Leadership – Theory vs experience
This is going to be a very interesting one for me this time, because what I saw last week in Egypt made it all real for me. It was a cool thing to see. First off, I have to agree with everyone who has said it is tough being a leader, because if you are even an excellent one and are able to please 99% of your people or your staff, there would always be a 1% you just can’t please. And that is being very optimistic about the 99%. I think it’s more like 50% to 60% from the little I have seen.
Not everything I write about it is from what I read, or what I watch, or what I feel, but it is from what I have experienced. In other words, I write about it because I have walked it a little, or touched it a little, or practiced it a little, or best yet, experienced it a lot. If I ever say anything about leadership, it is from my experience of speaking to the 29 world leaders I have sat down with. But this time, I am going to speak about what one of those leaders did recently, and how it is suddenly making a difference in his country.
Last week, I went to Egypt to speak at a World Youth conference in the coastal city of Sharm El Sheikh. I learned it was the second edition, because of the success of the first edition in 2017, when 3000 youth from across the globe – mostly from Africa and the Arab world converged in Egypt, to share with the world leaders what they wanted to see in the world and in their countries moving forward. This year, 50000 youths attended, from even more countries in Asia and the US as well.
Now, this is the very exciting part. From the invitation of the 5000 youth, to the processing of their applications to attend, to the set up of software, to the back office management of the process [yes, I know what back office management is], to booking the many hotels across Sharm El Sheikh, to arranging the transfers from airport to hotels, buses for the delegates [can you believe they called us delegates], to printing the passes, to making tee shirts, to getting companies in Egypt to sponsor the event, to creating the programs, to the rehearsals and planning who does what, and where, to the props at the conference center, and the lightings in the conference center, to making sure there was food during the rehearsals – EVERYTHING, and I mean everything as I learned from talking to people at the event, was arranged by youths !!!! The only ONE thing adults were in charge of, WAS security – because the President was going to attend.
Now, I am going to pause, to allow you think about what I just said, and to really appreciate what just happened. So, guess what, Egypt is in Africa. They have no gold, they have no oil or diamonds, they have bad traffic like most developing countries, they have social challenges every day, sometimes, the power goes – but they have done something different. Their leaders got out of the way and simply allowed the youths to try their hands at governance, management, and leadership.
And it worked. It worked !!!. The country didn’t collapse, there wasn’t chaos, So, that means youths are not unaware of how things work, they know what they want to see in their countries, and they are eager to try their hands on managing their future.
I have a question. If youths don’t try their hands at leadership and management today, when will they try their hands – when they are much older, and all they have are theoretic experiences?
Maybe that’s not a great way to prepare a country or a continent to compete in the global area.
On the last day of my visit, I sat down with President Abdelfattah El Sisi, and I asked him simply, why did he give the youth so much power to manage such a huge event, when they had no experience?
His answer was just as I had expected, and it was unlike most African leaders – He totally believes in the power of youths, and giving women more roles in governance.
Just like me, he too, was speaking from experience, and not theory. This step by Egypt and her President, can be a good model for the future of Africa, and African leadership.