Role of leadership is to create an environment for desired results

Friday October 23 2020

In order to change work outcomes we need to inspire our teams. PHOTO | NURPHOTO


At the recent class at the Street University, Bobby Kimbrough, retired senior special agent with the US Department of Justice and the first African American sheriff of Forsyth county in North Carolina, played facilitator.

The author and host of the show, Off the Cuffs with Kimbrough, came with this message: In order to change our outcomes we need to change our atmosphere.

Now for years, we have been working with organisations and training about the impact of culture on performance. We have taught that many organisations want to change the performance of their staff and the way they go about it is by giving instructions and ultimatums. However, a lot of studies show that performance is actually better inspired when the right environment has been created.

The golden question to up the performance game is therefore: What environment will make the desired results and natural progression?

For years many African nations have been struggling under the weight of corruption. There have been numerous anti-corruption campaigns which, unfortunately, have not deterred the corrupt in any way.

To curb corruption the golden question is, "What is the environment that supports corruption?" An environment where there are no consequences for corruption and where the corrupt become the celebrities and great philanthropists of the day will not stop corruption.


In the book, Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson we see a glaring truth about the impact of the cultural environment over performance especially in their analysis of North and South Korea. The young person in South Korea could dream of becoming anything from K-Pop or K-Drama Star, to an engineer working with great companies like Samsung or LG while their counterpart in North Korea did not have much to dream of besides being in the army.

Kimbrough personalised the conversation about performance and environment, saying outcomes of people’s lives were direct consequences of the environment they had permitted themselves to operate in. Coming from someone who had been shot at, someone who had been electrocuted, who had gone through multiple surgeries and who had to raise seven boys as a single father then rising to become what he has become today, he commanded attention.

The most important role of leadership is the ability to create the environment that will produce the results that we want to see in our teams.

When we think of the fact that African teams to the 2018 soccer world cup were all eliminated in round one while a French team composed mainly of African players won the cup, we see the power of environment over performance.

The conclusion is that at whatever level, the thoughts we allow, the influences that we give permission to, will ultimately determine the outcomes of our lives. (To watch the full Bobby Kimbrough session please visit )

My favourite line to the young people I have mentored from the slums is that if their minds left the slums, their bodies could never stay behind.

Wale Akinyemi is the convenor of the Street University and chief transformation officer at PowerTalks. E-mail: [email protected]