Of leadership dinosaurs

“He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only talking a walk.”

So you think you are important. You hold proprietary rights and access to a service, market or resource. Then the environment morphs, and suddenly you find yourself the captain of a rapidly sinking vessel. What do you do, plug the gaping hole or swim to safety?

In leadership, parallels exist all over the world. An interesting parallel that is to explore is that of Kodak and Telkom Kenya. How, do you ask are the two related? One deals with anything photography while the other is in everything to do with telecommunications. Yet both have had the similar genesis and destiny. They failed to have the vision.

Note that they had ‘a’ vision, but they failed to concentrate on what would make them great, ‘the’ vision. Both companies had all the experience and necessary infrastructure to beat their competitors hands down. They were miles ahead in experience, connections, and coverage. At the time, they hardly had any competitors of notable worth.

Reuters broke the news about Kodak’s woes thus, “Eastman Kodak Co, the photography icon that invented the hand-held camera, has filed for bankruptcy protection and plans to shrink significantly, capping a prolonged plunge for one of America’s best-known companies…one of the biggest corporate casualties of the digital age, after it failed to quickly embrace more modern technologies such as the digital camera–ironically, a product it invented”.

Back in 1999, Telkom Kenya was formed after its government-owned parent corporation was split up. The telecommunications company has until a year ago been Kenya’s sole fixed-line telephone provider. In 2008, France’s Orange Telkom invested a majority stake in the company now known as Orange Telkom, or is it Telkom Kenya Orange? A visit to their webpages leaves one confused [www.orange-tkl.co.ke and/or http://www.orange.co.ke]. Despite these changes, the services provided are appalling to say the least.

Like Kodak, Orange Telkom may slowly be working itself into oblivion. The only market player at one time, the company is now playing third fiddle, its market share just above 10 per cent. Customer-care is virtually non-existent. The copper wire connections consistently break down. Re-connections and new connections to the network are painfully slow and tedious to execute; multiple visits to the dentist would be deemed highly preferable.

“Orange is the only integrated telecommunications solutions provider operating in Kenya…mobile telephony services under the GSM and CDMA platforms, fixed line telephone services and internet services…” is emblazoned on the company’s website.

In June 2011, the company had about 2.8 million subscribers on GSM, fixed and CDMA wireless platforms. However, between July and September of the same year, the total voice traffic was about 67 million minutes on the fixed line network. The previous quarter was 103 million minutes, a 28 per cent slump!

This is not a company that can afford any comfort in complacency. Yet, it provides us valuable lessons on leadership. A leader cares, adapts, and delivers on their promise. Leadership is visionary, it takes people where others can only dream of. Visionary leadership is gilded with ‘audacity of hope’.

Are you a leader? What are you doing today to give others hope of a better tomorrow?

“Dinosaurs dominant in the past, their present value is museum fees. Learn from past, act in future; be relevant.” #mythink

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