Date Archives October 2019

Power Distance and Culture

Two weeks ago I did a Facebook Live post where I talked about leadership. I made reference to the tendency of certain kinds of leaders to try to control their followers by exerting unnecessary force, threatening them or being verbally abusive or intimidating. My position was that a leader need not try to prove that he is a leader for his “followers” to respect him. He needs not prove that he is superior to his follower if he really is. And in my opinion a leader is not necessarily chosen because he is better than all his followers in all aspects of life. A leader needs to know that and take advantage of the reasources he has within his team to make the betst of his organization. He must be humble enought to enquire (sounds like Edgar Schein’s book).

After I shared this video on my Facebook page, my boss drew my attention to another video where Malcom Gladwell, the writer of the book, Outliers gave a talk in a church about Power Distance. It was an intriguing discussion because he started the discussion with a particular plane crash and went step by step through a series of events that led up to the plan crash. He then settled on the conversation that ensued during the last moments of the plane being airborne as was captured by the black box. That conversation revealed the real reason the simple problems could not be solved quickly enough: communication.

The Asst. Pilot was not communicating clearly that there was an emergency and that lives were at stake. In talking to the control tower, he was using mitigation in his speech and the control tower perceived it as if he was saying things were fine. He didn’t want to sound demanding or commanding and this ended up ending people’s lives. Gladwell alluded to the fact that this Power Distance problem also showed up as an issue of culture. In some cultures, people are more likely to defer to authority than in others. What struck me really was the dire consequences of something so trivial.

I think any leader who wants to hear the truth from his “followers”, really inspire people and be remembered not regretted needs to reduce that so called Power Distance between himself and the people. I believe the onus lies largely on the leader to change the culture and create the enabling environment for authentic followership. As we have seen, the effects are significant. What do you think?

60 Million Ghana Cedis in Your Face

Last Friday we heard the sad news of a collision between a bullion van and a trailer in Techiman, Ghana which killed the trailer driver and spilled a significant portion of 60 million ghana cedis on the motorway. The story has it that instead of making efforts to help the wounded, quite a number of people rather helped themselves to the free money that had suddenly flown into their space without any any effort made on their part to make it happen. The question is, if you were there, would you have taken your share of the money? Would you have justified it as mob action?

Come to think of it back in the day, one could hear the “testimony” of someone who had picked up a small sum of money that someone else had lost at a public place. As far as he was concerned, it was God making a way for the finder. Well, we could argue about that in several directions but what makes it wrong to pick spilled cash from a bullion van if one can pick lost money and claim it is a miracle. The point here is, what would you do under the same circumstances?

We can stretch this thinking to other scenarios. We have recently had some bruhaha over the Comprehensive Sexual Education content design by global organisations to deploy in Ghana and maybe other African nations. The decision as to whether or not to adopt this content now lies on the current government and maybe the next. As much as we are quick to discuss these matters in our homes and other fora, I also like to ask, If I were the president of a nation, what kind of pressures would be on me to accept such content and what would my decision be? How would I communicate my decision to the nation and to the rest of the world who may perceive my disposition as being intolerant or archaic? These are the questions on my mind this morning.

I think that the decisions we will take in the face of such dilemmas are determined by what we do now to form our character and shape our values ahead of time. The values we imbibe when we are not yet faced with complex decisions will help determine how we take those decisions. It is obvious by now that coming into contact with large amounts of money or a significant position suddenly can easily change a person depending on how strong that person’s values are. So before we discuss others and their decisions in their circumstances, we need to examine ourselves, realise we are possibly going to be exposed to similar temptations and then take our position firmly before the time comes.