Fact Fullness – Agile Leadership for a Restored Nation

When times get tough, we don’t give up.  WE GET UP. ~ Barak Obama

On my flight to Shire/Axum, I was reading a book called Fact Fullness by Hans Rosling and his two associates.  The book states ten reasons we are wrong about the world – and why things are better than we think. Since the purpose of my trip was to conduct trauma interventions and healings targeting health professionals who work with gender-based trauma survivors, I needed an uplift to believe that this world, specifically my country, is not just war, doom, and gloom but there are some facts we may choose to believe that restoration and reinstitution are underway to reverse the devastations.

As AWiB is prepared to organize its yearly May forum on agile leadership, it is crucial to acknowledge the fact of progress. We should not compare our country’s economic, political, and social conditions to those of developed nations, but rather to its own past. This comparison should not discourage us, but rather ignite a sense of responsibility and motivation to recognize the potential for change and progress, and to inspire us to continue our efforts in agile leadership.

The author of Fact-fullness based his arguments on data related to global trends that show remarkable improvements. Girls’ enrollment and finishing primary school are on the rise, the majority of the world population lives in middle-income countries, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has halved in the last 20 years, life expectancy has increased to above 70, the number of deaths per year due to natural disasters has decreased by half in the last century, 80% of below one-year-old children are vaccinated against diseases, the gender gap in school has narrowed down tremendously, 80% of the world has access to electricity, and so forth. These are not just numbers, they are beacons of hope in a world that is often perceived as bleak.  Rosling wondered why people are pessimistic when the numbers speak otherwise.

These UN data are not meant to increase the motivation of people who feel hopeless.  The numbers are figures that show reality.  Data is essential to make sensible decisions.  However, most know that data could be manipulated and interpreted for political, personal, or other reasons.  However, the issues we need to worry or stress about should not be based on assumptions or partial observations. Seeing the bigger picture is essential.    

Isn’t it true that we hear wars, famine, violence, corruption, both human-made and natural disasters such as COVID, and utter poverty are our daily experiences, especially those who live in developing countries?  Maybe the indicators to measure progress and the daily struggles of people who suffer use a different barometer to understand life realities.

Witnessing how war devastates communities, many households still live in internally displaced camps with threats and realities of gender-based violence and meaninglessness of life; made me think shall I believe what I see or look for data of the Country’s growth to rethink and compare the past and present data to make informed decisions?

Though the term agile leadership is used to connote organizational leadership, I can extend and see how agile leadership is required to learn from past devastations and mobilize communities to address dysfunctional worldviews, break the recycled traumas, and move towards betterment.

Like the author of Fact-fullness, our optimism should be based on data.  What we see at the outset should not disguise progress compared to decades and centuries of cumulative efforts that gave different pictures in terms of poverty reduction, gender gaps in education, economic empowerment, access to resources and decision-making powers, and so forth.

As Ethiopia prepares to dialogue, negotiate the changing landscape of political power, address past hurts, and move on with a better and more resilient stance, agile leadership is non-negotiable.  As that removes roadblocks and clear pathways to growth and development. 

Agile leadership requires the readiness of the people to redirect attention to scientific thinking to base sensible decisions, not instincts and perspectives.  Therefore, instead of being bogged down with what we see around us, let us find a bigger picture of how we heal from the war trauma and its devastating effects and move forward with optimism.  This, by no means, denies present realities with a pretext of overall growth and development figures or plans.  Yes, Ethiopia aspires to be a middle-income country by 2030, and that requires agile leadership, community healing, and restoring people to a better livelihood.

The mindset of agile leadership is not limited to leaders. It also requires everyone to work on themselves to keep up with the changing world. Especially in the case of Ethiopia, where many people struggle to retain an optimistic attitude intact, we can stick to the general facts that we made significant strides in economic growth despite ongoing challenges. As individuals, we can commit despite the shocks we keep on receiving. That is where the resilience of the country is born.  As Past President Obama said, let us get up, not give up as times get tough.  That is agile leadership.

Written by: Seble Hailu

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