In my observed opinion, there are two BROAD kinds of leaders in Kenya.
Unfortunately, the majority crop of politicians are in the bad kind.
The first type of politician is the ‘dreamer salesman’ type. He has selfless intentions, a remarkable work ethic, great vision and the charm to open the eyes of his followers to see his beautiful dream and believe it?
He realizes that he was appointed to his position to direct and lead from the front. He is firm in his vision and will not be distracted by ‘noise’ or populism. Why? Because he believes in his vision and will be ready to defend it.
The ‘dialogue’ he has with his followers is that of telling the story of his dream and selling it. Invariably, the dream will be bought by the followers.
The late John Michuki was such a leader. He never asked his followers or the public what they wanted. He conceived – sometimes even before the masses did – what was good for them, and was adept at selling the idea and marshaling support.
The dreamer salesman will then march forward towards realizing the dream and, as you guessed it, his followers enthusiastically rally behind him.
These are the kind of leaders we lack, but are desperately in need of.
The second type of leader is driven by populism and a knack for pleasing his followers. He is the ‘consulting’ one and is wont to abdicate his leadership responsibilities to his followers.
How, you might ask? The consulting leader is bereft of initiatives and is largely driven by the yearning of his followers. Usually, he will mostly get ideas from his subjects. And rather than interrogate what his followers actually want, he will push their agenda with gaiety and think about what he did later.
Usually, he does not invest time in dreaming. He is driven more by survival and relevance. He seldom goes beyond his call to duty. His followers will want him to initiate programs or activities that they (and not necessarily him) delight in, but which may not necessarily be in the interest of the wider society.
If he does come up with initiatives, they will be selfish rather than selfless, imposed rather than driven. He leads from behind.
He is so beholden to what “my people” want that he can even risk his life trying to push his followers’, rather than his own, agenda.
The tragedy of leadership in Kenya is that leaders want to be told what to do, which is fine, and also how to do it, which is tragic.
My idea of leadership is that you must go through a tenure with a vision. You must own the vision and be seen to both drive and market it. You must lead from the front, not from the coat tails of your followers.
That is why we should be in grief when a leader says he wants to ‘consult’ the masses. Of course, we elect leaders to serve our needs, not to dance to our tune without their own vision.
It is usual to find leaders who straddle the foregoing leadership types. They will have the character of either leadership types. But, certainly, one of the two types will dominate.
When followers dictate and control your leadership, you are no leader. You may be known to be a leader in deed, but you are not one in substance.