During the month of love (February…not that I’m that much into Valentine’s and such like frivolity), a lot of work went into preparation for The BPM Annual Summit which took place in March. It was during that month that I shared the load for a first time with Gareth Pritchard (@bpesact), BPESA Western CEO and then national interim CEO.
In February 2015, I was tasked specifically with representing the office of the national CEO in the UK. As Gareth hopped on a flight to Phoenix, Arizona in the US for global conference, I jetted into Heathrow, London for a short business engagement. I was hosted by the South African High Commissioner, Dr Obed Mlaba and The DTI’s Ms Thobile Mazibuko at SA House, London. This trip was also a sneak peek into the UK, its people, history and culture.
For this engagement, myself, George Todd and Lisa Roos from Merchants SA as well as Alan Graham and Alisa Evans of Mind Pearl formed the South African delegation. We were joined by some of the top blue chip brands on the client and technology vendors.
I have struggled with the concept of Rastafarism and where it originate, why it’s more a Caribean concept than African (even tough it seems to point back to the continent) and its link to Ethiopia in terms of biblical history. I specifically needed answers to the idea of Othodox Christian community that coexist peacefully with Ethiopian Muslims today, a phenomenon not seen else where. The more important question I always had was the history of that part of the world dating back to the Queen of Sheba to colonial catastrophe and how the region got to the mess we see today. . I found below (borrowed from a friend on Facebook) very informative and a key addition to my understanding of African history, religious and contemporary socio-economic conditions.
HAILE SELASSIE 1892–1975
Haile Selassie was born in a round mud-and-wood hut near the ancient walled city of Harer in 1892, when Ethiopia was still known as the Abyssinian Empire. Named Tafari Makonnen, he was the tenth child born to Ras Makonnen, a prince (or ras) and governor of the Harer province, and his wife, Yishimabet Ali; he was the only one of their eleven children to survive through adulthood.
Abyssinia was little changed through the centuries: a poor, proud, fiercely independent African empire with several religious groups – Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Animists – ruled by a constantly warring network of kings, princes, dukes, and lords. Tafari was an Amhara, the dominant ethnic group that had adopted Coptic Christianity in the year 325 AD. Coptics hold that “Christ” was solely divine, a belief later denounced as heretical by most of the Christian world except in Egypt and Ethiopia.
His father, Makonnen, was a cousin, confidant, and chief adviser to Emperor Menelik II, a shrewd and powerful ruler. After Italy invaded Abyssinia in 1895, Menelik’s army soundly defeated their forces at the battle of Adowa the following year, preventing the country from being colonized. Over the next few years, Menelik enlarged his empire, establishing Addis Ababa in the center of the kingdom as his capital. He began to centralize power and modernize the country, ending centuries of constant warfare.
When Tafari was 18 months old, his mother died giving birth to one of his siblings. Young Tafari grew up with a sound education in Abyssinian and Coptic traditions, and he was tutored in European thought and ideas by Father Andre Jarosseau, a French missionary priest. Such exposure to foreign ways and thinking was extremely rare for an African son. Tafari proved to be a model student— intelligent, hardworking, with an excellent memory and attention to the smallest detail—capacities that would serve him well throughout his life.
Recognizing his abilities, his father proclaimed him de-jazmatch (commander) of a local militia in 1905 at the age of 13, and established a separate household for him with his own servants and soldiers. Makonnen died the following year, entrusting Tafari to the care of Menelik II. The emperor summoned young Tafari to court and appointed him governor of a small province.
Reform and Intrigue
Tafari was a progressive administrator whose policies increased the power of the central government at the expense of the feudal nobility. He developed a salaried civil service, lowered taxes, and created a court system that extended legal rights to the peasantry. Promoted to a larger province in 1908, two years later he was made governor of Harer, just like his father. And in 1911, he married Wayzaro Menen, a great-granddaughter of Menelik. During the course of their marriage, they had six children, and they remained together until her death in 1961.
