As it appeared in the Daily Nation on August 8th, 2017
Today is a special day in Kenya. It is a day that we choose our country’s and the counties’ leadership. As we choose these leaders, it is important that we appreciate the connection between leadership and service. This connection is not only important when selecting political leaders but it is also very important when we take up leadership roles. Leadership happens at home, in places of worship, in communities, in organizations and in governments. In all these spheres, service to others is a leadership responsibility of significant magnitude.
Whilst many of us talk about leadership and about leaders, our understanding of these terms maybe debatable. Largely, leadership is considered a complex phenomenon that lacks a universal description. Renowned business strategy writers Pearce and Robinson consider leadership as a process and practice of shepherding people towards a vision. Other aspects central to leadership include influence, managing change and achievement of desired results. Ideally, leaders can be said to be the people who engage in leadership. Unfortunately, not all that are leaders display leadership qualities. Exemplary leaders demonstrate leadership by taking charge, initiating healthy relationships with others and guiding overall performance. Such leaders can be counted on, they are honest. In their legendary book “the leadership challenge”, Kouzes and Posner consider model leaders as ordinary people who have a sense of direction and a purpose and who guide others to do extraordinary things.
Leadership and service are inseparable because ideally leaders are expected to be at the service of others. Service like leadership also has different meanings. At the very basic level, service is about helping others. Being at the service of others makes leaders not only accessible but also helps those around them to develop into future leaders. Most successes and failures in businesses can be associated with the kind of leader who was in place. The same can also be said of families, institutions and even governments. Without a leader ready to be at the service of others beyond self, it is impossible to move in the right direction at the right pace and achieve the desired results. When service to others fails, this is a sign of failure in leadership.
To build relationships, to drive change and to get results, leaders need to work with others and through others. Exemplary leaders recognize that they cannot operate in a vacuum, they involve others. Such leaders are also ready to be held to account for doing the right things at the right time. It is for this reason that organizations take time to recruit their top leaders. Organizations review past engagements, take their potential leaders through a series of interviews and tests such as psychometrics, carry out reference checks, put them on probation and hold them to account. Leadership continues to interest leaders as well as the led because of its weighty role in the human race.
As we vote today, it is important that we look for leaders who merely do not want a title or the power that comes with the positions but those ready to give of themselves to be at the service of all Kenyans. Unfortunately, there is no single barometer that we can use to measure a leader’s capability, motivation and intention. We therefore need to lots of wisdom. In addition, once we receive the election results, we need to be ready to work with our leaders and hold them to account. If our leaders prioritize building systems that will ensure accessibility of basic service to others, we will have a better Kenya for all!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy