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?


Five Qualities Of A True Leader

leaderPastor Simon Mbevi spoke this last September at Mavuno Church about the kind of qualities that true leaders must display. The ‘5 C’s’ he highlighted are…

1. Conciliatory – a peacemaker who builds unity
2. Caring – willing to sacrifice own needs for the people
3. Character – one who is committed to what is just and right
4. Competent – has a record of getting the job done well
5. Compelling Vision – a clearly articulated picture of what they will do for the people

He challenged the congregation in the upcoming elections not to vote for a leader because he/she is their friend, comes from their ethnic group or is wealthy but to vote for leaders who show these qualities.

He then asked the congregation to vote for such leaders EVEN IF THEY DID NOT LOOK LIKELY TO WIN.“What if he or she does not win?” You may ask. Vote for what is right, that makes you a winner even if your candidate does not win.”

Who are you planning to vote for in the forthcoming elections? Real honest now – are they the candidate that best displays the 5 Cs?

My City

Been a while since I was last here! Blame it on my sabbatical 🙂

I finally watched ‘Nairobi Half-Life’. Just in case you’re one of those few who like me have held out this long, I suggest you find a way to watch it soon. Highly recommended! What struck me the most is the amazing contrast of lifestyles between rich and poor in our city and the fact that despite the uneven playing field, everyone in this city – regardless of their social status – wants to succeed.

Pastor Linda Adolwa this month at Mavuno Church is doing an important series about the kind of leadership Nairobi leads (she strongly urged the congregation to watch the movie). The role of governor under the new constitution will be a powerful one and this is make or break time because in her words, ‘we get exactly the kind of leadership we tolerate‘. This last week she added, ‘what makes a good (governor) is not their personality but their character‘.  Pastor Simon Mbevi a couple of months ago also taught us in a different series about the 5Cs of great leadership.

I believe Nairobi (as with every other Kenyan city) can be a city of justice, equity, peace, respect for the law and generally of great beauty. I believe it can be a city where every hard-working law-abiding person has the opportunity to live in dignity and to provide adequately for themselves and their family. It’s so critical that we get this as we approach the elections… 1. you MUST register to vote; there is no place for indifference! And 2. don’t vote for a leader because they have a reasonable chance of winning, they seem popular or because others around you think they’re okay. Examine their record for consistency. Pray for wisdom. And then vote with your conscience – even if the person seems to have little chance of winning!

So… who are those leaders of character out there?

If you’re a ‘Nairobian’ and you love this city, don’t be indifferent.


Speaking about Nairobi, and on a lighter note, I recently came across a great article recently by Mark Wiens – ‘101 Things To Do In Nairobi‘. Have enjoyed many of them and still discovering others. My favorites include #18 (grilled maize), 22 (stoney tangawizi), 28 (kenmart), 42 (diamond plaza), 75 (the Nairobi Chapel). What are yours?