By Assegid Habtewold
When I woke up this morning, I was over joyous to find some colorful pictures on Facebook, which were taken from Bahir Dar, one of the beautiful cities of Ethiopia. I’d been there a couple of times with wonderful memories.
The majestic display of solidarity with Dr. Abiy by the people of Bahir Dar clearly shows that the new Prime Minister has a broader political support well beyond the capital city Addis and his own base in Oromia regional state.
Finally, the truth prevailed after being tampered for over a quarter of a century. It was suppressed, distorted, and manipulated by a few. However, as always, no one individual or group or power- flesh or spirit- on this planet could defeat the truth forever. Hate, division, corruption, nepotism, injustice, and cruelty have no place in the country that loves and serves the Might One and its innocent people of Ethiopia!
The hour has finally come to the nation to reignite its unity of purpose, forgive past transgressions, embrace diversity, and fasten its belt to rebuild the nation. A nation cannot attain its greatness by over-depending on the goodwill of its leaders and people, its golden laws, flawless institutions, up-to-the-minute technologies alone. No society has attained greatness (civilization) without empowering its people.
We’ve now a leader who has done his homework and developed his personal, professional, and leadership capacity. By the way, many people are mistaken thus far thinking that he just got lucky. They assume innocently that he was at the right time and right place to assume the PM office. They LOVE, and even some began worshipping him, forgetting that he is just a man like everyone else except that he has done his part and with help from God and his comrades, he found himself taking this historic responsibility at this juncture in the history of the nation.
There is a very powerful saying: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!” He was ready for the office a long time ago and proactively invested his time, energy in preparing himself to serve. When the opportunity arose, he was the right fit. Thus, admiring Abiy but not willing to do what he did to get here is not honoring and helping him at all. One man cannot do anything meaningful and sustainable for over 100 million people.
His jam-packed unlimited potential, beautiful dreams, and golden intentions cannot be realized fully without people ready to play key roles in executing these outstanding intentions. Yes, the public bought into his vision, great! The next challenge is can the public raise the bar high, make some tough changes (in mindset, attitude, personality, and character), regroup, show some commitment to grow individually and collectively to shoulder the responsibilities it take to transform this nation, make a sustainable reform, and attain an enduring change that benefits this and generations to come? This vital question is timely and must be answered adequately…
Remember this. We have a well-educated workforce, I’d say, at least, like every other African country. We don’t lack those who fulfill their technical responsibilities. We have hardworking and disciplined professionals and leaders. But, that is not enough considering the depth of challenges and the complexity of the problems that exist in current Ethiopia. As Abiy once said, there is no difference between the illiterate, and the educated but not well-read intellectual. In my book ‘Soft Skills That Make or Break Your Success’, I cited some statistics that clearly show that the lion’s share of success comes from soft skills like mindset, attitude, effective communication, the ability to negotiate, coach, mentor, and lead change smoothly and smartly, and so on than mere technical know-how.
Like you, I’m very hopeful that my native country would make it to the other side of change successfully. Though I’m away, like other Ethiopians in the Diaspora, I pray on a daily basis and wish for my country the best. If opportunities arise, I’d love to serve in the areas of my expertise to transfer the knowledge and experience I’ve gathered here in the US in the past more than 13 years as a leadership, soft skills, and Project Management expert working for some government agencies, major corporations, and community organizations.
However, the heavy lifting is on leaders at all levels and each sector back home in Ethiopia. The magnitude of reforms the country needs to reform the culture that enables to defeat poverty, create strong democratic institutions, compete regionally and globally, and so on needs competent and holistically grown leaders both in their technical and soft skills abilities. I don’t think that we have any difficulties when it comes to the former. We have excessive technical professionals not only serve with excellence in Ethiopia but also around the world and even some working in world-class organizations. What is lacking is the leadership capacity of those who are in leadership positions.
Leadership isn’t all about talking, guiding, and ordering people to do certain tasks. This kind of leadership doesn’t succeed in the 21st C. Our leaders should change their mindset, attitude, and develop certain soft skills and leadership attributes to take us to the next level. As the saying goes: “We cannot put new wine into old wineskin”. The old way of thinking and doing brought us this far. It cannot take us to the future Abiy has seen. I just remembered what Albert Einstein once said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” New vision requires new thinking, standards, principles, and values.
That is why I humbly suggest that the nation should turn her focus from now on in investing on the organizational and leadership capacity of the nation at all levels and in every sector. As the saying goes: “Leadership makes or breaks”. No country has ever taken itself any higher than its collective leadership and Ethiopia isn’t exceptional.
The goodwill of Abiy, his servant leadership, caring and loving personality, his beautiful words, wisdom, and solid character need the backing of his team at all levels to translate his vision into realities. Unless the thousands of leaders around the country have the mindset, attitude, personality, and character the new Prime Minister has, chances are high that Ethiopia may not enter into her Promised Land at all and she may not also claim her glorious destiny that has been delayed for centuries.
If you ask me the toughest challenge Abiy and the country yet to face at this point isn’t disarming the status quo maintainers peacefully. That is almost done. The real and tough task ahead is to take the change process to the next level and achieving some concrete results to address the old age chronic socio-economic and political challenges the country has been facing for so long.
Unless the new administration (from top to bottom) has the organizational and leadership capacity to match the excitement and the over joyous spirit of the mass, frustration and helplessness may set in soon. The country may backslide to where she was unless the promises are translated into tangible fruits and the vision into realities quickly. Unfortunately, these demand capable leaders at all levels with the right mindset, attitude, discipline, personality, and character that we see in the new Prime Minister and his comrades. Pure zeal, formal education, mere experience, and the willingness to serve are not enough.