Munroe died prematurely. No question about that. But, considering what he had done prior to that accident, he had already finished his race. He lived out his purpose to the full. I don’t consider his death tragic, though the accident itself was tragic. Here is his signature message while he was alive: “The greatest tragedy in life is not death but life without a purpose — life with the wrong priorities.”

Though he has done so many things successfully, the most important single legacy that I want to emphasis here is- he died empty. He released and maximized his potential, raised others, poured out himself like an offering, and finally passed the baton to the next generation. For this extra ordinary accomplishment, my hat off to him!

As my title indicates, Dr. Munroe embodies dying empty. A gifted communicator, prolific author, and thought leader, he served selflessly. He served his community, country, and the world at large with his gift. Myles pursued his passion whole-heartedly, emptied himself, and finally ‘robbed the grave’. What a legacy!

What is the most important lesson we should learn from his life and legacy? Living each day with a sense of urgency.
As you can see, life is too short. You and I will transition from this world to the next. It will happen; the only question is when? We don’t have control about when our lease expires. There will come a time we must switch our existence from this world into eternity leaving this physical world belted with time and space behind.

But we have control on how we should spend the rest of our life. The real question is: Have we decided to die empty by maximizing each day we are going to spend on earth? Dr. Munroe lived with a sense of urgency, robbed the grave, and passed away.

Will that be your and my destiny? Or are we going to think that we have ample time to squander? Are we, some how, thinking that we have control when we exit from this world?

Decide today
The final question is: Do you pledge to die empty today while you’re alive? Do you spend each day in the pursuit of your purpose in life? Do you enter into a sense of urgency and maximize each opportunity you have starting from today?

When you die, will people talk about what you have done to help others? Following his death, many news media reported his passing. Here are some comments from people around the world on the death of Myles Munroe:

  • Perry Christie, Prime minister of the Bahamas: “It is utterly impossible to measure the magnitude of Dr. Munroe’s loss to the Bahamas and to the world. He was indisputably one of the most globally recognizable religious figures our nation has ever produced.”
  • The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem: “Myles Munroe was a key leader of the global evangelical movement with a big heart for Israel. His tragic passing is a loss for Christians and for the Jewish people he loved.”
  • Tyler Perry, Movie Director: “No words, just heartbreak. My prayers and thoughts for Dr. Myles Munroe and all aboard that tragic plane crash.”
  • Josh Reinstein, Director of Knesset Christian Allies Caucus: “Israel had no better friend. His faith and love of Israel was an inspiration to all of us.”

If we don’t learn anything from this man’s life, we should learn the importance of pursuing our purpose and dying empty by entering into a sense of urgency.

This is your and my turn to decide that we are going to, let me borrow his word, ‘rob the grave’.

It is time to enter this covenant, saying that we will give our best and in the end join Myles Munroe empty.

Let me conclude this article by quoting one of the last words of Dr. Munroe. In his recent interview with Jeff Koinange on Kenya’s KTN JKL Show, Dr. Munroe said, “There is nothing left. I am ready to die. That’s how I want to die because there is nothing else for me left to die. When you die, die like I am planning to die. Empty. It is finished.”

Let’s know if you need our help to start living with a sense of urgency, the prerequisite to die empty: If you want us to help you empty yourself and leave legacy, you may contact us. There are some great products and services at Success Pathways that could enable you die empty.

The book “Redefining Leadership” walks you through on how to claim your birthright of leadership, breakthrough barriers and bear the fruits of leadership that includes leaving legacy and dying fulfilled.

The Nine Cardinal Building Blocks for continued success in leadership” book also enlisted sense of urgency as one of the nine cardinal building blocks. Myles lived with a sense of urgency and because of that he could be able to die empty and get fulfilled. You too could do the same!

Without self-awareness derailment is inevitable

The author of ‘Derailed’ Tim Irwin attributed lack of self-awareness for the derailment of former Home Depot CEO Nardelli. He wrote, “He may have lacked self-awareness- a common denominator of those who derailed”.

Tim is right. Many leaders derailed because of lack of self-awareness. If you have experienced or watched train derailment, you know how messy and ugly it is. If we don’t become self-aware and lead from this self-awakened space, we too will experience derailments; if not now, in the future.Considering the importance of self-awareness for our personal, professional, and organizational success, I would like to share with you the following notes from my new book The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks: For continued success in leadership:

“…When we don’t have a holistic self-awareness, we’re kept in the dark. That is why self-discovery should be our first quest in life. Because of its extreme importance and urgency for both emerging and seasoned leaders, I have placed this building block at the front of the framework. I wanted you to have a better chance of success by asking some of the toughest questions about yourself and getting answers at the early stage of your leadership. There shouldn’t be any agenda for any leader to address before this grand quest. If you do so, you will save yourself from so many guesses, mistakes, confusions, and also propel yourself forward faster. Most importantly, you lead your people and organization while your eyes are ‘wide open’, and in turn rescue them from many troubles and stumbling. Take a couple of minutes and make a quick audit. Ask some of the basic self-awareness questions such as:

  • Do I know myself well?
  • Am I comfortable in my own skin?
  • Do I know my surroundings well?

However, ‘holistic self-awareness’ comes when you answer critical self-awareness questions such as:

  • Who you really are?
  • From where you have come from?
  • What you should do with your life now?
  • Where you are heading from here?

