GREAT leaders are mostly wanted because among the burning issues that continue to inflict pain and suffering on our continent is lack of q uality leadership. Interestingly, the present-day buzz word about leadership is unique.
It goes beyond the concept “serv ant – leadership”. And a Bulgarian prov erb emphasises on the concept rather strongly; if you can’t serve, you can’t rule.
As to whether Africa has enough leaders who clearly and very openly subdue or eliminate their ego and embrace the notion of primus inter pares – first among eq uals, a picture of leaders opening up to wananchi to become collaborators, is a matter for our brief discussion today. Well, in my view, leadership and service, like fuel, are both needed sources of power to energise SADC as it seeks to sustain and add on the current achiev ements in the region.
Unfortunately, the two concepts, leadership and service, are both talked about more than they are actually understood.
I hope today I can remind my readers of this noble concept of servant leadership which is not only significant as far as the future of Africa and SADC is concerned, but it is lack of it that corruption, civil conflict, shrinking of the middle class, and the instilling of a culture of dependency which has unfortunately made my continent unattractive to global inv estors.
I begin with Ben Franklin’s wisdom; the good will of the governed will be starved if not fed by the good deeds of the governors. Likewise, Ronald Reagan’s insight; the greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things.
He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things. Both Franklin and Reagan speak of servant leadership.
Their knowledge is best summarised in John Q uincy Adams’ words; if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
Here, the call to servant leadership is directed towards having leaders who would serve with skill, understanding, and spirit. The concern on lack of q uality leadership, in my view serv ant leadership, speaks v volumes. It may include, but not limited to, lack of leaders who can be dreamers of great dreams, behaving ethically, with heartfelt desire to empower and develop people.
Africa and SADC’s hunger is for leaders of highest standard of humility, prov iding direction, and with unq uestionable trait of q uality stewardship.
Here I am talking about lack of leaders who will lead with others in mind and can cultivate a culture of trust. SADC and Africa needs q uality leaders.
And this we want to raise as an important issue, because what is needed among our leaders is foresight or far- sightedness.
This is an important characteristic which will enable “ servant leaders” to remember and thereafter understand lessons from the past - the days of Mwalimu, Kaunda, Samora and others, the realities of the present - the era of Magufuli, Kagame, Nyusi and others, and the likely conseq uence of a decision in the future.
To be a great serv ant leader, one ex pects that this forecast, a character of prudence, is deeply rooted in the intuitiv e mind of our leaders. Put it simply, this is all we need, to hav e serv ant leaders who will play significant roles in holding their institutions in trust for the greater good of their people and countries at large. And trust is a key value here.
Whether it is in developing regional v alue chains in priority sectors to drive industrialisation, or it is in ensuring that SADC region has a clear, v ibrant and strong coordinated system which intentionally engages the private sector, you simply need servant leaders to help driv e this kind of a v ision home. Indeed, commitment to serv ant leadership is the hope for SADC and Africa at large.
It is this assurance which shall inspire our leaders to work hard so as to ensure that conscious and deliberate efforts are in place to nurture transformative leadership that will drive their agenda and defend SADC and Africa’s interests.
In my view, serv ant leadership carries transformativ e leadership in itself. It is therefore important that this type of leadership be found in all fields - political, economic, religious, cultural, academic, youth and women and at all lev els of the community.
Equally important is for our leaders to remember that their leadership based on commitment to service could not only enhance determination, participation, self-reliance and solidarity of SADC people, but it also stands as one of the key preconditions for our success.
Correspondingly, one cannot separate servant leadership from accountable leadership and responsive institutions which are so dearly needed to build visionary and accountable leadership, democratic and developmental governance and institutions in our region.
Our interest in servant leadership has its source.
We simply want to see the region flourishing. We do not want to go back to the past history and the days when we had terrible leaders full of manipulation, political self-centred agendas, and exploitation.
These types of leaders led to fragmentation, and did destroy some prosperous countries, with the needed means and resources to driv e their own development. We want leaders who will place integrity ahead of ambition, think strategically, like a q uarterback does in football.
We need leaders who will see the big picture, those who are not willing to compromise truth but set the tone for SADC. When nations get servant leaders, it is obv ious that they will never tolerate fellow leaders who value their pockets rather than the life of citizens.
SADC and Africa needs these leaders because their dreams are so uniq ue in such a way that their presence becomes a source of hope and courage for others to tread on.
The biggest question is, where shall we get leaders who will always put their people before themselves? Where are the leaders who will make sure that people’s highest priority needs are being serv ed? So, to sum up my argument, I wish all our SADC leaders success for the 39th summit.
It is my prayer and hope that as they unite in order to realise SADC and Africa renaissance, they would seek to be serv ant leaders. I am glad that we are already beginning to taste the goodness of q uality leaders, not far off, but here in our region.
Dear leaders, as you meet and seek to maintain the spirit of transformation in the region, geared into having capable, inclusive and accountable states and institutions, at all lev els and in all spheres, please remember that great leaders are seen as servants first, and that simple fact is the key to their greatness. My proposal stands; serv ant leadership in SADC is, by and large, the region’s hidden treasure.
- Cheers! The author, Dr Alfred Sebahene, Department of Corruption Studies, Lecturer, Researcher, Consultant, Social and Public Life E thics Analyst at St John’s U niv ersity of Tanzania, Dodoma. E mail address: arsebahene2@ yahoo.co.uk alfredsebahene@ gmail.com Mobile: 0 7 6 7 2 3 3 9 9 7