founder of naked leader

Leadership from a different perspective – Sandy Foster

Naked Leader Week – 162 (w/c Monday 26 June 2006)

Leadership from a different perspective – Sandy Foster

Sandy Foster is a remarkable leader – dedicated to the release of the very best in others, and retaining a remarkable balance between her personal and business lives. She has my total admiration.

Please send this on to everyone whose life you touch.

With my very best wishes to you, wherever you are as you read this



Have you subsumed your ego today?

 Five years ago I was lucky enough to travel into the middle of Kenya to live with a tribe of Maasai who had never had contact with any white Europeans.

 In my capacity as a cultural change manager and leadership consultant in EDS (a global technology solutions provider), I was keen to share my knowledge with them on how to manage the inevitable changes that would come their way. How wrong I was!

 I met with an incredible hierarchy of leadership with clear accountabilities from the earliest ages as young children herded cattle and goats (constituting the villages’ material wealth), to groups of young warriors, to all the elder stages.

Coaching and mentoring had no name that we recognise but it was palpable every day in their actions.

 One evening I sat around the camp fire discussing leadership with the Chief Warrior, Kool and many of the elders. In the Maasai culture, the warriors live together outside of the village primarily with the remit of protecting their village. They are together as a team for perhaps years and become very close.

 Here they are time rich and cash poor so they are afforded the luxury of meaningful dialogue. I had never before had such deep philosophical conversations with leaders around leadership and was unaware at this time that this was the start of a long relationship across continents. 

 As we chatted, two young warriors came into the village and were called over by their Chief, Kool. He asked them if they had completed their task, however before they had a chance to answer he added, “And did you, Peter, subsume your ego enough that your brother warrior here can receive the credit for all your work?” The young warrior smiled and squeezed his colleague’s hand, replying that his brother warrior had done a great job. The Chief dismissed them to go for something to eat.

 Kool then told me that it was important for him as a leader that his warriors learned humility, and were not judged by what they said but by their actions. It can take several years and a peer vote to elect a chief so behaviours are all-important and not to be lacking in integrity in any way. He also asserted that honesty in life and death situations was paramount to their survival.

 In a strange way this was the most profound moment for me in an unbelievable 10 days. I have since been back several times to learn from these gentle pastoralists and have formed a charity there with the Maasai to build schools and try to alleviate poverty.

 They continue to teach me with their leadership, teamwork and generosity of spirit, which has no price tag. Still today, when faced with dilemmas or stuck moments, I ask myself, “Can I subsume my ego?”

 It has made many a day more fruitful and fulfilling.


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