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[Exclusive] … Spreading the word …. Networking lessons from the demise of Robert Mugabe

by on March 7, 2018 in Latest News, Lead Article, News you can use, Nuggets

[Exclusive] … Spreading the word ….  Networking lessons from the demise of Robert Mugabe

Social occasions bring many unexpected challenges. Can I eat the canapés without spilling them down my shirt again?

Who is this person in front of me with a strange name? And why is nobody swooning over my fetching trouser suit? I pressed it myself!

They may be further complicated in a business environment where you might have to contend with divisive or dictatorial colleagues. Will she ever shut up? Why do we need to be there each time at eight on the dot? Why was I only on the provisional list? When will this ever end?

And when hosting events, how long should you talk to keep the audience engaged? How sensitive are you to your audience? When hosting networking events, as I do monthly, I speak over the course of the evening but, more than once, I have not bothered with the last leg as people were having such a good time. Who am I to interfere with their fun? After all, I am the least important person in the room. Every speaker should remember that but Robert Mugabe clearly had a terrible memory.

He forgot the simple truth that he was in power to represent all interests not merely his own.

How sensitive was Mugabe to the expectations of his people? Ruling by fear is no way to run any organisation as you simply advertise your weakness. What matters is how you treat the lowest common denominator not the highest. Mugabe surrounded himself with sycophants who agreed with him at every opportunity out of a misguided sense of loyalty. Did he spread love and kindness and any concern for the man on the street? Only accidentally or for the cameras. His high opinion of himself was not shared by anyone outside his inner circle.

The charms of imperfection enable you to demonstrate a more rounded personality. When you do not hide your weakness, you display humility and when you display humility, you learn to listen. Acknowledging your weaknesses invites others to show complementary strengths, unless you suffer from a severe dose of paranoia and consider the state to be your personal fiefdom.

Recognising the qualities of your opponents, even if you disagree with or dislike them personally, is the mark of a leader. Rapport and empathy play their part yet Mugabe dismissed them out of hand.

Mugabe turned Zimbabwe from the bread basket of Africa to the basket case of Africa through breathtaking economic incompetence. Other African potentates have sat in the hot seat with grim records for even longer, such as Biya in Cameroon and Obiang in Equatorial Guinea, but they did not squander the resources and infrastructure that Mugabe inherited in Zimbabwe.

He never offered anything other than a cursory acknowledgement of an alternative view. Those who disagreed were eliminated from the equation. He failed to listen and, consequently, lost all trust.

By contrast, Nelson Mandela showed the virtues of giving without expectation. He led by example and, despite his years of incarceration, demonstrated respect for difference. He was by no means perfect but his demeanour, consideration and sense of fairness always prevailed.

When you give and then give again, you magnetically draw people towards you as they want to share your goodwill. Mandela was also a fine communicator whereas Mugabe was merely in love with the sound of his own voice. Indeed, he was so arrogant he did not even think to groom his successor.

Five lessons that Mugabe ignored:

  1. Don’t marry your secretary; one might kindly describe Mrs M as a gold digger or unkindly as something unprintable. Mugabe lost his grip on reality once she entered the picture.

  2. Listen to your people: your audience is everything.

  3. Vulnerability has many charms. You just want to give it a kiss and cuddle. More than once. The human factor is a vital ingredient for any leader. It encourages a common bond when you see someone at the top of the tree recognising that he or she has the odd flaw too.

4 Even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day. You may hold opinions that conflict with others but you should recognise that occasionally your interests may, in fact, be completely aligned.

5 Give and then give again. When you give a second time without being asked, the world will open its arms to you, as you exude both trust and confidence. This is one reason for the stature of Mandela. By contrast, Mugabe sought only to take which sends all kinds of negative signals, real or imagined.

Howard Lewis is the creator of technology-free networking dinners, OFFLINE, held monthly at London’s Savile Club.  He is a writer, raconteur and passionate networker who challenges the conventions of life.

More about Howard Lewis in Forbes  (The Art of Business Networking Without Expecting a Business Deal) 







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