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A real leader exists for the good of his people. Period

Jan 11, 2008 Business Daily, Leadership

“If we must have leaders, let us seek ethical leaders; those who seek the greatest good of their followers. The followers must on the other hand undertake to suffer the consequences of seeking, together with their leaders, the ultimate good, the greatest good.
…How sad, then, that we are surrounded by such weak leaders; people ready to compromise the long-term good, the ultimate good, for transient and destructive ‘happiness’; and with them so many people in a stampede towards their own destruction.”

George Njenga, The Edge, Business Daily (October 2007)

My friend George Njenga, Dean of Strathmore Business School, wrote these prophetic words just a couple of months ago. He was contributing an excellent article to the first issue of The Edge, the Business Daily’s management journal. I doubt that he imagined those words would come to haunt his country quite so quickly.

Only an ethical leader takes you anywhere worth going, wrote George, and how right he was. “Ethical” in this sense means “transcendent” – one who looks for the higher purpose, who surpasses the ordinary. What is that higher purpose? It is, quite simply, the greater good of the people. A true leader seeks the ultimate happiness for his people, period. That is what he lives for, breathes for, strives for. Anything else fails the test of leadership.

Consider, then, what the leaders of Kenya have just handed their people: a flawed and suspicious election; eruptions of violence, looting and slaughter; the unleashing of sadistic ethnic militias; destruction of hard-earned property and assets; and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons lacking food and shelter, refugees in their own country.

If leaders are meant to seek our good, what good, exactly, have they given us? Their cunning machinations, insincerity and hypocrisy have left the country in flames. It is time we, the followers, learned this lesson once and for all: we have kept the leadership bar too low. We have allowed charlatans and elitists to assume leadership in this land for decades. Those people seek their own ends, not those of their people. The calamitous costs of that lapse are now becoming apparent.

What is even worse is that our leaders suffer none of the consequences of their actions. They are surrounded by armed guards, ride around in protected vehicles and live behind high walls. They do not get hacked to pieces when mobs run amok; they do not feel the loss of basic commodities; they do not see their businesses and properties go up in smoke overnight. Their children do not have to sleep in open fields, nor are they left mentally scarred for life.

George Njenga warned that followers must be ready to suffer the consequences of seeking great leaders. This is something we have yet to learn: even in the just-concluded disastrous election, we rejected a number of new candidates who represented a new order. Yet a new order is exactly what we need, and we must use the awful opportunity that has been handed to us. If all this blood we have spilled is to mean anything, let it represent that period in our history when we collectively came to our senses and learned to understand the true meaning of leadership.

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