Putting servant leadership into perspective and context

07 Dec, 2018 - 00:12 0 Views
Putting servant leadership into perspective and context President Emmerson Mnangagwa

The Chronicle

Pastor Tomson Dube

The last article which was the fourth in a series looked at the application of servant-leadership and discussed attributes of servant-leadership that included foresight, commitment to the growth of people and building community.

In this issue I present a model that I reconstructed from my studies in servant leadership. I shall look at two aspects of the model that include character and self-respect. I have already covered listening in my previous articles.

One cannot talk of character without looking at issues of integrity as a servant leader. Integrity as a word comes from the Latin word integritas, meaning wholeness, coherence, rightness, or purity. Integrity has been defined as consistency between word and deed or “the perceived degree of congruence between the values expressed by words and those expressed through action”.

A servant leader matches this definition because people value what their leader says. Remember followers of servant-leaders are to become healthier, wiser, freer, and more autonomous.

Social media is awash with healthy and unhealthy messages that threaten the knowledge people have about their leaders. The President of the Second Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa (better known as President ED), is currently the subject of social media. His pronouncements and declaration that he is a servant-leader has put him on the spot.

The opening of social media waves, where followers use it responsibly gives President ED a notch above his predecessor. Comparison is the snare of the devil, but when it comes to leadership, having been subjected to 37 years under a single ruler, one cannot be accused of comparison. I have insisted that people (as followers) need to give President ED some time to turn around the economy and slowly build the vision that he has for a middle class economy in Zimbabwe by 2030. This cannot happen over 90 or 100 days.

People need to allow due process to take place and in the process, they become healthier in thoughts and wiser in handling difficult situations while being freer in communicating their thoughts and possible solutions to the situation our country is going through.

The autonomy comes with knowing what and when we ought to do things just like the sons of Issachar as referenced in I Chronicle 12: 52. Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were 200; and all their kinsmen were at their command.

Men that had understanding of the times — This is best interpreted politically. We need to harness our thoughts and focus to rebuild Zimbabwe. The entire negative talks about Government this and Government that yields no positive results apart from building stress and depression in the followers.

Integrity is the most often cited element of corporate mission statements. In most cases, integrity refers to honest representation of a company’s values and operating protocols. It is unfortunate that a trend has been set in the past 37 years, where corruption was the order of the day. People are still living in the past under the old guard in the Mugabeism regime. Let us take the good that the former President of Zimbabwe, Mr Robert Mugabe, did and trash the negative. In that strategy, we can move forward as a nation with the knowledge espoused by the sons of Issachar.

The Adam Clarke Commentary puts it succinctly that according to the Targum they (Sons of Issachar) were all astronomers and astrologers: “and the sons of Issachar, who had understanding to know the times, and were skilled in fixing the beginnings of years, the commencement of months, and the intercalation of months and years; skilful in the changes of the moon, and in fixing the lunar solemnities to their proper times; skilful also in the doctrine of the solar periods; astrologers in signs and stars, that they might show Israel what to do; and their teachers were two hundred chiefs of the Sanhedrin: and all their brethren excelled in the words of the law, and were endued with wisdom, and were obedient to their command.”

It appears that in their wisdom, experience, and skill, their brethren had the fullest confidence; and nothing was done but by their direction and advice. Let the truth be told, most Zimbabweans have lost confidence in our leaders and according to them (followers) they would have things done their own way. But in this case, the leaders did all under their advice and direction. This is the reason why I plead with the followers that we need to give President ED time. I will get back to the issue of time later.

In order to return the confidence of our leader (s) to the people, we need leaders with character. The great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr stood on the steps of Lincoln Memorial at the end of the Civil Rights March on August 23, 1963 and declared: I have a dream today . . . I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. A character can be judged.

For a leader to be credible, s/he needs character. Martin Luther King Jr desired his children to be judged according to their character. Character reveals the person in us. In order to get things done personally and organisationally, one first needs to get in touch with his or her character. It shows our values.

