The role of leadership in success is unquestionable, they say that an “Army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.”
In the realm of business, we see the need for better leadership in Rwanda’s lagging industries. Rwanda is in a curious position where the government is more entrepreneurial than the private sector.
So the private sector becomes the voice of protectionism fearful of others entering their market, while the government is more radical.
A number of our top companies have been continually allowed to fail or underperform, the solutions have been limited due to the shortage of skilled executives.
So we have had a game of musical chairs as CEO’s are rotated between the major companies, with the same results.
Recent events at Rwandair show a major shift in tact with regards to underperforming companies. We had the confusing situation of the CEO and Chairman of the board being the same man, the two positions are meant to check each other and correspond in writing.
So no wonder the CEO and Chairman agreed on everything, but he couldn’t agree with his Chief of Operations, Capt. Jack Ekl.
Situations came to a head when Ekl tendered his resignation citing personal differences with the CEO.
He was backed fully and given a new chairman, he was the man with the vision, and he was emotionally invested in the firm. He oversaw the negotiations to buy the new planes and was not here for the money.
The important thing is vision not aspirations, you need a vision to achieve aspirations. It is only right that in a technical industry like airlines for the Chief Technician to take the lead and the board to merely oversee.
The airline industry has tremendous potential but faces enough external pressures that internal strife can be lethal.
There is still a need to develop the market and create more flyers, we need more cheap promotions and to generally reduce the cost of flying.
Landing fees and passengers taxes are set artificially high by Civil Aviation Authorities in our region, there is often just one airport per city limiting competition.
There is still a need to connect regionally; the Congolese airline industry is one of the most vibrant but deadly in the world.
None the less it is a good market to develop, the old Tupilevs and Antonovs discarded from Russia still form most of their fleet. Their is still a need to imitate the internal market of USA, where flying is like taking a bus.
Rwandair might be the best regional airline if it is allowed to truly compete regionally, there might be a temptation to protect it or bail it out but we must resist that in future.
The spectre of bankruptcy is essential in keeping a company competitive, we cannot have a comfort zone.
Now that Rwandair has been equipped with new planes and staff they should be left to sink or swim. They will most likely swim.