3 Leadership and Life Lessons from Kabul as Taliban Takeover Power in Afghanistan

A large chunk of my research work is dedicated to unraveling the principles or secrets of how ordinary people can become extraordinary. Not just that it makes a good story to see people that have being underestimated, labeled underdogs or categorized as outliers come from behind to eventually take the lead and become champions – on a personal level, it’s my personal story too. 

Behind every public victory are years of private labour so when I heard the story of Taliban taking over Afghanistan, my research alarm bells went off. I wanted to figure out how 75,000 people who were seemingly unorganized, didn’t have bullet proof dresses but wore turbans and never had any sophisticated military experience conquer a military base of over 300,000 strong men with training from US and the powerful allied forces to the cost of over $80billion including sophisticated military tools and equipment for both ground and aerial operations? How did the Taliban take over Kabul, Afghanistan? 

I wasn’t surprised at my findings. All the data points I found hit what is common in my prior research. It’s the same set of principles that David used to conquer Goliath, Jesus used to defeat Satan, Martin Luther King Jr. applied in the Civil Right Movement, Steve Jobs used to create the most valuable company in the world and so on(I wrote about these findings in my other works). 

So this piece is to those who want to understand the enduring principles and practices that underscore enduring greatness – student of life who want to gravitate towards unravelling the secrets behind the radical breakthroughs that many don’t seem to pay attention to – those things that people who want to have transgenerational impacts need to pay attention to.

  1. Core values, beliefs and ideologies: 

Core values and beliefs are the fundamental principles or codes of a person, group, institution or organization. These guiding principles dictate behaviour and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong. Core values also help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their goals by creating an unwavering guide. 

There are many examples of core values in the world, depending upon the context. “Core values shape your character, your behaviour, and what you are like. They hold strong, no matter what, especially in times of stress and temptation. Core values help you make decisions that you will hold true to your most inner self” (The Power of Vision, page 92). 

Core values and belief systems are so powerful, they become the internal convictions and driving forces that keep you going when all external motivations have disappeared. Do you have a core value system that guide your life or that of your group or organization? Operating with a core value is how you establish/influence culture. Taliban didn’t have military sophistication but they had a sophisticated belief system and ideology that guide their conduct. 

2. The power of focus and discipline: 

it’s one thing to fight for 1,2,3,5years. It’s another thing to keep the focus for 20years. Focus comes through discipline, and discipline brings about focus. Focus is what allows the flywheel of extraordinary accomplishments to keep turning. Whatever you focus on becomes fortified. Your focus ultimately becomes your destiny. In a world filled with a lot of distractions, the ability to focus becomes even more golden. 

I’ve carefully watched as what I call doom loop unfolds among many people or organization. Doom loop is what happens when people or organizations lose direction, stops, change course, thrown in a new direction, and then they stop again, change course, and are thrown in a new direction, and so the spiral keeps going downwards. As a result, momentum is not built or sustained and a cumulative fall or failure ensues. 

These phenomenon is more common among wishers, the undecided, multitalented people who try but fail to balance everything in their life. Discipline, focus, persistence and tenacity can make ordinary actions become powerful because it is usually backed by an unwavering resolve that result will surely emerge some day. “We can reconfigure our entire belief system and radically redefine who we are through focus, one thought at a time” (The Power of Vision, page 98). 

Resolute focus – not giving up easily – and repeatedly focusing your attention on fulfilling your purpose and constantly aiming to live in the reality of your maximised potential can become the game changer for you. Among other things the Talibans were credited for this: They don’t get exhausted or fatigue in their fight, with every defeat they get better organized and keep fighting. They never lost faith in “ultimate victory”

3. Perseverance, persistence and passion: 

it’s easy to lament the swiftness of how Taliban took of the entire country but those closely monitoring will know that Taliban took a long range approach, gradually taking over villages and small cities, securing their base, working with local chiefs and expanding their footprints. They also made effort to secure their financial sources by manning Torkham, the border to Pakistan and generating customs revenue ahead of their Kabul entry. 

Slow but steady. Little by little. No gimmicks, no sophistication, just focus, discipline, passion, perseverance and persistence. Persistence will keep you moving forward, yet you need passion to feed your persistence. Passion will help pay the price of time before big results come and help you persevere. Passion keeps you focused. Passion is the stamina that helps you remain committed to the purpose of your heart. 

Being passionate is having genuine commitment to the vision inspired upon your heart. Passion is unquantifiable. Yet being fueled by passion makes you want to not settle but keep moving forward. If members of a group or corporate partners are passionate about the corporate vision, they may be so positively occupied that they don’t have time for backbiting, envy, gossip, or anger. Sticking with the process and enduring the private labour pains is how the laboratory of an extraordinary life works.

Review these three points against your personal life and how you lead and run your institution. What can you learn?

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Oluwaseun Oyeniran

He is the Founder & President of OyES Education. He is a student and teacher of enduring greatness. He is the author of numerous books including The Power of Vision, Live Love Learn Grow, and others. His passion is to see everyday ordinary people identify their unique purpose and amplify their distinct potential for positive impact and legacy. He can be found on Twitter @seunoyeniran.

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