I have been back to class in KIM, a post graduate certificate course on “Professional leadership”. In this class I have had the privilege to brush shoulders with many leaders and managers in different capacities, which has made me learn a lot from them.
As I embark on writing this article on leadership, I have dusted off my notes from these experiences, coupled with my brief time as the PA to one of the County representatives in Machakos County and added what I have learned and observed since then about leadership in both Kenya and African continent in the hopes I can provide a comprehensive and analytic basis we all as Kenyans can use to choose our national leaders chief among them being the president, in the coming elections
But then before I pen down the main article about the national leadership, I decided to briefly analyze the kind of a leader we need at my local constituency, Masinga, Machakos county
Before I dig into this concept of leadership and how to apply it in a local context, let me state the uncontroverted and obvious upfront:
(1)There is a correlation between leadership and the development of a constituency.
(2)Almost all that ails Masinga and Kenya for that matter is directly linkable to bad leadership.
(3)The failure of Kenyan/African leadership is not due to lack of information or resources.
(5)The constituency of Masinga has in it individuals who can rise to greatness in leadership anytime.
The term “leadership” is one that is used across the globe and in all languages and cultures and perhaps the most if not the only common concept all peoples of the world commonly have in mind from time immemorial when thinking and deciding about how to govern their affairs.
As my Lecturer here at KIM describes it, “Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.”
To be sure, leadership is a subject that has been studied for centuries and many scholars have tried to define what it is exactly but none has had lasting acceptance. Analyzing these studies is beyond the scope of this piece but I have drawn from these studies qualities, attributes and skills (QAS) I believe are essential and a must have for the person we elect as our next president and these are:
- Religious Conviction
- Honesty, Trustfulness and Integrity
- Firm Educational Foundation and Wisdom
- Experience and Exposure
- Inspiration, Vision and Self-Confidence
It is my belief applying these QAS to select our next Member of Parliament will result in the election of the most apt and suitable MP at this time in our history.
For those who were around and followed closely the lead-up to the 2002 elections, the constituency was in great hunger for change from the then MP, Ronald Kiluta with a new MP who was to transform the constituency.
As history would have it, that transformation has yet to take place and the said elections of 2002 in fact, set us backwards even more than where we were as constituency by electing the incumbent Itwiku Mbai. That was then, this is now. Tomorrow, awaits and the question is, what shall it be? What kind of future lies ahead, given our past of electing political wannabes, who are inept in leadesrhip
What we need in Masinga now more than ever before is a transformational leader to finally transform the constituency for good.
According to my Lecturer, a transformational leader changes the lives of people by changing perceptions, values, and aspirations of the people – all while working for the greater good of the constituency/country. The timing could not be better as our current MP is retiring, whether voluntarily or by the ballot, we must send him home, and therefore we’ll have a new MP come next elections later this year, which we assume and hope will be held as scheduled.
A person with the cumulative five qualities, attributes and skills I list above which I analyze in more detail below has more than what is needed and necessary to be a transformational leader for our constituency:
- Religious Conviction
Kenya is a heavily religious country therefore it goes without saying our leader must be a religious person and by this I do not mean one who occasionally makes technical appearances in Church but one who actually practices his faith to some greater and acceptable degree of regularity. It does not matter whether the individual is Christian, Muslim, Hindu or a follower of any of the traditional African religions; it’s enough that he or she follows and adheres to one.
Can one who has hitherto never stepped or seen the inside of a church, temple or mosque suddenly convert from paganism and claim this quality of religious conviction at the eleventh hour? Attending burial services and fundraising at the eleventh hour does not make you conform by this. Of course; one can do so but the likelihood such a conversion being genuine is very low so the best that can be under this circumstances is to let the electorate decide the issue of whether or not such conversion is genuine or merely a con job for the votes
Having religious convictions is critical because makes one more likely than not to be, among other things, compassionate, which is an absolute must have attribute for a transformative leader.
- Honesty and Integrity
Besides being an upright and moral person, our next leader must also be an honest person with high integrity which combined, form the pillars of good leadership and governance.
My Lecturer, Dr. Ogidi points out that a transformational leader sets a personal example of high ethical standards which instills a sense of trust and respect among his or her followers. On the other hand, trust is an inherent part of presidential leadership therefore all these characteristics must be present and required of the person we elect to be our next MP.