On top of these, a complete self-awareness process includes awareness about your relative spot in relation to:

  • Other people,
  • The environment,
  • The universe,
  • Your Source, plus
  • The understanding concerning what is going on around you, regionally, and globally.

Many people don’t think that they should have self-awareness about many aspects of their life, the environment, and issues that have regional and global implications.

Several people think that in depth self-awareness with the scope discussed above is for certain professionals like psychologists and psychiatrists. They also assume that biologists, environmentalists, and archeologists are the ones who should invest their time and resources to know about other creatures and the environment. A lot of people leave the issue of the universe and their Source to Cosmologists and Astrologists, and Theologians, respectively.

Many also think that unless they are politicians or businessmen or consultants, they don’t need to care about issues that aren’t local, issues that don’t affect them immediately. And therefore, they don’t want to invest time to have a broader awareness regionally and globally. Such individuals ignore the fact that a comprehensive self-awareness requires:

  • To understand how the different aspects of our being function and collaborate
  • To appreciate the environment around us that nurtures us every day, and also our roles to pay back and enhance the sustainability of the environment
  • To recognize that each one of us has a unique spot in this harmonious and self-sustaining universe, and the need to find our spot and flow with the grand purpose of the universe
  • To acknowledge that, in this highly globalized world of the 21st C, whatever happens globally affects us locally
  • To know that we are as valuable and capable as our Source

Living life while un-awakened is one of the pettiest things in this world. Of course, when you awaken, you may not like what you discover. You may be surprised to learn that you harbored so many unproductive and wrong beliefs, lofty self-perceptions, weaknesses, shortcomings, and so on that have been sabotaging your progress and success.

But still, it is better to discover these inadequacies and flaws that have kept us at bay from making progress toward our destiny. “Understanding the problem is half the solution.” You may also discover your blind spots and breaking points. Knowing the latter enables you to refuse people and circumstances from using them to force you say or do things you don’t believe. We will discuss this more when we cover the interrelationship between Self-awareness and Persistence.

At this point, the most important point you should understand is the fact that holistic self-awareness requires understanding the fundamental truths that govern the most important aspects of your life including your environment, the universe, your Source, and what is going on around you regionally and globally. Once you encounter and embody the most important truths that govern the most essential aspects of life, you will be transformed from being a mere human to a ‘god’.

This journey finally leads you to become one with the truth at the end of the day. Of course, reaching this level of awareness doesn’t mean that you don’t face human experiences. It doesn’t mean also that you know the answer to every question in life. But being in the side of the Truth enables you to trust that everything is going to be fine. When you’re in this state, you just do what you can based on the truth you have uncovered, one day at a time. The good thing is, once you’re on this journey you begin to let go of worries and fears, and start to live each moment joyfully and thankfully…”

Excerpt from The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks book (Taken from Page 9 – 10).

To learn more about the book check out this link:

Visionary Lifestyle

Vision-LedThe term vision is a household name and almost everyone claims having one. However, it has been confused with other terms that cannot fully express its true meaning. People confuse vision with fantasy, and trance. Some people have also difficulty to differentiate between vision, mission, motto, and goal. Unlike vision, fantasy is daydreaming and you don’t make yourself accountable for its realization. You don’t have control or say when you pass through trance because you’re influenced externally. In case of vision, you are the author of your vision, and have the control and the one who initiates it.


Mission is the reason of your existence while vision is seeing the accomplishment of it. Motto is a concise expression of who you are, for what you stand for, and what you deliver. Goal is specific and measurable. If you say, I would like to generate fifty thousand dollars next year; it is a short-term goal. It is specific and once you generate the money, it is over. On the other hand, vision is the abstract of your future and you don’t change it frequently.


Many dictionaries briefly define vision as a picture we see in our mind. Let me give you a more elaborate definition: The abstract of the whole journey that will be used as a roadmap from where we are now, to navigate through, and finally reach our destiny. It is about the mental image of who we would become at the end of the day, and the legacy we leave behind.


We may have mini visions for the various aspects of our lives: family, school, career, business, and so on. However, here we are talking about our lifetime vision and the vision of our organization. You should also note that your mini-visions should align with the umbrella vision, the big picture.


There are lots of advantages you may enjoy when you lead a visionary lifestyle. To enjoy these benefits, you should overcome the challenges that may prevent you from living a visionary lifestyle. You should also assess your progress on a consistent basis, and use some tools that may help you lead this kind of lifestyle.


If you’re interested, I have produced four Episodes on Visionary Lifestyle via ESAT TV and Radio- THE Show (The Hour of Empowerment Show). The first Episode was released last Friday. Here is the link to watch Episode 1:


The coming three Episodes provide Reality Checks, Self-Measurements, Tools, and Interview that are very helpful as you work on your personal and corporate vision. They will be released in the coming three weeks. You may visit this link to watch the three Episodes on Visionary Lifestyle when they are released:

The above notes are taken from my book entitled “The 9 cardinal building blocks for continued success in leadership”, which will soon be published. We will notify you as soon as the book is out. Chapter two of the book covers the second cardinal building block- Imagination, more specifically visioning. It provides insights, the benefits you may enjoy, the challenges that may deny you from benefiting from a visionary lifestyle, reality checks, assessments, tools, process, steps, assignments, group discussions, and more.  Stay tuned…