Recently, my wife and I visited Prof PLO Lumumba in his office in Nairobi. We had gone to present to him a complimentary copy of our book “A People Called Afrika-Rebuilding the Afrika of Our Dreams.” (contact us to find out about physical copies). He was very glad we brought him the book. And since we visited almost close to weekend, he said the book was going to be his new read for the weekend. We talked about a few things concerning Afrika and how to build her up. As we were about to leave, he gave us his PLO Lumumba Foundation gift pack. Apart from the leaflets and a few other items in the bag, I was particularly attracted to the motto of the foundation written on the side of the bag. It says “Servant leadership is the mother’s milk for sustainable development.”
As short and precise as that statement is, it covers a lot of the needed change in Afrikan leadership models that I also believe can bring the much-needed development in Afrika. I will try and explain what I mean as I go on.
Even though we did not ask him to explain his concept of servant leadership while we were at his office, I believe that the definition of servant leadership should just be as obvious as the two words “Servant” and “Leadership”. But what do both words mean? To give the most basic meanings of both words, I will use the dictionary. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines leadership as “the office or position of a leader”. But another website says “Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal.” So basically, leadership is about leading a team, a people, a nation etc towards a set goal. Now to define servant, let’s see what Merriam Webster defines a servant to be. It says “A servant is one that serves others; especially : one that performs duties about the person or home of a master or personal employer.” So putting both terms together, I will personally define a servant leader as”someone who was appointed by an employer or employers to help lead a people, a team, a nation, in this case, the employers, towards a certain goal and by his appointed position as a servant or employee, he serves his employer or employers. I just hope my definition of servant leadership is simple enough.
Leadership in Afrika
Have you ever been bullied before by the very same person you employed to take care of your business? Or let me put it this way. Have you ever been slapped on the face by the very man or woman whose salary you just paid a few days prior to the slap? If you still don’t understand my drift, let me put it this way. Have you ever been chased off the road by the sound of those chaotic sirens and the rude and bullying security personnel attached to the very president, county governor, senator, MP whose salaries you pay monthly? Well in some cases, the guys who say they work for you, steal your money to pay themselves lavish salaries while they whip your back for not paying taxes, just because the very business you have and which they were employed to protect through favorable economic policies has failed miserably. So instead of having servant leaders at the helm of our affairs, we have rulers of slaves who think it’s their birthright to suddenly sit far up in the sky, that the very floor from which they were taken to become leaders has now become the field on which they beat the very people that employed them. So instead of servant leaders, we have rulers of slaves, even though they claim they are in public service. It is shameful but real and in your face every day.
Who are you really?
There are lots of aspects of leadership that I can talk about in this article, but I will simply narrow it down to political leadership and a bit of leadership in business.
So the question I will ask the political employees who call themselves servants on ballot papers and flyers but live as mindless and ruthless rulers in political office, is this: If truly you work for me as you suggested in your manifesto when you were seeking my vote, and if truly your position is that of a servant leader, why then do you have priority over me concerning health care? Why is it ok for you to go overseas for medical treatment costing millions while I, and your other employers on the street, cannot even access local health care either because it’s not available or that one which is available is too expensive for me and my little salary? Why is it ok that you who is the servant eats three meals a day at the expense of the public while the public themselves never stop to wipe tears of hunger from the eyes of their kids each night they have to go to bed without food? Are you really a servant like you claim or you are just a bully obsessed with power?
If truly you are my servant, why do I have to clear the road for you to pass with your noise-polluting sirens and bullying unruly security details who have no regard for your employers? Do you really know and understand what leadership means?
And are you really a servant or just some overfed bully who can’t tell the difference between serving and being served? If truly you are the servant leader that you claim to be, how is it that your eyes are very blind to the pain and the distress of your employers? Who in his right thinking mind will impose fresh and higher taxes on his people even in the face of a pandemic that has shut down businesses and workplaces for a year? Who in his thinking mind will increase the cost of petroleum products as a post-pandemic “gift” to the very people whose pockets have been over stretched and are now empty? Someone clearly needs brain cleansing in our local tax offices. If the government of the day with all the loans and resources they waste on foolish spendings is crying for funds because of the lockdown caused by the pandemic, how do you not think that the people from whose pockets you want to collect those unreasonable taxes don’t even have what to eat, talk less of money to give you as tax? Someone has to sit down and think that the pressure on the people in Afrika as regards the misuse of funds by Afrikan governments has consequences.
The Afrikan development
I bet you, every dream or aspiration that a man or a people may have, if given the right inputs and attitude will come to pass with time. Same with the dreams and aspirations of a better Afrika. But like the PLO Lumumba Foundation motto says “Servant leadership is the mother’s milk for sustainable development.” But what does it really mean for the sustainable development of Afrika to be connected directly to the milk of the mother? I do not have the answer that the PLO Lumumba Foundation uses, but if I may answer that question, my answer would be that, where there is a mother’s milk, then it’s either that conception has taken place or a mother has been blessed with a child. Meaning that if there is need for servant leadership which is the mother’s milk for sustainable development, but which clearly is lacking in our Afrika, then certainly, the “Afrikan baby” is either already dead of starvation or very malnourished.
Sincerely speaking, not every Afrikan problem can be solved by good political leadership, but every problem we have can be solved by one form of leadership or another. Meaning that it’s high time we all began to take leadership responsibility in our day-to-day dealings with life and humanity. For if leadership is about creating the accurate atmosphere of motivation that is clear and strong enough to move a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal, then clearly, leadership is in the hands of every human on earth. We just need to redefine what many have subjected themselves to as followers. We seem to have more people with a follower mindset than we have people with the heart to motivate others to rise. Mind you, I am not saying that to follow a leader is wrong, not at all. I am saying that we all are both leaders and followers. How is that possible you may ask? See it this way. We all as individuals have been given mandates and purposes to manifest on the earth as our destinies. And, if you will agree with me, you will attest to the fact that no two persons are the same on earth and also that no two persons’ destinies and purposes are the same. Meaning that, in the area of my purpose, I am a leader, but in the area of someone else’s purpose, I am a follower, just like that person is a follower in the area of my own purpose. It’s pretty simple. But the humility to know the difference is key. So the leadership responsibility that serves as mother’s milk for sustainable development is with each and everyone of us in our individual purpose and we owe it to ourselves and our communities to express such leadership.
The political leadership of a nation cannot and will not take the place of family leadership, business leadership, spiritual leadership, investment leadership. The list is endless. So now that we are still pretty much where we have been in terms of sustainable development in Afrika, does it not show that we have more makers of slaves than we have servant leaders? We all in our little spaces and with our God-given purposes must learn to be builders of people and not users of people.
Think about it.
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Samuel Phillips is a writer, graphic designer, photographer, songwriter, singer and a lover of God. As an Afrikan content creator, he is passionate about creating a better image and positive narrative about Afrika and Afrikans. He is a true Afrikan who believes that the true potential of Afrika and Afrikans can manifest through God and accurate collaborations between Afrikans. Afrika is the land of kings, emperors, original wisdom, ancient civilizations, great men and women and not some road-side-aid-begging poor third world continent that the world finds joy in undermining.