The unwavering pursuit of boldness

I define boldness as deliberate resistance to micro and macro-aggression by resolutely sticking to one’s guns when accosted to do wrong, and being driven by a visionary outlook. 

Doing anything to the contrary would amount to unimaginable dereliction of duty. Hence, the need to have nuanced constructive conversations on the need to make bold strokes in our quest to address explosive issues.

Associated with boldness is courageousness. Words loaded with massive virtue and positivity. Oftentimes when we reflect on these qualities, we visualise a famished lioness on a hunting spree. No animal would be too big for this ‘midget’. Despite its modest height, the measly lioness would confidently lunge at elephants. For a relished nibble, the daring lioness would gladly step out of its comfort zone.

We draw two lessons from a lioness. It behooves us to avoid placing imaginary plateaus over our heads. This can only constrain our ambition and potential. Two; since lionesses don’t bear domestic cats, we need to be careful that when we occupy senior positions, we groom courageous and visionary direct reports, not timid but deceptive weasels who thrive in knowing that they’re not upsetting the status quo.  We don’t have to look too far to discern the folly of attempting to groom domestic cats to be lions. In corporate and other environments that are close to our heart, the world is replete with examples of poorly executed succession planning. Where the major imperatives for anointing successors is not so much their strategic and visionary outlook but unconditional no holds barred friendship and blind loyalty to the incumbent or his boss. When ineptitude and mediocrity hold sway, it is natural to appoint someone who would slumber on the job to succeed us. In a corporate setting, this would be a great disservice to the company and its critical stakeholders. This principle can be stretched to other settings close to our heart.

We should uphold that which is morally upright and stay true to the dictates of our undefiled conscience. Grounded on principle, bold officers would go out on a limb and resist being coaxed into unfairly allocating state-owned land to bullyish and recalcitrant people. They’ll refuse to succumb to covert and overt abuse of authority. They’d resist abetting constructive fraud by declining to award government bursaries to undeserving people with a smug and superior attitude, individuals whose only claim to privilege is their last name and their position, choosing instead, to flip the narrative that the high and mighty always deserve the best.

HR personnel would have the grit to be louder and prouder in saying no when coerced into offering employment to well-connected but unqualified individuals. Compromised prosecutors would climb-down from their unvirtuous position, deprogram and reprogram themselves, fully appreciate their vanguard role in plugging the lacuna in the equitable execution of justice and sound a death knell on all forms of injustice. They will resist the kid-glove approach to treating loaded criminals. Like the American jurist, Justice Scalia said, “You can’t ride with the cops and root for the robbers!” We shouldn’t assist unprincipled privileged individuals in fecklessly accelerating their abominable agenda of trampling on the rights of the underprivileged.

Avant-garde courageous journalists would be unbiased in their reporting and not leave it to fearless lawyers to unearth rot. A case in point is a Swati journalist named Zweli Dlamini. A fearless critic of King Mswati. No doubt, constipated with fury, Dlamini stoutheartedly asserted, “The King through his lawyers demanded that this publication should…give him three days to respond before publishing about him. The King…thinks he can…hire lawyers and intimidate us. We will continue publishing critical articles without fear…I won’t be dictated by the King’s lawyers to wait three days when seeking responses on stories involving the King. It’s within my discretion as the editor to determine a reasonable time. A reasonable time is determined by the nature and urgency of the article.” Extraordinary steamrolling boldness!

Boldness demands that the spirit of setting BHAGs; Big Hairy Audacious Goals, should be encouraged in corporate settings. First intimated in 1994 by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book entitled “Built to Last, Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” BHAGs are described as, “Long-term goals that challenge the very nature of what is possible.”

BHAGs can stretch into decades, have a targeted completion date, challenge complacency and motivate companies to transition from low-hanging tropospheric goals to seemingly unreachable magnetospheric ones. Daniel Burnham, a 19th century American architect advised, “Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood… Make big plans, aim high in hope and work.” The frequent power cuts in Gaborone, typically malfunctional traffic lights and innumerable outlandish pothole-infested roads make one wonder what BHAGs, if any, did the relevant state organs set for themselves a decade or more ago.

To avoid the plateauing of output, excellence and revenue generation, progressive companies set strategic, bold and powerful BHAGs and set in motion a practical system towards achieving such goals. At least three decades ago, Microsoft set this BHAG; “To have a computer on every desk and every home.” Upon review of performance, the company’s co-founder, William Henry Gates said, “It’s been amazing to see so much of that dream become a reality.”

John F. Kennedy achieved his BHAG posthumously. In 1962, seven years before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, JFK spiritedly delivered his, “We shall send the man to the moon” speech. He said, “We choose to go to the moon…in this decade and do…other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, …that challenge is…one we are unwilling to postpone.” This BHAG was achieved just under six years after JFK’s assassination.

BHAGs have been achieved by ordinary people fired up with extraordinary enthusiasm, ambition and determination. You and I can achieve the same if we pursue boldness.

Editor's Comment
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