Mr. Alex Cummings is not only a truly outstanding Liberian but also a great citizen of the world. He retired last week from a position which placed him at the pinnacle of one of the world’s great multinational corporations, Coca Cola. In his 18 years of service at Coca Cola, he rose to the position of Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, which made him the company’s top executive. Before then he had served as Head of Coca Cola’s Africa operations, stationed first in Lagos, then in London as well as Johannesburg.
When Alex retired last week, Mr. Muhtar Kent, Coca Cola’s Chief Executive Officer, said “Mr. Cummings’ legacy is a leader who focused on growth and made us more efficient and effective. He also has a passion for people and a vision for building sustainable communities as part of our local business.”
What a great tribute to an international corporate servant, who happens to be a Liberian!
Thankfully, the Daily Observer carried yesterday the story of Mr. Cummings’ retirement, including this glowing quotation from his boss, Mr. Kent. Our hope is that all Liberians have read or will read the story and take inspiration from it as they chart their future, both in the public and private sectors. In his service to Coca Cola, Alex Cummings set a perfect example surely not only for Liberians but for young people the world over. To serve a multinational corporation with such distinction and leave with such a great and glowing tribute is an example that people all over the world are called to emulate. There were indeed talented people of many nationalities throughout the world that could have been chosen to hold the position that this young Liberian business executive was offered in 2008. Thank God for his appointment and for all the roles he played at Coca Cola in the past 18 years, retiring with honor and distinction.
What can young people all over the world, especially those in Mr. Cummings’ home country, Liberia, learn from this? The first thing they should learn is honesty. Would Cummings have even been hired by Coca Cola, or even Pillsbury, a global flour producer which he served in senior positions before joining Coca Cola, if he had not been an honest man? Not by sight!
The second thing our young people should learn from Mr. Cummings is efficiency, effectiveness and hard work. These three-fold qualities are among the hallmarks of every successful professional servant, whether in the public or private sector. Remember, there are people who are highly efficient, but not necessarily effective. What made Alex Cummings both efficient and effective?
There were two things: first, hard work and second, what Muhtar Kent called Alex’s “passion for people.” Indeed, there are many people who know a lot of book and who are also highly proficient at what they do. But they are not necessarily effective—why? Quite often because they lack people skills—the ability to get along with people—any kind of people. Mr. Kent said Alex Cummings had “a passion for people,” which means he got along very well with people, especially the people he had to work with to make his job at Coca Cola successful and the company profitable.
Remember Mr. Kent said Alex was “a leader who focused on growth and has made us more efficient and effective.” Coca Cola could not have accomplished such an enviable record, staying on top in the soft drink business, in the face of stiff competition from company like Pepsi, its nearest rival, and many others.
How did Alex Cummings do this? He had “a passion for people.” He knew that despite the immense financial, industrial and other resources at Coca Cola’s disposal, its most important asset was its people—the employees who, following leaders like Alex Cummings in whom they had implicit confidence, went on and gave their very best to Coca Cola to make it the efficient, effective, profitable and sustainable company it is.
One other important attribute of Mr. Cummings is his humility. None of the people who worked for him ever considered him a “big boss,” though indeed he was. But Alex was a humble man and that most certainly earned him the admiration, respect and trust of his coworkers.
We call on all Liberian youth and even those in middle age and older, and those throughout the world, to emulate the noble example of this great international corporate servant, Alexander B. Cummings. Those who do will certainly be highly successful, possibly even more successful than he.