HARARE – “I have never been in an accident of any sort worth speaking about… nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort… I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder… modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.”
These words were said by one highly successful ship captain in 1907; his name was captain Edward Smith.
This is the man, who on the April 15, 1912 was steering the Titanic, the largest water monster to have been assembled to that time.
When one of the greatest marine disasters of all time occurred, the most experienced and overconfident captain was behind it.
One wonders how on earth the most competent, intelligent and experienced leaders falter dismally in the face of a crisis?
One would be forgiven for insinuating or thinking that this is exactly where we are as a country where we are overconfident of ourselves to the point of ignoring the basics — basics of economics, basics of politics, basics of health and basics of social order.
The Titanic was built of the latest technology of the time and it was the largest ship that had been made to that date.
It was practically unsinkable; having been designed to withstand the nastiest dangers of the sea.
Regrettably, the unsinkable went under because of an iceberg – how the mighty sometimes fall, at the expense of the insignificant.
The best brains and resources in a crisis do not amount to much at times.
The best Finance minister in a country without money cannot produce financial miracles unless some radical measures of a cost cutting measure are agreed upon and applied firstly from the top coming downwards.
The rightful leadership mindset and attitude is demanded forthwith to be in a position to circumvent the crisis.
It becomes critical to have eyes that see and ears that are on the ground. It becomes a necessity to walk the talk and not overpromise without subsequently delivering in line with the promise.
The era of promises is past; the one before us demands delivery on the promises.
Holding to the fact that you have done so well (is it badly) in the past is no guarantee that the impending crisis can be averted.
Past accolades have no capacity of winning the present contest.
The country is presently going through a crisis or probably a disaster is brewing.
The most logical thing to do under the circumstances is to swallow one’s pride on the part of any leader who is worth their salt and forge ahead in a manner that generates the greatest good to the greatest number of people.
Normally we cannot readily predict when a catastrophe is about to happen though in many instances, the tale-tale signs are always there.
In the case of the Titanic, everyone was so confident in their own projections concerning the ship and the competent captain.
Nothing had the power to sink it, with some blasphemous statements to the effect that “even God could not sink it.”
Never take God for granted. In our context as a nation, the president has assembled a team of supposedly competent and intelligent cadres geared at taking the country out of the doldrums that it is in.
Alarm bells raised from different quarters should never be ignored.
People without positions have a knack of seeing things in a better way than those who are in power. The person who faces the ever increasing prices of the past two weeks doesn’t stay at State House but in the potholed streets of Rimuka, Magwegwe and Sakubva.
The signs of the times before us should never be ignored.
The year 2008 is still vivid in most people’s minds and the possibility of sliding back to a similar precipice is very possible.
The majority will quickly want to rub off such a possibility though and wear some brave faces of denying reality; but as long as the ship is not stirred in the right direction, such a likelihood is only a matter of time before it manifests itself.
When Zimbabwe recorded one of the highest inflation rates in the world, the Cabinet was comprised of experts and pundits who held high powered degrees- one wonders whether these papers are helping us.
The new political dispensation might as well fail to rise to the occasion and probably be worse off; arising from repeating the same mistakes and somehow expecting a different result. Like the Titanic Captain, there is an increased likelihood of thinking that there is no way we can ever go down, only upwards.
The Titanic was the unsinkable but it sunk as a result of the iceberg effect. The issue of foreign currency might turn out to be the iceberg in our case that can totally destroy the Zimbabwean Captain and his crew. Because the iceberg was ignored as a minor obstacle, it ended up being the cause of the catastrophe.
The Titanic crew never planned for any evacuation because in their minds, failure was not an option (one is reminded of a former governor who would declare on top of his voice how failure was never an option yet he failed one outing after another). Sound leadership has it that if anything could go wrong, it will.
The Monetary Policy came and we are living in the after effects of the policy; a sound leadership in the crisis would readily act under the circumstances instead of worrying about election losers who are waiting for another opportunity after five years.
Failing to act and pointing fingers at detractors who do not even exist is never going to take this great country forward.
The current economic crisis demands a leadership that responds fast.
These are the type of people who make decisions on the run; leaders who drive initiatives rapidly. These are the men and women who are so effective on the go that they do not spend most of their time and energy in conferences analysing reports to the very detriment of the constituencies they represent.
Time should never be spent on devising brilliant strategies on paper that do not convert to tangible results on the ground. Improving processes and structures is good; thinking of modern day technologies and acquiring such is paramount but above all, there is urgent need for action in the right direction.
Believing one’s own story that you are unsinkable won’t generate the results that are required. Seizing the urgency of the moment is demanded rather than the firefighting mode the country is living to contend with every day.
It has been said that when you see a snake in the home, kill it. Don’t appoint a commission of enquiry on snakes or come up with a Cabinet committee to deal with snake affairs.
Neither should you even try to find out who the owner of the snake is.
In the world of leadership, and in a time of crisis, the chances of history repeating itself are high. The best and most logical thing to do under a crisis is to attend to shifts that demand radical policy change.
The dangers hiding below should never be ignored. What appears to be a mere iceberg in the form of a two cents per dollar tax or ignoring the plight of the majority could turn out to be catastrophic. The words of Mohammed Ali reign supreme in this regard when he said; “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
Failure in leadership or the strength of such becomes the greatest determinant on whether the entity remains afloat or it sinks. The centre can either hold or it crumbles. There are times when impressive strategy doesn’t work; the key issue lie in the rightful action one step at a time.
At the end of it all, the leadership law of legacy should be considered; there is need to make decisions with a lasting impact on everything and everyone. What befell the Titanic is a result of leaders at all levels failing to align and mobilize people during the crisis itself.
Today, as a country, in our businesses and every establishment (the church included), we are faced with turbulence and catastrophic situations, the speed and responsiveness with which the leaders execute on daily tasks will carry the day.
In all the cases, the small, often unnoticed actions and attitudes of each cadre cumulatively add to real progress and prosperity or total demise of an entity. Exactly twelve months ago, some didn’t make it as they sunk into political oblivion because of failure to attend to the basic fundamentals of leadership in the form of the small things that matter much.