Home Column - Tuesday When a leader fails to lead, By Ngozi Bell

When a leader fails to lead, By Ngozi Bell


Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, (Titus 1:7)

These represent the “opening and closing parenthesis” of leadership – To watch over in responsibility with good intentions for those they lead and themselves be of good character to be worthy of that role!

So what happens when a leader fails to lead. We can look at the anatomy of a leader and ask; was that leader equipped morally and in capacity? Or we can distinctly observe if it was a dereliction of duty – meaning they knew better but chose to do otherwise for whatever reason! Today we will ignore both important questions and just unpack the outcome.

When a leader fails to lead – there is a crash ahead and all gain is ZERO

When a leader fails to lead – it is analogous to what happens to a jet engine that sets off and discovers a failure and needs to return to the departure airport. The jet dumps fuel in order to get it’s MTOW (Maximum Take Off Weight) back to the MLW (Maximum Landing Weight). This implies that all the plans, preparation, embedded costs are lost all at once, basically all work done is eroded and returning to zero is the optimal. Imagine this, a person works hard for 20 years and saves thousands of some value denomination a year. On the 20th year, in order to survive they have to give every piece of all that toil away.

Failure to lead evokes survival and emergency actions, it takes all the investment made and discards them all wholesale just to get back to zero, because zero is the best that can be achieved.

When a leader fails to lead – there is a revolving door that is impossible to balance

The concept of the revolving door is the movement of high-level public servants moving to he private sector and vice versa. The issue here is the lobbyists, money and politics. Influence is bought through access to politicians and politicians in turn get access to staying power. Nations go into “captivity” and decline until one day they are no longer relevant to moral global leadership and escape into the abyss of moral decadence and degradation of the welfare of its people and acquire the label of a high digit world country far behind those it used to lead or could have led.

When a leader fails to lead – Life is death

Leaders are directly responsible for creating and/or maintaining the DNA of an organisation, when they fail in this it can be catastrophic. Nothing to fight for or fight about, there is nowhere to motivate from. The platform of vision is evacuated, and mission is eroded. Knowledge of what to do and when is suddenly non-existent. Everyone is left unled and to their own devices, no teachers, no lessons, no gleanings – nothing grasp. Some cheat to snatch the scraps, some manage the scramble hoping to restore some semblance of normalcy, yet others lament the good old days. Eventually fatigue sets in as most vacate giving up a future that was nonexistent in the first place. There is no culture left, no risks to contemplate and heights to anticipate and hence no future, all perishes, and life is death.

When a leader fails to lead – silence befalls, and loss for many and gain for a stranger

The people that once assembled to view the sail in and off, no longer come, they do not understand where this once elegant massive and missive ship is going nor what it is doing. They do not see a team to anchor the parts. The pace is frenetic almost like it is unmanned. It docks erratically and skips key islands, leaving plans and customers stranded alike. There is no rhythm to the trip as everyone listens in hope for the captain voice, but loud silence is all they hear. There is no team, so the wait staff and crew are helpless. The captain, sometimes a know it all is today in hiding, rejects flexibility and for fear of failure inadequately adapts to the emerging squall. As the ship sways, the captain checks the kitchen and orders to see the portions to ensure rules are strict. The once delegated run circles around him/her not sure what work would be assigned in short bursts. As the guests wonder what the plight might be, the captain suddenly bellows that all is well and, in a hurry, disappears. No one speaks, confusion persists as the squall emerges, and buries the ship. Not to worry, a rescue is afoot, another strong ship will take the guests but for a fee and another will salvage the wreckage and own its assets.

Leadership is a sacred honour bestowed with many liberties that are uncovered with time and maturity. The price of leadership is much dearer than is typically contemplated and its impact farther reaching than anticipated. The point in these vivid descriptions is to see the failure of leadership beyond the superficial and in many varying aspects.

A leader who fails to lead sells more than things, they sometimes trade destinies unborn and ensure that the luck of many are out before they even start. 

In James 3:1 it says “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

The point here is there is consequence for leadership, it should not be arbitrarily doled out. 

Leaders who fail to lead can waste billions of investments that could have made big impacts – recently in industry, we saw the following losses in disclosed funds alone. Most of those listed here were new companies some started by industry veterans, some by newbies – Please note that disclosed funds are only those publicly listed or acknowledged, many received additional investments and capital which in some cases dwarfed the disclosed funds:

CastAR – $30 million

Lily Robotics – $15 million

Teforia – $17.2 million

Lantern – $21.5 million

Bluesmart – $27 million

Cuil – $33 million

Stayzilla – $33.5 million

Agillion – $33.5 million

Laguna Pharmaceutical – $34.5 million

Sidecar Technologies – $36.3 million

Dopler Labs – $41 million

Navdy – $42 million

Joost – $45 million

Hello – $52.9 million

Gridco Systems – $54 million

TerraLUX – $55.6 million

Sprig – $56.7 million

Shyp – $62 million

Loyal3 – $62.4 million

Beyond The Rack – $95.6 million

Aereo – $97 million

Juicero – $99.9 million

Defy Media – $100 million

CNN+ – $100 million

Pets.com – $110 million

RDio – $117.5 million

Amp’d Mobile – $324.5 million

Theranos – $500 million

Better Place – $675.3 million

Jawbone – $929.9 million

Solyndra – $1.2 billion

Quibi – $1.8 billion

 This represents a total of nearly $7 billion 

Failure is an option to learn, to move forward, to grow, but catastrophic failure is usually a result of a failure to lead in many tangible and intangible ways. Think about this, this amount would impact 76 countries significantly; in the upper bracket it is equivalent to up to 50% of their GDP, at the lower end it is 106 X a nation’s GDP. This is what these losses equate to. 

I have decided to stop here because to depict the impact of failure of leadership in terms of national costs to nation building, we would be counting in lives lost, destinies destroyed, countless hopes dashed and the equivalents of deliberately and willfully crashing a staggering number of A380-800 at a rate that will make minds reel. A statistic I am not willing to include just yet, because the memory stays and stays, then lingers and lingers.

About Ngozi Bell

Take a listen to this podcast Say It Skillfully® OUR VOICES – Ngozi & Okezue Bell, Carpe Diem! Tuesday, April 5, 2022 (voiceamerica.com)

Inspiration, Hard Work, Innovation. These three foundational elements anchor Ngozi’s core belief that manifesting the extraordinary is always within reach. Inspired by her mother A.C.Obikwere, a scientist and author, she learned the privilege of living at the edge of important encounters and dedicating herself to robust and perpetual learning. Ngozi’s background is a combination of Physics, Engineering, Venture Capital/Private Equity, regulations, and business where she has managed over $1B in cumulative revenue. Ngozi is a speaker, storyteller, and writer on a diverse set of topics including AI, iDLT, ML, Signal Processing, iOT, women, entrepreneurship and more. She contributes regularly to VOA, has been a TEDx speaker and is published on tech and non-tech platforms. She is a champion of STEM, women, youth, art and the Africa we must engage. Ngozi is an adjunct professor of Physics and management with work

experience in Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and North America. She is a founder of a number of a number of enterprises and host of the podcast Stem, Stocks and Stews (https://anchor.fm/stemstocksstews-podcast).

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