What is your favorite work of fiction and what does it tell us about leadership?
This is the question that I asked
a number of prominent leadership scholars from around the world
and invited them to write an essay on answering that question.
The book that I chose to write about
is called "Things Fall Apart" by a Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe.
It's one of the great works of modern literature.
Chinua Achebe himself passed away, but his influence on novels,
on writing, and also on thinking about the colonial past of Nigeria, of Africa –
in fact, about colonialism in general,
about the experience of being taken over,
about the experience of a culture and the ways of doing things,
falling apart and needing change,
and what leadership has to do with that.
This great story and set of themes has been hugely influential
in both literature and academic theory.
The ideas I'm going to bring to it are drawing on many, many strands of work.
The book has at its center the character of Okonkwo,
a man born and brought up in a village in pre-colonial Nigeria,
a man whose father was laughed at around the village as a lazy man,
a musician who hardly practiced his music,
let alone worked hard in the fields,
and a man of whom Okonkwo was in some ways ashamed,
although also longing for his approbation and approval.
Thus Okonkwo grew up with a sense of himself
that was deeply troubled,
a degree of insecurity and a need to prove himself,
a need to stand out and show that he was different from his father.