Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Leadership? What Leadership?

I take time to reflect on my life occassionaly. Given my background (which I would not disclose here, but if you think I am one of those kids who grew up in Oysterbay and Masaki you have dialed the wrong digits), I am very thankful for God’s amazing love and grace. I have been places that I never imagined I would. I have accomplished things I never thought I could, given my background (if I had to follow the prevalent mindset in Bongoland).

Of all the things that I am thankful for is the opportunity to obtain both the Tanzanian (technically sound) and American (critical thinking rich) education. That is a lethal combination. I guess that’s why folks in Tanzania who have never experience this tend to assume that their colleagues educated in the West are just a boastful bunch. I just wish they could listen and learn. I am glad the western education enables me to think “outside the box”. Honestly, I think I was “smart” even before I came to the United States, but I wasn’t able to put issues in their proper context. I wasn’t a critical thinker then.

I believe critical thinking is a struggle among many educated folks in Tanzania. Obviously, they have nailed hardcore, technical stuff down, but once you take them outside that comfort zone, you only get disappointment. A good example is how someone with a doctorate could not give a very good logical rationale for squashing dual citizenship. You know why Dr. Msoka, for instance, made a booboo? There weren’t any chapters to memorize on the dual citizenship thing, just common sense and critical thinking. And he failed on that.

As hard as I try to deny it, I think I am a sports fanatic. May be it is the art involved in sports or just the raw athleticism. I mean what is better than watching a 5’9” tall person like Nate Robinson of New York Knicks block a shot on a super tall player like Yao Ming?. That’s crazy stuff that makes sports fun – at least from my perspective.

I have been away from Tanzania for quite sometimes, but I still follow-up on what Simba and Yanga are doing. I guess that is partly because I was a fan of one of the teams. Or partly because I love sports, period, and I would really love for Tanzania to make meaningful strides.

Not surprisingly then, the news that the recently “hired” Simba’s Brazilian coach – Nielsen Elias – has quit coaching the club , caught my attention. In reading the reasons for his departure, the coach sighted lack of serious and quality leadership in the club. Was it surprising that the coach left? Not to me. The likes of Patrick Phiri and Jamhuri Kiwhelo have seen the wrath of bad management in that club.

See, I am firm believer in that you only accomplish what you have envisioned. I know sometimes we exceed our expectations, but for the most part you can’t pursue goals that are beyond your mental horizon. Bringing that down to Simba and Yanga, it is apparent that the vision that these two clubs have is just overly narrow. It appears that these two clubs – in the minds of their members – exist for a sole purpose of whooping each other. A Simba’s coach, for instance, who manages to make the team the league’s champions but losing to Yanga in both games of the season would likely end up being fired. Success, in the minds of Simba or Yanga fans is to avoid ridicule from the other team. And that is very narrow of a vision, given there are even more lucractive continental tournaments that the clubs should focus on.

I wish the Mwananchi newspaper were keeping prior copies of their stories, I could have linked you to the original story ran by the newspaper on the Brazilian’s departure. In a nutshell, the Brazilian contended that Simba is a bigger club beyond the ability of current leaders to manage.

Did you hear that?

Obviously, the Brazilian didn’t elaborate on what he meant by the “bigness’ of the club. Nonetheless, that does not stop us from presuming that he was making a reference to the club’s size in terms of the number of fans, which equates to popularity. The club’s popularity comes with other potential positives, such as being potentially being a marketing magnet. I have addressed this before.

The problem of leadership, as you might have guessed goes beyond Simba and Yanga.

I really struggle with the core reason for lack of quality leadership in almost every aspect of life in Tanzania. May be the simplest explanation is that the majority of Tanzanians are ignorant. Given that leaders are typically generated from this pool of ignorant members, it is now wonder we end up with less effective leaders. While that could be a very tempting explanation, I will go beyond that and contend that leaders are visionaries who are able to lift societies beyond the minimal expectations. Leadership is about leaving a wonderful legacy and not simply conforming to the status quo. It requires courage to test the uncharted waters.

I can clearly understand the Brazilian’s frustration with the Simba’s leadership. It is rare to find a Tanzanian who is gunning for the next level. The poor guy came in expecting that Simba’s leadership to have a clear understanding of what they wanted to accomplish, only to realize that it is zimamoto and bora liende type of environment. The poor Brazilian found out that Simba’s (just like Yanga’s) leaders are not thinking of building a 21st century club.

