BY MWANGI WANJUMBI
As the elections for 2012 close in, it is necessary to encourage the youth who may be interested in building careers revolving around national leadership.
This discussion is motivated by the fact that Kenyan youth have constantly been reminded that they are future leaders and therefore not ready or deserving to be in those positions today. Additionally, if the leadership is left to the senior citizens only, shall we not get into situations of leadership gaps at some stage?
On the other hand, it has continually been pointed out that leadership is for those who are financially endowed rather than lightweights. The truth is that age and financial status are ideally not pre-requisites of leadership either in our country or elsewhere. Notably, the current British Prime Minister got into power in May 2010 at 43 years.
Indeed, there have been many other cases of young leaders who have attained these positions out of sheer merit even when not financially endowed. Remember that President Obama’s campaign was substantially financed by his supporters. Even more encouraging is that our new Constitution has embraced unprecedented guides driven by integrity and leadership principles as outlined in chapter Six.
Moreover, if we can learn from the trends in the recent interviews of senior judicial officers, then the expected leadership standards have started falling in place. Most likely, it is only people with impeccable credentials including character that may in the future venture into public leadership. Is this then not an opportune moment for the youth to start considering their options in leadership?
Ideally, leadership principles are always the same whatever the situation. However, it pays to realise that leadership is about the power of influence, which can be articulated in several ways. One of them is power of rewards where financial endowment becomes the key consideration. In this situation, you use financial might and other favors to buy your way into leadership. But does everybody have to use that route?
Another popular source of influence is derived from charismatic power. Gifted speakers and more appropriately social communicators fit quite well in this category. Sometimes, they need nothing else other than pulling and influencing people through their oratory skills. Without doubt, you are familiar with many such people.
Unfortunately, the power of influence may not work on its own in leadership. In fact, one is unlikely to be successful in leadership when there is no purpose for being in the same. More still, the position may not be sustainable for long. That is why you find that there are only a few leaders who sustain these positions for a lifetime. The ideal situation is to be in leadership as a way of life.
So, what does it take to achieve the desired success?
One sure way of venturing into leadership anywhere is identifying the challenges or aspirations that prospective constituents could easily identify with. What in other words is destabilising them, which you think you can contribute in helping to achieve the desired results? What is their vision or, more appropriately, their expected achievements? Do you prescribe to that vision and would you walk with them as they pursue the same? If this can be a shared vision, then you are on the first steps towards acquiring devoted followers.
Mind you, it may pay dividends to work out dreams that are realisable during the leadership term. Further, it is advisable to be with the followers as they strive to achieve their dreams. When the dreams are not achieved and you are unavailable to discuss and face the respective challenges with them, mistrust is likely to set in.
This situation alienates you, the leader with the followers. In the end there may be no wins for any of the parties. This may lead to eventual severance of the relationship and therefore loss of the leadership position. Ultimately, every leader’s desire is to stay on and serve for as long as is practically possible. Are you that leader?
(Mwangi Wanjumbi is a management consultant/trainer and CEO of Newtimes Business Solutions)