The Caring Leader (Shepherd)

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep‘ John 13:11

The second mark of good leadership is caring or self-sacrifice. Kenyans have unfortunately seen few examples of this quality in their political leadership. Our cultural definition of a leader is one who attains their position at all costs, and who uses it to enrich themselves. Michaela Wong’s book title ‘it’s our turn to eat’ has become our national leadership mantra. 

images-2Sadly as the saying goes, ‘the fish rots from the head’. The increasing prevalence of strikes and labor disputes that threaten to destroy our national competitiveness and are just a tip of the ice-berg. It’s difficult to tell our city-council workers, doctors, teachers, national airline employees and so on to be patient and take a long-term view when their own elected leaders model the exact opposite.

Leadership guru Jim Collins in his famous book ‘Good To Great’ proposes a different scenario. A ‘Level 5’ leader is one who is able to channel their ego-needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company (or in our case, nation). Their ambition is first for the company and not for themselves. They want to see the company they lead succeed in the next generation even when no one else remembers them.

images-1Shepherd or Level 5 leaders are keen to help those they lead attain their full potential. They are not afraid of the success of those around them. Like Jesus in John 14:12, they want to see those they lead become even greater than themselves. Rather than use people to achieve their goals, shepherd leaders make it their goal to build their people.

Examples of shepherd leaders for me include Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore, Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Nelson Mandela of South Africa. On a more personal note, I’ll never forget the years I worked with Pastor Oscar of Nairobi Chapel, who constantly told those of us on his team, ‘I know you will be a far greater leader than myself’. I truly honor him as an empowering shepherd leader who helped me believe in myself as a leader!

I know I stand the risk of being accused of being partisan by raising this question but I will do so anyway. Answer this – which of our current parliamentarians voluntarily rejected the arbitrary tax-holiday that our current parliament bestowed on itself?

images-3I suggest that Kenya desperately needs a national leader that will by personal example create a leadership culture of self-restraint and service. A top executive that will voluntarily cut his/her own salary and challenge parliament and the judiciary to do the same. A leader who will challenge wealthier Kenyans to volunteer their time and resources towards making a better life for their fellow citizens. And I suggest that these qualities must also be true of your candidate for governor, senator, MP, women’s rep and county assembly member.

As I have said before on this blog… there are no perfect politicians out there (or Kenyans for that matter)! But the reality is that some leaders do display the quality of shepherd leaders better than others.

That leader you are planning to vote for in 2013… do you have any evidence from their record that they are a shepherd leader? Really?

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