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September 21, 2018

The making of a good leader: Part one

SERVICE LEADERSHIP: A true leader leads with service.
SERVICE LEADERSHIP: A true leader leads with service.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

John C. Maxwell

 Most of my thoughts and opinions in life are guided by what I know about animals. Like it or hate it, I will not stop saying that we, humans, are animals.

Most people do not want to believe it. But it is a fact. However gifted we are in terms of having higher brain volume and the ability to create a language and think objectively, we still retain in a very high degree, the animal instinct within us. I see this all the time in the bush.

There is no better place to draw parallel, the habits of animals versus people, than when you watch animals acting in their natural habitat, confronted by serious challenges which sometimes would mean their survival, or their death.

 I have come to like the wildebeests lately. They are described as being the lunatics of the plains. But if you were to be blessed as I am, and work with them, waking up to their bleating noise and their stampedes in the bush running from whatever makes the bushes fearful to them, then you would notice easily the things they do, that men do as well.

I was watching a group of wildebeests gathering up near the banks of Mara river, in readiness to demonstrate for the umpteenth time, that the grass is greener on the other side that you are not.

They came one by one. Sometimes arriving in a line that we call the Indian file. They would walk ever so slow you would think they already know there is never hurry anywhere in Africa. They realise they are on one side of the river, and they need to get to the other side somehow.

They may be aware of the dangers that the river poses. But crossing is a must. And so they trod on, urging along the first timers, who probably hit their sixth month of age in Kenya.

None of them pretend to be a leader. Although they will follow whoever leads the way, their main preoccupation is getting to the other side of the river. But first they must arrive at the river.

As they get to about a hundred meters to the edge of the river, the pace increases. They start smelling Canaan. The Promised Land is just a stone throw away, literally.

They can see the green grass of home. The pace becomes a trot, then a gallop. At some point, they disappear into their own dust. You can only see the front runners, and those at the rear end of the Indian file.

Even as they run, they don’t break the line. Where it curved around a bush, the dust still follows the curve. None of the wildebeest tries to change the direction of the line, in case they miss the trail that takes them to Canaan.

 The first on the line suddenly reaches the river bank. Depending on the site they have chosen, the waters of the river will be visible at a distance, or within meters. In this case, the leading individual had chosen to approach the river from a very steep cliff. Therefore, the view of the river was abrupt.

So abrupt that he is visibly shaken. He takes several steps backwards and hits the one who is following. Once the second one joins him, he seems to get more courage to have a second look at the river.

They walk together to the edge of the river and look down at the raging waters. They seem to be very fascinated by what they are looking at.

 The one who had been leading at the front suddenly turns back. All those behind him turn as well. They all walk a few meters back, while the new arrivals pass them towards the river to see the water for themselves before turning back to follow the leader. It becomes like a ritual. Get to the river, look at the water, turn back few meters and start thinking.

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. - Nelson Mandela

 "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right. - Henry Ford

To be continued.

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