Development, Society

Leadership: You can’t give what you don’t have

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Uganda is engulfed with growing public outcry and heightened conversations about the deteriorating state of leadership at all levels –family, community and national. It is a known fact that the prized values cherished over the years like integrity, authenticity, service, courage, and nationalism are grossly lacking in many of our current leaders.

At the national level; the President, cabinet, parliament and the judiciary have been severally condemned for having lost it. So to speak in today’s lingo. For instance the 10th parliament in comparison to previous sessions has fallen to record lows. The political parties seem to be walking on a very steep slippery slope to disintegration. The civil society is grappling with questions of legitimacy and transparency. The religious leaders have not fared any better, in that they are re-defining holiness.

At family level, the disintegration of the family unit is a topic many of us are not comfortable discussing. This is because the issues are of personal choice and morality which are not easy to discuss. For instance, from my experience, many families that are going through difficulties in marriage could be spared a lot of the pain especially for the children, if there was some form of family leadership. How many of our families have elders that guide and direct the younger generation? What happened to the wisdom that was resident in the Wazeyi? They would draw from their experiences and mediate in difficult times.

Yet, I find that a lot of focus of the leadership failure seems to be on the political leadership and less on the rest of us –you and I. In fact, leadership failures at other levels are not scrutinized at all. While it is said that a fish begins to rot from the top, we need to interrogate what this top really means. This might bring out the fact that leadership is not really about the position but that we are all leaders in our spheres of influence. It’s at this point that we should share in the responsibility of this state of affairs.

I recently took on a leadership role at Akina Mama wa Afrika, an organization that focuses on feminist and transformative leadership development on the African continent to advance women’s rights and gender equality. This space has accorded me an opportunity to deeply reflect on the leadership challenges we are faced with at all levels of society and what can be done to address the deficits.

Foremost is that leadership development must begin with individual transformation of the self. We have to ditch the pretense. Our public persona must speak to our private persona. We can’t preach water while drinking wine and hope to achieve much.

Individual transformation begins with feeding the mind, body and soul. We can’t give what we don’t have. How could I completely love another if I had not yet learned to love myself? How could I truly value anything around me if I do not value myself? How do I trust others if I struggle with trusting myself? How could I forgive if I have not yet forgiven myself? How do I call others to account if I am not accountable in the first place?

The famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change we wish to see in the world” is a guiding light on this journey of purposeful, intentional and deliberate steps to become an authentic leader. This doesn’t mean that I will be perfect at all times. However, that I am deliberate to keep improving day by day. Let us work towards becoming authentic leaders.

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