Indeed, our constitution lays out in Chapter 6, the standard of conduct and behavior expected of those entrusted with holding public office. These qualities and attributes, however, must be demanded of our next MP before being elected and assuming office. Maintaining them while in office is, of course, a must.
Having these qualities and attributes will give us a good measure of how our next MP will deal with one of the vices that has bedeviled our constituency/Country for decades and that is corruption which is practiced deep and wide in government cycles.
To have a shot at getting rid of this vice or at least minimizing it greatly, it is imperative that we have a leader (s) whose honesty and integrity is impeccable and beyond reproach, which by definition means they are clean of the vice of corruption to begin with.
Same cannot be said of Our current MP, who has been involved in various corruption cases, including and not limited to the CDF kitty
We therefore must know of our next MP whether he or she is a person of good moral character, an honest person and a person with high integrity.
Needless to say, however, no one who has been engaged in proven corruption should ever hold that office or any other public office and neither should anyone who has conducted himself or herself in any other proven or provable dishonest manner be even considered to hold such office, let alone being elected to one.
Having honesty and integrity also means our next MP must conduct the affairs of his office in an open and transparent manner.
Transparency is intricately linked to accountability which has been wanting in our country since independence.
Our current MP scores zero, a huuge 0 matters transparency. He has never established any communication channel to be accountable to residents querries. He has no official constituency office, neither is he digital enough for an online portal to carry this information, and his PA’s phone always goes unanswered.
Now if you are lucky enough to have ever talked to him face to face regarding general information, you will agree with me the chap is soo self-centered and selfish on matters ‘general knowledge’,
Our current MP is in the group of Leaders from the top down who have acted with impunity because they believe they are not accountable to anyone, including the public in whose behalf they are supposed to act.
This obviously has to come to a halting end therefore the next Masinga MP must show by proven record that he is transparent and accountable to those who have elected him or her to office.
- Firm Academic Foundation and Wisdom
Dr. Odigi teaches that a transformational leader must provide intellectual stimulation by questioning assumptions and asking for creative responses from those he relies on for advice in decision making. This in turn motivates his or her advisors to think out of the box and work independently to find solutions to both common and complex problems.
No one from Masinga constituency can remember the last time, if any time, the public was involved in decision making. No single bazaar, our dear MP has ever called and for public participation neither convened any meeting by various stakeholders in deliberating matters public development
While it does not follow that an educated and intelligent person is automatically a good and desirable leader, being educated and intelligent is a good indicator the person can be counted on to make sound judgments and decisions, separate the chuff from the wheat upon being presented with an issue or issues and information by the public.
The decision and judgment need not always be right but it cannot be dumb.
On the other hand, it is not necessary that the president have the highest form of education in any field of study or otherwise be the Philosopher Kings Plato envisioned in his Republic.
Rather, it is enough the individual has at least a bachelor’s degree which speaks not necessarily to academic excellence but an indication of the individual’s hard work and determination, which in by itself is a requirement for a good leader, namely, ability to apply oneself determinately to achieve an objective.
This is one area we got it deep wrong, we elected someone who had never seen a white board (Those are seeing in colleges), and the last time he had stepped in an educational class prior to 2002 elections was eons. Our dear (My Editor encourages me to use that word, though its not deserved herein) MP was a form 2 dropout as far as I know (and if anyone has better version, kindly ring me). And it was just recently he is said to have graduated, when, where and how he got his KCSE certificate is a story for another day, and he should pray CS Matiangi does not see this.
4. Experience and Exposure
In his Crucibles of Leadership,” author Robert Thomas notes the following:
“Accomplished leaders say that experience is their best teacher. They learned their most meaningful and important leadership lessons — lessons that they’ve integrated into their own leadership style—through crucibles. These were critical events and experiences, times of testing and trial, failure more often than grand success, that grabbed them by the lapels and demanded to know ‘What do you stand for?’ and ‘What are you going to do?’ A situation arose that did not respect age, gender, generation, nationality, talent, or charisma; all it asked was that the person step up and be someone or do something they’d never been or done before
Experience therefore absolutely matters and the more one has, the better.
