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Alumni Knowledge Session: Leadership is Character

  Feb 21, 2019

Strathmore University Business School’s (SBS) Alumni Association hosted its monthly Knowledge Session on 15th February 2019 that could only be described as mentally simulating. The topic of the day, ‘Leadership is Character’ by Santi Martinez, the founder of Providentia Ltd and lecturer at the Business School of Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland. 

Is it true that if you don’t make money, you don’t make cents (sense)? Is this the case for corporate organizations? Is there more to achieve in Leadership?  A more sustainable view would be a view that leadership is awareness of the intrinsic dignity of human person first, before viewing a person only from a transactional point of view. Leadership that is based on sense of mission through virtue and humility. Let me explain.

What is that one thing, that in one way or another, we seem to be looking for? Harvard University, after more than 80 years of research(, concluded what we have always suspected-happiness. More clearly, the research found out that happiness is sharing and participation in accomplishing that, which is good. Happiness is about doing something good and better. They further define happiness as the quality of relationships we create (love). Ethics sets in at this point, as loving things that are worth being loved. Virtuous people are genuine and predictable. In dealing with them, you see what you get, and get what you see.

Therefore, the best way of being happy is being good. What are the limits of goodness? What of our wretched nature that is only inclined to doing evil (bad). Well, Ethics is about Excellence in life. Excellence pursued through the consistent and constant application of humility and magnanimity in our daily activities. Why should we bother about humility in our lives? Humility is the reminder of our nothingness and the realization of our uniqueness.  Ethics therefore helps us to have a view of life that is consistent with human dignity and self-worth. These are qualities, which we should aim to percolate in all our processes and activities. Getting back to the root of humanity.

How possible is this considering the current view of business as nothing more than a profit machine? Well, the befitting definition of business would be an entity, which is about strengthening of human relations through creation of value and redistribution and sharing of wealth in a just manner. Ideally, this view of business insists on business building trust in society through virtues. How is it possible to build trust?  Through: (i) Effectiveness (Accomplishing what is required of you), (ii) Efficiency (Use of what is available prudently), (iii) Ethics (enhancing communication and communion with others), (iv) Enthusiasm (bringing joy to the other people). Deliberate struggle to achieve these qualities leads to building of trust in business and achievement of excellence (using business as a mission to serve God and humanity).

What is life for? Excellence. Achievement of excellence by viewing business (or our activities) as a sense of mission/purpose. By viewing our businesses as one whose purpose is beyond us and through viewing of every process and activity from the prism of human dignity, we introduce in our business a new way of thinking which not only assures us of legacy but happiness in our lives.

Simply put, this is a call to consider our employees (spheres of influence) as the first point of service to society. To treat all the people we work with justly. By viewing our work as a mission, we get the transcendence grace to endure the difficulties that may come our way and the courage to say ‘no’ to things that will distract us off this journey. By understanding the concept of human dignity, we get to understand that like us, everyone else is in a journey to be happy, hence we are not better if we stand on others way.

And as hard as it may appear, considering the conflicting reality of our time, the call is open to all who would wish to start now. By freely understanding what is good for us and doing it, we consistently make a move towards achieving what we are all here for-happiness.

Winston Churchill put it even better, ‘The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.’ Remember when you had nothing, how did you wish to be treated? Remember, when you were wishing to be where you are today, how did carry yourself in the face of others? Even farther, remember when you were just a fetus, how helpless were you? Remember when you were a toddler, fully depending on others goodwill to survive… Perhaps, the greatest realization is that we all depend on God and others to be here.

May this remind us of our nothingness and help us realize our uniqueness.


Lessons expressed here were captured by Gabriel Dinda.

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