It’s How We End That Matters: A Review of Kalungu-Banda’s Book on President Mwanawasa
By Elias Munshya wa Munshya
The author of the book, It’s How We End That Matters: Leadership Lessons from an African President, Martin Kalungu-Banda is not new to Zambia. He has been a lecturer at UNZA, worked for BP Zambia, OXFAM and famously had a stint at State House from 2005 to 2008. At State House he served in an ambiguous role as President Mwanawasa’s leadership consultant or unpaid Chief of Staff as the case may be. The greater nation of Zambia got introduced to Martin Kalungu-Banda by President Mwanawasa himself who praised his effort of making personal sacrifices to try and help the top Zambian government workers improve their leadership. He is currently a leadership consultant and this book is his second. A third book is still in the works.
It’s How We End That Matters: Leadership Lessons from an African President is a book on both President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa and Leadership. It is about 170 pages long with a whopping 17 chapters. Of course this sounds a little bit too much for a book with that much pages. But once you engage yourself with this book, it is difficult to put down and you would understand why it would have so many chapters. Chapters range from the one that talk about Mwanawasa’s ascension to presidency, to his position on HIV/AIDS to elections.
The book combines humorous personal stories of Mr. Kalungu-Banda’s interaction with President Mwanawasa punctuated with leadership lessons. Kalungu-Banda is quite honest and frank about his time at State House and offers a thoroughly optimistic and pragmatic view of President Mwanawasa’s personal qualities and leadership. He himself admits that he meant the book to be a positive one and not necessarily a critical one. While acknowledging that President Mwanawasa was indeed a man of profound weakness, such as a hot temper, Kalungu-Banda quickly assures the reader that he concentrates on Dr. Mwanawasa’s strengths since focussing on people’s strengths is more inspiring than focussing on their weaknesses.
Reading the book gives you the sense that it is indeed two books in one: one on the personal story of President Mwanawasa and another on leadership principles. As such, it is this rare quality that makes the book unique and a must read. You can actually remove the story of Mwanawasa and you would still have a great book on leadership, and conversely you can subtract the leadership principles punctuated through the “food for thought” sections of each chapter and still have a great book on the life of President Mwanawasa. Additionally, in this book, Kalungu-Banda takes routine issues that happened while he served at State House, such as Mwanawasa’s interactions with his visitors, Mwanawasa’s interface with his personal staff, and indeed his interaction with his wife and children and derives great principles for all kinds of leadership political or otherwise.
Mwanawasa is humanised in this book. He is presented to have been a very candid and honest person. He is presented as one who would freely discuss about beautiful Rwandan women and punctuate that thought with the reality of HIV/AIDS. He is presented to have been one who was rigid in his opinions but also quite flexible to say sorry when confronted with the need to do so. Martin Kalungu-Banda’s role in this unfolding story of Mwanawasa is also quite fascinating in this narrative. Beginning from the time Kalungu-Banda marshalled enough courage to make his first call to State House to the time the Zambian government disowned him and to the subsequent reunion he had with President Mwanawasa, the book is as much about Mwanawasa as it is about the author himself.
Kalungu-Banda’s book is a second book, and definitely not the last one, on the expanding Mwanawasan biographies. The first one, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa: an incentive for posterity, was authored by journalist Amos Malupenga. For his part, in being so optimistic about Mwanawasa, Kalungu-Banda misses to give the fascinatingly political side of the Mwanawasa phenomena—which unsurprisingly brought the negative as well as positive sides of Mwanawasa. It would have been good to have at least a section in the book address the Mwanawasa political strategy. This could include issues like his choice of cabinet in general and his intriguing choices of Vice-Presidents. Mwanawasa had four vice-presidents in seven years. Kalungu-Banda’s book while mentioning the cabinet in general terms it does not address any of Mwanawasa’s vice-presidents at all. While Kalungu-Banda’s omission of the political aspect of Mwanawasa’s leadership is quite obvious I think there are several lessons we could have learnt about Mwanawasa’s leadership from that end as well.
From the title itself, it is certain that Kalungu-Banda intended an international audience for this book. The title itself does not mention Mwanawasa by name. This is understandable since very few people in Europe and America could identify or even know who Mwanawasa was. But the fact that the title does not contain the name of Mwanawasa is equally an anomaly, especially for a book that is supposed to be a biography of sorts. At about US$10 from http://www.amazon.com, this book is quite reasonably priced and should be a must read for all that want to hear an optimistic view of an African president. Except in this case, this African president is not an eccentric kleptomaniac but a man of integrity and sober manners—Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. He was according to Kalungu-Banda, a courageous, kind, family-loving, and hospitable African gentleman who indeed as the title suggests, “Ended well”. I highly recommend this book for those seeking to understand Mwanawasa and those needing original insights into how they can maximise their leadership.