Did I tell you that my brother just moved from Tanzania recently? Well, I am learning a lot. Through our conversations, I am learning how the Tanzanian thinking – which is mainly centered on the impossibilities rather than possibilities – is killing Tanzanians. It is like every citizen is paralyzed and none of them is daring to think outside the box. I am also getting a sense that the Tanzania education is not geared towards equipping people with the ability to solve practical things and put issues in their proper context, but centered on theories and “big things” that don’t have practical application. No wonder you have PhD holders who can’t think in practical terms.

It gives you the impresssion that talking in practical terms in Tanzania is not regarded as "intellectual" enough.

As sad as it is, the reality is that we aren’t going anywhere unless we learn how to identify and groom leaders who can formulate and carry out a vision. This Simba case is just a tip of the iceberg. The truth is that we are in deep trouble as a society. And that scares me.
Photo: Mjengwa


Mbwana said...

I presume you don't think you're leadership material? You give a hint as though you may be uniquely qualified. Seriously. It seems that the kind of leader we seek is someone with the perfect balance of external "rich education" with the critical thinking vs "in touch with locals" to get buy-in. Is it too much to ask?

Jaduong Metty said...

I didn't preclude myself as a leadership material. Nonetheless, I am not "actively" participating in running the show in Tanzania. As such, my assessment is on those who are reigning.

I think you nailed it head on - the type of leaders Tanzania needs are those that are well equipped. As simple as the notion seems, it has been extremely difficult to achieve that in Tanzania.

Nonetheless, I am hopeful that we will, as a society, wake up from this slumber.

Hiza said...

“zimamoto and bora liende type of environment” very interesting!

Leadership requires creativity, devotion to principle, vision, and entrepreneurship. People who possess these traits should be chosen to lead organizations.

When leaders with well known questionable character take over position or given madaraka by Mr. President, Tanzania celebrate them rather than condemning them. To change some of these stupidities we (Tanzanias) need to speak loud against the president or any particular leadership anayebolonga.

Yanga and Simba will have setback down the road if they don’t change their culture. WE cannot depend on Wafadhili. Disgraceful! Africans leaders hardly operate on principled basis. This also largely explains why it is easy for developed countries to manipulate many African leaders on the basis of carrot-and-stick.

Metty. Still try to put in perspective your comment “I am glad the western education enables me to think “outside the box”. Honestly, I think I was “smart” even before I came to the United States, but I wasn’t able to put issues in their proper context. I wasn’t a critical thinker then.”

Do u mean being a good critical thinker you have to be educated from western countries?

Anonymous said...

metty why would one think you grew up in oysterbay,i diagnose a psychiatric disorder in offense meant,see a psychiatrist or at least a psychologist,you are sick brother!

Patrick GK said...


While I would generally concur with your observations I wish to point out that the learned Dr. Colman Msoka got his Ph.D from the University of Minnessota a couple of years ago, this goes to show you that a western education can only go so far, or maybe there are other factors that one needs to consider in assessing his rather shallow remarks.

Sam GM said...

Metty, I think it is about time that our football fans look beyond Simba and Yanga. These two clubs have been there ever since I can remember but delivered nothing to the country or devoted fans. It is as you have always blogged about that "it is in the mind". To me it is not in the mind of these two clubs that they should aspire to grow beyond uchawi na majungu. There are some good clubs in the world that have grown tremendously and have not been around for as long as Simba and Yanga, simply because they have a vision in mind and a road map on how to realize their goals. It is just plainly ignorance that we seem to be clinging to with our Simba and Yanga.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Hiza & Patrick,
I am talking from a personal experience. I am now for sure that if I had just had my degree from UDSM, for instance, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to horn my thinking skills. I now that because there a plenty of examples to prove that folks educated at UDSM lag behind in the critical thinking area.

Bringing that to the general terms, apparently Patrick just put a huge dent on that theory by pointing out that Dr. Msoka, as an example, received his PhD from Minnesota.

As such, may be just going to class in a western school and absorbing everything from an academic perspective is not enough.

Honestly, this is a challenge that I have to explore some more...

@Anonymous 3:11 AM
Friend, I have absolutely no psychological disorders...I am just pointing out to the fact that not all of us took the Oysterbay path. Is there anything wrong with being raised up in Oysterbay? Absolutely not!

I think you nailed it. The mindset that Simba and Yanga fans and leaders have, is just so narrow. That's why all foreign coaches get frustrated. They oftentime find a mismatch between these clubs' size and the quality of leadership around.

Is TFF any better? Absolutely not! If TFF was any better, they would have charted a new course for soccer in the country, including the type of leaders that are supposed to lead these clubs. It appears to me like TFF has no vision which has trickled down to the club level.