Leading Change in a Disruptive 21st Century

The month of April 2017, was rather eventful. During the annual conferences of Secondary School Principals, I traversed various county headquarters making presentations on “Career Dynamics in the 21st Century.” Particularly, I travelled to Kisumu, Nyeri, Nakuru, Mombasa, Machakos as well as Embu, eventually reaching out to at least 10 counties. It was indeed amazing addressing principals from far flung counties as Kilifi, Lamu, Nairobi, Trans-Nzoia, Siaya, Migori, Kisii, Bomet, Kiambu and Elgeyo Marakwet.  The same constitute a reasonable representative sample of the country’s leadership, in the education system, don’t they?

During the presentations, it became necessary to break the ice through asking a few questions, essentially seeking to understand whether the principals became teachers by choice or default. Further, it was important to comprehend the proportions of teachers, who are passionate about their present jobs.

Surprisingly, in excess of 90% of the principals in secondary schools revealed that they essentially became teachers by default, whereas a similar percentage indicated that they had no passion for the jobs at hand. Does that explain the genesis of challenges with respect to intrinsic motivation?

In a related occurrence, I was in May 2017 invited to address a forum, which comprised of 300 participants from both public and private universities. These delegates included deans of students, finance officers and student leaders. The same ice breaking questions earlier applied to the principals were also directed to the attentive audience. Ironically, the answers derived were the same, as had been found earlier. In fact, over 90% of the participants ended up in their respective careers by default, rather than choice.

After the presentation, an interesting debate was initiated by a participant, who brought out a remarkable observation, during tea break. “Even if it may be crucial to understand our brain orientations, the environmental influences largely determine our directions in life,” said the participant.

After internalizing his assertions, I invited the discussants to compare the environmental influences with what is known as conditioned reflex.  Indeed, once we become conditioned one way or the other, we will need to be reconditioned each time change happens. That means continued training and re-training based on the frequency of the changed circumstances.  The participant could not agree more with the proposition on brain orientations. But, to understand that better, we may need to re-visit the Pavlov’s dog experiment, learnt during biology lessons in secondary school.

 In his experiment, Pavlov, a Russian dog owner, used a bell as his neutral stimulus. Before feeding his dogs, Pavlov rang the bell first, followed by food provision immediately thereafter. In the process, the dogs started salivating each time the bell was rang. They knew that food was about to arrive therefore preparing their appetite.

Had the time between the conditioned stimulus (bell) and unconditioned stimulus (food) been too great, then the learning would not have occurred. Similarly, it is possible for us human beings to learn something through conditioning our minds.

During our formative years particularly, we are taught how to conform to the known by our parents and teachers. Eventually, we achieve what is commonly referred to as conventional thinking as well as behavior. Our creativity becomes disoriented and we end up becoming logical thinkers. Through this conditioning our natural abilities are suppressed, as we seek to follow the trodden paths.

Alongside,   intrinsic motivation which is aligned to our natural abilities is also killed. People who follow their intrinsic motivation are highly passionate about what they choose to do for a living, be it in formal or informal employment. Work becomes infinite fun as they become creative and easily adaptable to change. Alternatively, they create the change themselves.

Perhaps, we need to delve deeper into the differing scenarios. Stemming creativity could be more pronounced in the African societies compared to others. Could this be in realization that we are associated more with collectivism as opposed to individualism culture?

Collectivist societies are about the “we” concept and tend to influence people to conform to known or predictable behavior. Individualism on the other hand is about the “I” concept and allows people to discover their own paths based on unique personal abilities, as is the case in most of the western world. Individualists are likely to apply themselves to uncharted paths thus leading to creativity and innovation. But, should the societal orientations continue influencing us significantly in today’s globalized circumstances?

In the meantime, any wonder why Bill Gates has been the world’s greatest influence in information technology through Microsoft Corporation. Indeed, the influence has lasted through the 20th and 21st Centuries. Additionally, this ability to continually create change has led Bill Gates to become the world’s richest man for more than 2 decades in a row.

Meanwhile, when intrinsic motivation is killed, extrinsic motivation which is illustrated by way of carrot and stick becomes the order of things. The Carrot and stick approach of motivation is a traditional motivation theory that advocates rewarding people to elicit desired behaviors. Sometimes, the rewards are extended in the form of money, promotions, and any other financial or non-financial benefits. Occasionally, punishment is exerted aiming to push for improved performance. Could this extrinsic motivation be on the edge?

The 21st Century is synonymous with immense opportunities and continued disruption. Those who are properly aligned to their innate abilities easily identify the opportunities and exploit them appropriately. Ironically, the opportunities do not last for long periods, especially due to the influences of globalization, continually advancing technology and forces of competition.  These forces continually present disruptive situations in our lives.

It is no wonder then that most people are in a hurry to grab the opportunities that they encounter, since they may not be sustainable for long. That largely leads to negative activities such as sleaze, greed, nepotism and other malaise that are common in our country. Perhaps, it also becomes clearer why employees will go on strike for lengthy periods, as they push for higher rewards. They are in a hurry to benefit from their efforts.

Conversely, those aligned to their natural abilities continue building on their capacity to perform at their best. Eventually, they end up attracting the desired success. They are also able to continually add value to the marketplace through easily meeting the desired needs. Bill Gates is a living example. Do we each have the capacity to create change and reap the benefits of the same?

Without doubts, we each have, but only if we can align ourselves towards leading change as opposed to striving to follow the trodden paths. In other words, we all need to be open and adaptable to new ideas for us to reap the full benefits of the opportunities continually occurring in the 21st Century or end up becoming victims of the same forces.


How Else Can You Benefit From Us?


  1. An absolutely FREE 15-minute insightful presentation (in Nairobi only) on

(i)The prevailing national and organizational challenges

(ii)The genesis of the challenges and

(Iii) Impact of the challenges

(iv) The respective solutions

The focus of this solution is to introduce (during organizational meetings) the life changing strategy guide titled “Career Dynamics in the 21st Century,” now approved for the school system by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development.

2) A Two Hour seminar titled “Unleashing the Human Performance Potential,” based on the principles advocated in “Career Dynamics in the 21st Century” This is conducted for all employees without any limitation of numbers (fees depends on location). The seminar is already enormously popular in mainstream Churches and learning institutions.

3) A full day seminar titled “Maximum Performance Strategy.” This involves application of the principals advocated in “Career Dynamics in the 21st Century,” through an experiential learning process. The seminar accommodates 20 participants per session ((fees depends on location).


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