In addition to having local experience, it behooves our next MP to have experience dealing with international affairs, which might and could attract investment institutions in the constituency, and international stakeholder NGO’s to support various programs within the constituency
A person who is well traveled and has interacted with other regional leaders is likely to be more successful handling any number of international issues he or she has to deal with as Leader. The more exposure one has with these types of interactions, the better he or she will be equipped to execute tasks touching on international affairs.
Having a solid academic background, intelligence and a good doze of wisdom gained through experience is a good indicator the individual will be comfortable in his or her shoes and therefore less likely to regard those around him or his or her opponents with suspicion because of inferiority complex that is bound to arise if one is otherwise less academically and intellectually positioned relative to all others, especially those he or she deems to be a threat to his or her political life.
This is not to say the leader must have equal or superior academic background and knowledge to or over all others but simply enough of both to be comfortable in their own skin with those who might even have more of same than she or he.
Similarly, we must select an MP who is not afraid to let those who by design or accident emerge as good or even better leaders than they. This phenomena is inevitable but is often met with resistance, sometimes deadly resistance in Kenya and beyond but we don’t need such leaders. We need someone who will inspire those below him, and guide them into becoming even better than him in future, so as at the time of his departure, we will have an heir to the throne preferably groomed by him
This cannot be said of Our current leader, he has not,,no, thats not the correct word here, he has NEVER groomed any young (wo)man, no one can stand tall today and claim the position having been groomed under the MP’s feathers, the current generation of youth do not look upto him, and there is a reason to worry when young elites do not involve, feel your influence. There is no single organization/sacco/society he has ever initiated and guided into great heights, which we can look at and align their success on him
In other words, we must not elect a contender who sees his or her opponent or opponents as political enemies who must be destroyed by all means other than by ideology and/or issues.
- Inspiration, Vision and Self-Confidence
A transformational leader according to Dr. Odigi must have the ability to provide inspirational motivation. This is done through the articulation of a vision, creation of optimism, and making sense of the environmental changes.
As noted above, Masinga constituency needs an inspirational leader now more than ever before in our history. This is significantly because even though most residents have tried to counter the animal that is SAND HARVESTING, same cant be said of our local leaders, we haven’t had bar Kivaa ward MCA Hon. Kathinzi, a leader that gives the residents the confidence of being the change in their own capacities. We need a leader who can inspire the youth into believing that they can do better than being ‘Mbuloka’, we need one who talks environmental sense to the community and make them understand the effects of sand harvesting.
A key measure of one with ability to transcend SAND HARVESTING and inspire others to do same while uniting the constituency is whether the individual is humble, respects others, has a proven record of compromise in the most difficult of circumstances, shows or has shown he or she is capable of admitting mistakes or wrongdoing, is in touch with or otherwise shows an understanding of the needs and aspirations of ordinary residents, and has shown he or she is not afraid to tackle people’s problems even in the face of great adversity or at the cost of political and personal sacrifice.
Being inspirational in ending the vices that plague our YOUTH, including corruption, alcoholism, miraa chewing and other drugs, is just but one aspect of inspirational ability we must demand of our next MP, the other aspect is ability to inspire the residents to be engaged in bringing about other fundamental and economical changes in our way of life.
The next MP thus must have a clear vision as to how to bring about these fundamental changes, which should include in the least, transparency, accountability, improved and sustainable economic welfare, housing, health and education and by that I don’t mean merely pointing out what needs to be significantly changed for the better is, but providing a road map clearly laying down his or her plans to achieve these goals, how long it’ll take and how to pay for them, using CDF or any other funding he might mobilise
This then, becomes one measure of success upon which the person elected on such promise can be held accountable on his or her re-election bid, if not sooner by recall.
Finally, but not least, even though we need and must have an inspirational leader, we must also distinguish those who are inspirational for all the wrong reasons. Hitler was very effective in manipulating people’s emotions to create so much hatred for other human beings to the points they allowed him to commit the abominable atrocities he unbelievably committed.
The foregoing comprises the basic and minimum qualities, attributes and skills I believe are essential and must be demanded of our next MP. They are by no means exhaustive but they are the foundation and core upon which others evolve. I have not, for example, included the inner qualities such as fairness, impartiality, character, strength, and ability to recognize one’s limitations which go without saying as being essential and part and parcel of good leadership. I am in the final analysis confident if we elect a Member of Parliament with these basic qualities, attributes and skills, we will transform our constituency forever and for the better.