Menelik died in 1913 and his grandson, Lij Yasu, became emperor. But Yasu was seen as pro-Muslim, alienating Ethiopia’s Christian majority. Tafari became the rallying symbol for opposition noblemen and high church officials, who cunningly maneuvered Yasu’s overthrow in 1916. Zauditu, Menelik’s daughter, became empress, the first female to rule the nation of Ethiopia since the Queen of Sheba, while Tafari was named a prince (ras) as well as regent and heir to the throne.
Ras Tafari was interested in modernizing Ethiopia; Zauditu was conservative and more concerned with religion than politics. The two maintained an uneasy alliance as various rival factions of nobles vied for power.
The young prince proved to be the master of intrigue and survival. Gradually, he replaced conservative members of the Council of Ministers with his own pro-reform supporters. By 1919 he felt secure enough to begin his program of modernization by creating a centralized bureaucracy. Two years later, he established the first regular courts of law in the country. Ethiopia’s first printing press began operating in 1922, soon followed by the introduction of a regularly published newspaper, as well as motorcars, electric generators, telephone service, and a reformed prison and justice system.
Greater success awaited. Ras Tafari turned his attention to foreign affairs, gaining Ethiopia’s admission to the League of Nations in 1923. The following year, he visited France, Italy, Sweden, Greece, and England, garnering favorable recognition from the international press.
His trip coincided with the growing interest among North American blacks in rediscovering their cultural heritage. Seeing a noble, dignified African leader of an independent nation dealing as an equal with European rulers made an indelible impression. Jamaicans, in particular, were in awe, identifying him as the future king of blacks everywhere in the world. These idolizers, called Rastafarians, started a new religion in his honor that continues today.
Back home, Ras Tafari profited financially from his modernization program and international contacts by enacting a tax on all imports. He used his new fortune wisely, financing the foreign education of a new generation of future Ethiopian government ministers and buying the loyalty of the army. In 1928 his growing supporters demanded that Zauditu name him king. With only limited followers of her own, the empress agreed, appointing Tafari negus (king). Two years later, rebels allied with her attacked the capital but were defeated by Ethiopia’s armed forces. Two days after the battle, Zauditu died—some claimed from poison.
Tafari was coronated as emperor, taking the name Haile Selassie ( “Power of the Trinity”), in a ceremony widely covered by the international press.
The new emperor enacted Ethiopia’s first constitution in 1931. It proclaimed all Ethiopians equal and united under one law and one emperor; it also created a two-chamber parliament with a popularly elected lower house, though the emperor retained the right to overthrow any parliamentary decision. Traditional church law was supplanted by the country’s first legal code, and all children born to slaves were eventually freed.
His continued efforts toward modernization and centralizing power were cut short in 1935. Mussolini, the Italian fascist leader, was eager to avenge his country’s 1895 defeat by Menelik and enhance his belligerent image. He dispatched a 250,000-man modern army equipped with superior weaponry, airplanes, and poison gas to invade and conquer Ethiopia. It was the first exhibition of the fascist aggression that would eventually lead to World War II.
Defeated, Emperor Haile Selassie fled his country in 1936, appealing without success to the League of Nations for assistance before going into exile in England. Ethiopia had lost its independence for the first time in recorded history.
Once World War II began, a joint force of British soldiers and Ethiopian exiles recaptured Addis Ababa, restoring Haile Selassie to power in 1941. During the next decade he improved health care, enhanced transportation, increased foreign trade, expanded education, and created the country’s first college. But he made no attempt to reform the feudal agricultural system that maintained class distinctions and limited land ownership.
Throughout the 1950s he extended his power in Ethiopia’s outlying provinces and maneuvered to annex its neighbor, the former Italian colony of Eritrea, to provide landlocked Ethiopia with a port on the Red Sea. Success finally came in 1962 when Eritrea became an Ethiopian province
Haile Selassie celebrated his 25th year as emperor in 1955, using the occasion to present a revised constitution. Though it gave the appearance of liberalizing the political system and broadening the power of parliament, in reality all power still resided in the emperor and his one-party government. As proof, the country’s first general election in 1957 resulted in a parliament composed almost entirely of members of the landlord class. But the outward show of reform stimulated the desire of many for a taste of the real thing.
