Gen Francis Ogolla: How power of humility delivers transformative leadership

Chief of the Defence Forces General Francis Ogolla

Former Chief of Defence Forces the late General Francis Ogolla.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

As the country mourns the Chief of Defence Forces of Kenya, General Francis Ogolla, who died in a helicopter crash that killed nine other officers and soldiers, the scene will forever remain etched in our minds.

The news saddened citizens and non-citizens beyond our borders. But what is worth noting is how both the nation and family respected his wishes that he be laid to rest within 72 hours of passing on.

This was the amazing precision and intentionality with which he had lived his life and served his country. And what came out of this is the ‘The Power of Humility in Leadership’.

As a leadership development practitioner, I have followed these events and, in my view, the past few days should be celebrated as a “National Leadership Moment” and should be used to raise our leadership practices to the next level given the deep lessons from General Ogolla.

From a leadership perspective, I noticed two keywords that repeatedly described the General's life: Humility and Integrity.

In this short discourse, I choose to delve into the subject of Humility, an underrated yet powerful and essential leadership competency.

Many thought leaders have suggested that humility is an essential leadership competency although this position elicits some level of debate due to the conventional thinking that suggests that it is also a sign of weakness.

I would like to suggest that this contrarian view is normally driven by a lack of understanding of this virtue.

In 2012, Jim Collins published a riveting leadership paper in the Harvard Business Review titled Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. In the paper which he undertook between 1996 and 2001 to answer a simple research question: What catapults a company from being simply good to being great?

He discovered that many companies become great because of their transformative leaders who possess “a paradoxical mixture of personal humility and professional will.”

Collins suggested four key characteristics of Level 5 leaders: Firstly, they demonstrate a compelling modesty.

Secondly, they act with a quiet calm determination relying principally on inspired standards to motivate their people. Thirdly, they channel ambition into their organisations not to themselves and set up successors for even more greatness. Finally, they look into the mirror and not out of the window when apportioning responsibility for poor results.

Reflecting on the great General Ogolla’s life, I can confidently assert that the virtue of humility was firmly lodged in his heart. I also assert that he was certainly a level 5 leader worth emulating.

If this leadership moment is taken seriously, we shall unleash the enormous potential that will propel our country to greatness. May Gen Ogolla’s soul rest in eternal peace.

Dr Mwangi is the Executive Dean at Strathmore University Business School.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.