Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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What Role Is It?

It is a bright Monday morning in Spring 2030!
As soon as you open your eyes, you can tell this is no ordinary Monday or morning. You have no idea why this day is different, but you sense it is special. In great anticipation, you spring out of bed excited to jumpstart the day like a champ with a good workout. After sweating it out, you sit down to fuel up with a quick bite.
Instinctively, you pick up your cell phone and check your inbox – your private email, not your work email!

The Invitation!

Immediately, your eyes land on the first email at the top of your inbox because the subject line is intriguing, and the body is surreal! It reads: You have just been selected and invited to participate in a new game show in sunny San Diego! The game show titled: What Role Is It? will be aired on national TV in the fall. And the winner will receive an offer for a senior position at a leading company in an industry of their choice.
Your initial thought is: Gotta be a scam! Too good to be true! But you keep reading!

And the text continues…
On the game show, the host, Oliver the Showman, will read several words that describe the duties of a specific role in an organization. You will have a simple task – Listen to the words Oliver reads, hit your buzzer, and yell out the correct job title. Before anyone else! You will be competing against three other contestants. And the person with most correct responses will be declared the winner!

Upon reading this, you pinch yourself and think… The idea of landing a dream gig in perfect-weather San Diego is enthralling! And without skipping a beat, you accept the invitation! Amazingly, the following morning, a staff member at the show contacts you and arranges your trip. And before you know it, it is September, and you are on the set of What Role Is It?

It’s Showtime!

On the appointed day, the atmosphere on set is thick with excitement, and the audience is cheering wildly! Suddenly, to everyone’s delight, a tall, dark-skinned woman dolled up in a coral designer dress and a famous talk show host, Oliver the Showman, adorned in designer jeans and a light blue blazer, descend upon the stage. And in unison, they say: Ladies and Gentlemen Welcome to What Role Is It?

The audience erupts in applause! And Oliver the Showman continues:
We are here in sunny San Diego! The land of idyllic weather, home to dazzling sandy beaches, cool ocean breezes, and renowned attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, and LEGOLAND California – to name a few! In San Diego, dreams come true! And today, we hope to make your dream come true! So, let’s start dreaming!

Ever so quickly, Oliver the Showman reads a series of questions, contestants respond at lightning speed, and there is a four-way tie! Then he exclaims excitedly: We have a four-way tie, folks! This is a first!
And you think to yourself: Of course, it is a first! This is the first episode of the show! 😊
Expectedly, he asks the tie-breaker: Contestants, When you hear these words: servant, steward, shepherd, what position do you think of? Excitedly, the other three contestants frivolously press their buzzers and yell out responses:
Contestant #1: Housemaid!
Contestant #2: Babysitter!
Contestant #3: Waiter!

Surprisingly and to everyone’s dismay, their answers are all incorrect.
Confused and panicked, you think: All three answers seemed correct. And you could have said either of them if your silly buzzer worked when you pressed it!! Ugh!! What could the answer be??

What Role is it? Really!!

Suddenly, everyone in the audience is staring at you with bated breath. Nervous, you blank out! Then in a flash, you hear the dreaded sound: BEEP!!! Instinctively, Oliver The Showman flashes a charming smile and says: Great try, folks! Unfortunately, all of those answers were incorrect! And our fourth contestant did not get an answer out in time. Well, let me take us all out of our misery! The answer is the word: Leader!
Seemingly, in a synchronized fashion, all of the contestants’ jaws drop! And it seems Alladin’s rug just got pulled underneath you!

What just happened?

I bet most of us did not think the leader was the magic word! Why would we when today, the duties of a servant, steward, and shepherd are associated with those at the bottom, not the top of an organization, country, or society? In addition, we associate tasks such as maintaining homes, caring for children, and herding flocks with those at the bottom of the social rung.
But herein lies a humble truth: Leadership is service and stewardship. And the primary responsibility of a leader is to shepherd!

Admittedly, as these are not the top qualities we hear touted in great leaders, this might sound incredulous. But, a little introspection and reflection on those who have made an unshakeable impact would lead to the same conclusion. And this might lead one to ask: What does leadership look like in action? Also, is my leadership style more akin to an empress/ emperor or a steward?

Leadership In Action!

I bet most of us would say: As leaders, we see ourselves as stewards who guide, empower and enable those who work with us. – This is likely the intention of most in a leadership capacity. And we are incapable of knowing the thoughts of others unless they share. Therefore, questioning a person’s intentions is a slippery slope. However, as we know, a person’s impact is the product of their actions, not intentions.

Therefore, to know if our leadership style is similar to that of an emperor or a steward, we need only examine our actions. For starters, let’s travel to a faraway land in an era where emperors reigned. I am referring to an old stomping ground where I spent copious amounts of precious time and shared many laughs and some tears. And that is Rome, Italy. Notably, centuries after Rome was ruled by emperors, the remnants of their reign are still visible throughout the city. 

Ruling like Caesar?

Today, when many think of emperors, minds wander to Julius Caesar. Ironically, Julius Caesar was the last ruler of Rome’s Republican era but was technically never recognized as an emperor. https://www.history.com/news/timeline-emperors-roman-republic  However, during his reign, he shook the foundations of Rome itself, forever changing how we think of governing powers. Taking control of the Roman Empire in 59 B.C.E. he later named himself dictator for life (of the Roman Empire), a position he assumed until conspirators led to his death in 44 B.C.E. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/julius-caesar/

Today, when we think of emperors, Julius Caesar might be top of mind for many because of the dark stories about his rule. But other emperors like Ceasar Augustus were revered and loved. Augustus was considered one of the most successful leaders of Rome, who restored peace and prosperity and led the transformation of Rome from a republic to an empire. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/caesar-augustus/

As we find when we study emperors, an asset today can be a liability tomorrow. Remarkably, this is true of leadership, personal and professional life. And to avoid making the mistakes of the past, one needs to know why those who came before followed the path they did and pursue a better way forward.
In pursuit of this gem, we will explore the pathways of emperors and stewards next time!

Illuminating times lie ahead! 😊

For you and to you,



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