When the emperor was visiting Brazil in 1960, dissidents backed by the Imperial Guard and students at the university seized control of Addis Ababa. They demanded a constitutional monarchy with genuine democracy, fundamental economic and agricultural reform, and a concerted effort to end the chronic poverty of most Ethiopians.
The coup failed and many of its leaders were publicly executed. But their demands pinpointed the growing dissatisfaction with Haile Selassie’s rule at home. The attempted overthrow also jolted his sense of security. From this point on, he began to side with Ethiopia’s conservative faction rather than its modernizers. No longer would he be a force for change within his own country.
Instead the emperor turned his attention to foreign affairs, partly to enhance his international status and partly to take his compatriots’ minds off the lack of domestic reforms. Instead of focusing on Europe as in the past, he concentrated on Africa, becoming a role model and elder statesman to many leaders of the newly independent African nations.
Haile Selassie became a leader in the Pan-African movement, stressing African unity to deal with common problems and concerns. He supported independence for former European colonies, condemned South Africa’s foreign and internal policy of racial segregation (apartheid), and sought to limit French nuclear tests in the Sahara. He also took a leading role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Having the organization establish its permanent headquarters in Addis Ababa further enhanced his international prestige.
More and more of Haile Selassie ’s time was spent traveling in foreign countries and away from Ethiopia. He successfully mediated the border dispute between Morocco and Algeria in 1963 and then intervened on the side of Nigeria during its bloody civil war, which began in the late 1960s when Christians in the South broke away and formed a separate nation called Biafra. (Biafra later surrendered to federal troops.)
Unrest at Home
While he was being honored abroad, trouble was brewing at home. Islamic Eritrean rebels had begun a civil war in 1962, seeking their independence from Christian Ethiopia. The struggle would last into the 1980s. Neighboring Somalia demanded the return of the Ogaden region. That conflict, too, would escalate to warfare in 1977. The United States and Israel, fearful of an Islamic Eritrea and Somalia, supported Ethiopia with advisers and military aid.
Meanwhile, demands by dissidents and students continued to escalate. The educated elite’s mounting frustration with the lack of jobs and democratic reforms in Ethiopia was fueled by economic stagnation, rising unemployment, and growing urban poverty. In December of 1969 a student protest turned violent; guards opened fire, killing 23 and wounding 157.
In 1973 a drought and crop failure caused a widespread famine. Tens of thousands of Ethiopians starved while the emperor reportedly denied the existence of any problem. Angry students aided foreign journalists to surreptitiously observe and then report on the desperate conditions. Western governments began to distance themselves from the fading emperor. At the same time, the Arab oil embargo quadrupled the price of oil, depleting the Ethiopian treasury and sending prices skyrocketing. The government responded with austerity measures; the frustrated populace countered with major demonstrations.
The next year, many of the army’s junior officers mutinied, forcing the emperor’s cabinet to resign. The successful mutineers formed a dergue (military junta or council) and began vying for total control of the government, accusing the emperor of embezzling millions and causing the famine. Finally, in September of 1974, 82-year-old Haile Selassie was arrested and taken away to prison. More than a half century of actual rule by the emperor had come to an end. He was never seen in public again and was reported to have died and been buried without ceremony the following year.
During the violent years after his overthrow, Ethiopia nearly disintegrated. Infighting among members of the dergue became deadly. Hundreds of former political leaders were executed. Major (later Colonel) Mengistu Haile Mariam took over and turned the country into a Marxist state. Thousands of internal political opponents were massacred. The wars with Eritrea and Somalia drained the budget and devastated the countryside. Combined with another drought and crop failure in 1983, millions of Ethiopians either starved or fled to refugee camps in the Sudan and Somalia.
Some of Mengistu’s internal opponents allied with Eritrean guerrillas in 1989 to topple his rule two years later. A semblance of peace descended on Ethiopia, though the ethnic and tribal conflicts unleashed during the 17-year military dictatorship still threatened to undo the kingdom that Haile Selassie had spent a lifetime creating.
