There is no leader who was not born. There is no birthday that should not be celebrated because every day on earth counts.
Birth is not a special sign of leadership because babies are conceived and born every second across the world. It is what you do after you are born that defines who you become and what leadership legacy you create.
A leader has to stand for something and be willing to die for it. However, it is not everything that people die for that is worth a dime. When a principled and visionary leader appears on the scene the world is never the same. Like him or hate him you cannot ignore him.
On February 21, 1924 in a spartan village in Kutama, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), a teacher – Bona Mugabe – gave birth to a son who was christened Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
Today this village boy who endured oppressive systems, overt and covert operations, a decade of prison, the long bush war, hate, pressure, sanctions and all, is the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
Comrade RG Mugabe turns 93.
By all means this is an achievement that few ever attain. Many people wither away at tender ages or expire in their prime. Many of his age globally are now retired and cloistered in homes reserved for the old, aged and irrelevant.
This month he celebrates his birthday and it is therefore apt to say, Happy Birthday month, Mr President.
A life of more than 90 years is a walking library of wisdom, compendium of insight, encyclopaedia of legacy and dictionary of history.
To ignore a man who is carrying so much is to ignore a library and claim to be wise.
Inspiration knows no boundaries and never let your prejudices and stereotyping tempt you to miss great life lessons.
Here are some short motivational lessons that this great man has left on his life timeline that have inspired me:
To live to 91 there is something right that you would have done to maintain your health. Whatever you do not maintain will always degenerate.
Health will not come without daily effort. Your habits determine your state of health and mind.
Eat healthy, exercise daily and you will live long and be around when all your peers are history.
Discipline is not torture but priming for a longer, healthier life.
Cde Mugabe exercises daily and eats healthy. He chooses what he eats and drinks. He has always been a teetotaller and does not drink himself to death.
In all things, moderation is a virtue.
He has managed his weight well despite the access to all the rich dainties that the presidential lifestyle exposes him to. His love for traditional unprocessed foods has kept his body clock ticking for a long time. Living long is a choice you make through your lifestyle.
Poor choices will get you into the grave too soon. Keep fit and you will see many days.
Those who do not read widely will always be shallow and near-sighted.
Wide reading broadens and grows you. The deeper you are on the inside the further you will be able to see and the more strategic you will be.
President Mugabe is well read and reads widely. What excuse do you have not to read? Your circumstances are never an excuse to maintain and hold close your ignorance.
After graduating from Kutama, he went to Fort Hare University in South Africa where he graduated in 1951 with a BA in History and English.
He returned to Zimbabwe to teach at Hope Fountain Mission. In those days holding a BA degree was arrival for many, but not him, he continued learning.
Never let other people’s standards and praises be your limit. Being a celebrity in your village should not tempt you to think you have arrived.
By 1953 he had attained a Bachelor of Education degree by correspondence. Some people would have thought that was the end.
Yet for him the journey of learning had just begun.
Never stop where a certificate leaves you. Formal schooling may come to an end, but learning and development never does. Keep learning and inspiring those around you to learn and grow.
One of the best ways to learn is to teach.
In 1955, Mugabe moved to Zambia, then Northern Rhodesia. He taught for four years at Chalimbana Training College while also working toward his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics through correspondence courses with the University of London.
Be hungry for success, learn and read widely. He subsequently moved to Ghana and continued learning and developing himself completing his economics degree in 1958.
In Ghana he taught at St Mary’s Teacher Training College, where he met Sarah Hayfron, whom he would marry in 1961.
Leadership is not a consensus club and aggregation of opinions. That is not leadership.
Leaders are clear about where they want to go and what they want to become.
They make decisions and resolutions and stick by them even if the whole world thinks otherwise. Leaders take clear and resolute decisions.
Leaders with no spine will never carry heavy loads and transport people to greatness. Play the game when you are in the ring and do not be obsessed with retiring to the bench.
Instead of creating one successor, create a broad platform of capable people. Articulate your principles and stick by them and if necessary fight for them.
When President Mugabe speaks, listen because he is already on the move and he has an iron will.
You may not believe what he is saying but ignore it at your peril. He is resolute and he takes a stand on issues that he believes in strongly. For him there is little grey, it’s white or black.
Do Not Retire
Retirement is an archaic idea. It is so yesterday.
How does one invest his life simply to go and sit under a tree the whole day drinking tea by the hour and talking idle tales when he still has strength and energy?
That is not life, it is a waste.
Life and human potential cannot be wasted by retiring talented and active people. Life must be lived to the full.
This is what His Excellency displays daily.
You do not lead using a birth certificate and you do not retire simply because other people are saying you are now old. You can be old at any age but instead choose to be mature and keep contributing.
Do not die while living.
Obsession with retirement makes you waste time, life, opportunity and potential. Short-term revolutionaries could just as well play the lottery. Great leaders want to live out their dreams and also live the consequences of their decisions.
I will not retire from my purpose and mission. I also do not plan to retire from being a motivational speaker, consultant and writer. How do you retire from your purpose?
What could be more fun than touching people and making a difference in their lives?
Be a Family Person
Love your family, bless and support your spouse, regardless.
Be a partner of graceful conduct and have a gentleman’s/lady’s manners. Oh, while you are at it, dress for the occasion and the times.
Have taste and dress in style as a couple.
Take holidays even if the whole world wants you home but you know you are exhausted and need to recharge. Renewal time is not wasted time.
This, President Mugabe does well.
Always create time to rest and reflect, even in the middle of the storm and transition. When on holiday, go far and hide yourself. When you come back, head into action and execute with passion and the zeal of a crusader.
In all things always remember other people may desert you, but your family has nowhere to run into but your arms.
Leadership is all about strategy development and strategy execution. It’s about understanding people and deploying them effectively.
Play your chess on many chess boards at the same time, but always play intelligently. Use intelligence effectively to stay in the know and execute your strategy. Know people for who they are and understand how to balance power.
Power is a double-edged sword and few know how to handle this sword and use it well and timely.
It takes many years to know how to hold, use and give it power. Every day feels like you are just beginning.
It is a race and context in the jungle of life. Always play to win not just to play.
Outwork, out-think and out-manoeuvre your competition and detractor. Reinvent your appeal and be relevant to your times.
In need, be a chameleon in order to survive.
Such is the art of politics and strategy. Have no permanent friends or enemies but be clear about your interests and the values that you will protect with all you have. Always cling to your market share and what you know is yours.
Such is the art of leading in Africa and surviving when others give you no chance. Have nine lives and lead long and strong.
Leadership jobs are stressful but there is always time for a good dose of humour. Use it wisely and apply it appropriately and intelligently.
Mr President, you have mastered this art well and I know “Mai Stop It” agrees.
Use humour to defuse stressful situations and also plough home some good points.
You do not afford to be 91 and grumpy.
Appreciate all your blessings and count every one of your days. Just keep looking upwards, forwards, backwards, sideways and under your chair.
It’s not easy to be an icon. You cannot rest before the journey is complete.