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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Interview with Dr. Kozhi Makai, Understanding Culture's Influence on Leadership Styles

Bringing people together in a rapidly changing environment is just one of the challenges of leadership in a world characterized by disruptive technologies, rapid economic reconfiguration, and shifting notions of how we should relate to each other. Dr. Kozhi Makai has studied leadership from many vantage points and today is here to share his unique insights.

1.  What is your name and your educational background?
Kozhi Sidney Sakangende Saulongo Sikoongo Mwachawoka Namundondo Hamudulu Mweetwa Hangambwa Hanene Chingangauka Hanyimbo Makai. You asked...
I seem to have a name for each of the original American colonies.
But my driver's license simply reads: Kozhi Sidney Makai.
My BA is in Speech Communication, with a minor in Psychology.
My MA is in Business Communication, with a specialization in Leadership & Influence.
My PhD is in Applied Management and Decision Sciences, with a specialization in Leadership and Organizational Change (my research is in understanding culture's influence on leadership style).

Life Edge 036: Kozhi Makai had a dream... from RELATECASTS on Vimeo.

 2.  How did your childhood help you become interested in leadership?
Both my parents were leaders in Zambia.
My mother was a business leader as an entrepreneur who ran a produce company, restaurant, and farm with a poultry, dairy, and rotation of cabbage and potato harvests. She was a very hands-on leader who modeled what she expected and, while we had staff to tend the farm, my siblings and I were expected to work along the staff.
My father worked for the government and was the number two man at the Special Investigation Team for Economy and Trade (SITET) as Deputy Director of Administration and Research. This team is the equivalent of the American Secret Service or FBI Dickson that handles White Collar Crime. Watching him interact with his subordinates showed me an example of influence (something that John Maxwell feels leadership is) without a hard hand.
Both my parents encouraged me to be a leader among my friends and stand out - ethically, honestly, and sincerely.
Once I got into athletics, I was able to use these skills I learned from watching my parents and, literally, sitting at their feet and learning from them.

3.  What was it like to grow up in Zambia? How did you feel when you first arrived in Houston? What were some of the cultural differences that you did not expect?
Interestingly, I didn't grow up in a hut or without shoes, running water, or electricity (I know, I just ruined it for you). I grew up like many children here in the U.S. in the 80s and 90s...playing Nintendo Gameboy, riding my bike in the neighborhood, terrorizing neighbors with my crew of 6 friends, and hoping to get a glance at the new girl(s) in the neighborhood. I went to fantastic schools (the best in the country, actually) in Primary School (1st to 7th) and Secondary School (8th to 12th), and spent time with some of the brightest minds of my time. At one point, I went to school with the President's children; never a dull moment, really.
Houston was BIG. That was probably the great change for me - the vastness of the roads, the volume of vehicles, and the consistent busyness. And, would you believe, I thought people in Houston spoke too fast!

I didn't expect to find a culture that was unlike my own - specifically my Latino/Latina friends. Very much driven by strong family values, music, and food, I found myself connected to people who had a similar outlook and passion for family and staying close to them.

Yet, I also found some of the most generous people I've ever met. Just like my parents in Zambia took in strangers and family members alike, two families took me in and raised me as their own - my youth pastor and his family, the Brantleys, and my education benefactors, the Eberlys. To this day, the Eberlys remain my American family; Michael Oher and "The Blind Side" came long after me and the Eberlys lived out that life. My parents (American and Zambian) have met, and I'm fortunate to have had two sets of parents doting over me and encouraging me to be the best man I can possible be.

4.  What are the themes of your books?
Relationships. Communication. Personal Development. Leadership. All of them are driven by a desire improve the human condition. So I wrote them to ensure that my readers could connect to the concepts through my own experience; I want my readers to always know that I've experienced what they have and I want them to learn from my mistakes. Rather than be a simple "how-to" book, I want the reader to see me as a helpful coach and guide.

 5.  What is the name of your forthcoming book, and how did you choose the name? What is the theme?
I chose this title because it's what I want everyone to be: unapologetic. Completely themselves. Warts and all. This does not preclude us from improvement, but it's hard to improve what we don't understand. So, unapologetic is about self-discovery and loving/appreciating what we discover - our humanity.
We live in a world that tends to shun anything that isn't perfect - basically, our humanity. Perfect hair (I know, I don't have that problem). Perfect families. Perfect homes. All done to create a ruse about our lives when we often hurt and are nowhere near as put-together as we portray. This book is about ripping the mask off and being exactly who we are and what we were meant to be.
I believe we all have lines to sing in the musical of life; when we don't, the show loses its value and luster. Life is supposed to be a blockbuster, not a box office flop; only those who sing their lines by living authentic lives can ever hope to see their life become that blockbuster.

6.  Who are some of the thinkers / writers / leaders who have most influenced you?
The late Zig Ziglar is atop my list. Great speaker, writer and thinker.
The late Og Mandino is among my favorites. I read his book, The Choice, at least twice a year.
The Apostle Paul. His doctrinal thoughts truly have a touch of the Divine. Along with the Book of Proverbs. I read that anthology of wisdom monthly.
Dr. John Maxwell influenced my development, long before he became prolific. As the head of Injoy, his tapes (yes, cassettes) were amazing!
Dr. Dennis Kimbro of Clark Atlanta University mentored me from afar without knowing me in my early years in the U.S. This year, I get to meet him face-to-face after getting acquainted with him via email over the last two years.
Dr. Steven Beebe, the premier mind in communication. Another mentor from afar, until a few years ago when we met and became solid friends. I consider him a confidant, and continued mentor.
There are many more, but these come to mind first. My personal library is over 700 books strong (and that's the trimmed version), and I continue to read and accumulate more.

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