When Haile Selassie took power as regent in 1916, Ethiopia had progressed little through the centuries. Though independent, it was dominated by feudal lords wielding nearly absolute power, ruling through archaic laws and traditions. He set about modernizing the country, abolishing ancient practices, promoting reform, and creating a powerful centralized government. Ethiopia was opened to the outside world and its emperor became recognized in international circles.
But Haile Selassie always ruled absolutely. As times changed and his citizens demanded more political freedom and democracy, he grew more conservative. At the same time, poverty and illiteracy were taking their toll on the Ethiopian people. Having lost touch with political reality, the emperor refused to surrender his power and was overthrown.
However, despite his downfall, he continues to be remembered as “Lion of Judah, King of Kings, Elect of God”—and as a charismatic, near-mythic figure in Ethiopian politics for more than half a century.
In his book The Millionaire Mind, Thomas J. Stanley asked 733 millionaires to rank 30 factors which led to their success. The number one attribute, “being honest with all people,” tells volumes about the importance of integrity in the workplace: it is more than living out good moral principles – it is also critical for succeeding in the business world.
Corporate Integrity: It Starts at the Top
I used to be affiliated with a construction company whose owner ordered the workers to cut corners in every way possible without getting caught. Some foremen were even chastised for taking extra care to do a good job. Did this philosophy work? No. The company did make money, but the employees who took pride in their work went elsewhere, leaving a workforce who simply was not trustworthy and a company which had a shady reputation.
When a new owner set a policy of always doing things right, the company slowly began to grow. Those who continued to cut corners were dismissed and a new vitality began to emerge as the employees felt good about themselves; they began to love their jobs and became proud of who they worked for. Guess what? This company continues to flourish today. Coincidence? I think not.
Individual Integrity: We Are All Accountable
Writer and speaker Nicky Gumble punctuates this truth in the following story:
A man named Gibbo used to work as a clerk for Selfridges. One day the phone rang and Gibbo answered. The caller asked to speak to Gordon Selfridge, who happened to be in the room at the time. When Mr. Selfridge instructed Gibbo to tell the caller that he was out, Gibbo handed him the phone and said, ‘You tell him you’re out!’ Gordon Selfridge was absolutely furious, but Gibbo said to him, ‘Look, if I can lie for you, I can lie to you. And I never will.’ That moment transformed Gibbo’s career at Selfridges – he became the owner’s most trusted employee.
Integrity, for Gibbo, was so deeply ingrained that he disobeyed his boss without hesitation. Yes, he might have been fired, but I am guessing that Gibbo wouldn’t have wanted to continue working there anyway. In this case, however, his integrity was instrumental to his ascent at Selfridges.
Why Integrity Works
It is no surprise that employees with integrity shine. They do not undermine their fellow workers, they work just as hard whether they are being watched or not, they can always be counted on to do their best, and they will be honest enough to admit it if they have made mistakes. They won’t pass the blame, but they will share the credit. They are an inspiration to others, creating a positive and upbeat work environment.
If you were in charge of hiring and networking, wouldn’t you dig beneath the surface of a potential employee’s resume to learn of their integrity? Of course you would. Therefore, if you are that employee, your services will be coveted, both when you are hired and for years thereafter.
How Are You Doing?
Do you leave work early when there is no possibility anyone else will find out?
Do you accept full responsibility (or your share) when things don’t go well?
Do you share the credit when things go right?
Do you confront wrongdoing, even if it means confronting a supervisor?
Do you hide legitimate income to avoid paying taxes on it (such as not reporting cash payments)?
Do you claim tax deductions you can’t document?
Because we tend to be blind to our own shortcomings, I challenge you to ask a friend – one with integrity – to tell you honestly whether you are more like Gibbo or his boss.
The answer is critical to your future success.
How important is integrity in your workplace? What can you do to make a difference? Does your employer encourage and model integrity? In what ways? If you are a boss or supervisor, how well do you model integrity? Leave a comment below!
This coming Saturday morning (April 18), my Mentee and his maverick business network
are having an unusual business breakfast. They are crazy enough to ask me to
come share a thought or two on business, leading and success. Do support if
your are in the area. Plus Spirit Dominion Foundation is involved. So we
will share a meal and educate a child at the same time!