We often hear debates about what makes a good leader. Is it strength? Compassion? Vision? Charisma? Or all of the above. As with all big questions, opinions differ as to what qualifies someone to lead.
The bigger discussion though centres on how to make a leader – is it nature, or nurture? Put more simply, can anyone learn to be a leader, or is it something you are born with?
For me, the truth is clear. Not everybody can be a leader. True leadership is a talent, possessed by only a small minority of people. Just as not everyone can play football for the Harambee Stars, not everyone can lead.
But while part of leadership is God-given, leaders must also work hard. Again, like a footballer, just because you have talent, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will fulfill it. That’s where sweat and toil come in.
The reality is, whatever their gifts, leaders have to work for it. They were most likely born with a charismatic personality but invested a great deal of time and effort cultivating what it takes to become a leader. When we elect a candidate to represent us in government, it is reasonable for us to expect that they feel adequately capable of leading and that they possess the will and the idealism to usher in positive change.
That is why recent reports that Kenyan MPs are not showing up to meetings is extremely disappointing. Majority Leader Aden Duale has taken it into his hands to collect a list of MPs that have not shown up for committee meetings on three or more occasions without providing a valid excuse.
The honour of serving as an elected official is not a role for someone seeking to make money off the state budget. It is a privilege for a leader who demonstrates by example, who understands that what they do has a far greater impact than what they say.
Finally, the moment has arrived in Kenya for MPs and other elected officials to be called out and reprimanded for their indolence and complacency. As the Head of State, Uhuru Kenyatta is finally putting an end to poor leadership through the anti-corruption campaign, and redefining what it means to be a 21st-century leader in Kenya.
Taxpayers pay more than Sh100 million for parliamentary allowances each month. However, the changes that Uhuru is making to how our government is run will mean that more transparency will reduce the cost of MP allowances, and hold them accountable for expenses. New measures coupled with the anti-corruption campaign prevent them from traveling business class in large groups. No more than four will be able to travel at a time, and they will be unable to use government vehicles after hours without paying for their own fuel. Since there are plenty of available government-owned buildings, they will no longer be able to hold meetings in private buildings that are accompanied by steep fees.
These new regulations may be tough, but they are necessary and they will change the political landscape in which elected officials all too often take advantage of their position.
The sixth US President John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”. Personally, in my daily life, I find that inspiration in President Kenyatta. Sometimes he goes against the status quo and sometimes he pushes the limits of what we have accepted as common practice in Kenya. By offering his hand to Raila Odinga he laid a foundation for unity in a country that has been plagued by divisive tribalistic tendencies for decades.
A handshake is such a simple gesture, but it is the basis for many further positive changes. By validating Raila and his many followers, he indicated to them that they need not feel marginalised. They can have hope for their success and the success of their children, they can believe in themselves enough to accomplish their goals.
Minority groups can dream and accomplish just as much as the groups in power if the nation’s leader fosters an atmosphere of openness and learning, and acceptance of new ideas. This is the kind of president we have. And as for the MPs that are not setting the same example, we the people can no longer accept their smugness and negligence.
Mr Mugolla comments on topical issues. Email: email@example.com