Leaders with character achieve results that transcend everyday organisational imperatives and outcomes. A study of world leaders over the past 150 years asserts that managers who possess strong character will create a better world for everyone, while leadership generally is vital to the social, moral, economic, and political fabrics of society. In the same vein, if one wants to give their business a good start toward success, it has to start with leadership, and leadership has to start with you.

A weak character will not produce the required result. Character is a leadership essential. According to Frances Hesselbein, the author and chairman of the Drucker Foundation, leadership that achieves results goes beyond how to be, and becomes how to do; this type of leadership is all about character. So in other words, in order to get things done personally and organisationally or governmentally, one first needs to get in touch with his or her character.

Leaders with character achieve results that transcend everyday organisational imperatives and outcomes.

There are essentially five characteristics we glean from great leaders that went ahead of us. The first of these is being flexible. Not everything goes as planned. We had hoped the economy would turn around in a short space of time, but instead it went the other way.

We have learnt that competitors change tactics, governments force new regulations on business, strikes stop the flow of products, and, occasionally, natural disasters occur. And at times like these, leaders have to be able to change course; that is, first make sure their people (businesses) or government will survive, and then find a new way to reach their goals. It needs time and with the help of the children of Issachar among us, something will happen and turn around our beautiful Zimbabwe.

The second characteristic is being able to communicate. Some leaders are great orators, but speaking well isn’t all that’s required of a leader. As we all know, there are lots of people who talk a great game but deliver nothing. Leaders who communicate well are those who not only share their thoughts with people or employees, but also let their strength and personal character show through in their communication, and empower those who work for them by defining the government’s goal and showing how to get there. This is one of the strengths of a servant leader.

Do more and talk less. Let the work communicate for itself. It is good that President Mnangagwa finds time to write and communicate; that is awesome and should be done regularly.

A third characteristic of great leaders–or, perhaps, group of characteristics–is having courage, tenacity, and patience. Having the courage to stand alone, the tenacity not to succumb to pressure, and the patience to keep fighting until you win the day–and sometimes being able to do all three at the same time–is something you will have to develop if you want to be a true and successful leader. President Mnangagwa appointed a cabinet which for me is a team that should complement the spelt out vision for Zimbabwe.

The fourth necessary characteristic is the combination of humility and presence. Acting aloof, or above your employees, does not make a leader. Leaders have to be able to talk and listen to their employees on all levels of the institution. At the same time, they must have the respect of their followers, the kind of respect that’s earned by being honest, having integrity, and being tough but fair. How else can President Mnangagwa be tough and fair? He can break away from the old dispensation where for international engagements, he can stop going with all sundry.

There is no need for a plane full of people that have no capacity to sign deals or exercise executive authority let alone to comprehend the purpose of the engagement. The breakaway from this practice can help in cost cutting measures and depart from the past where government officials going for international engagements were opportunities for receiving fat perdiems and shopping sprees.

This has to stop and should be characterised by business-minded people since Zimbabwe is open for business. A servant leader with character makes hard decisions that would benefit the followers in future. Hard decisions such as re-structuring other sections of government to reduce unnecessary spending that burdens the tax payer.

The fifth and final characteristic of a successful leader is being responsible. For example, a business owner has to realise that, as the saying goes, “A skunk stinks from the head down,” and a (business) or government does too. This means when there is blame to be accepted, the owner must be the first one to accept it. But it also means that when accolades are appropriate, they should be spread out among the team – cabinet. And when this happens, a leader is born.

Self-sacrifice
The servant-leadership camp states that effective leaders are not ego-centric or selfish. They don’t put their needs ahead of higher aims. But it is possible to be selfless without serving the needs of followers. Indeed, it can be argued that true leadership calls for sacrifice on the part of followers.

The call from green leaders to get people out of their gas-guzzling cars asks followers to make sacrifices for the sake of the environment. The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube has come under scrutiny with the recently introduced two percent tax, which he said would bring sanity to the economy.

Prof Ncube requested for followers to give his ministry and his person time. He desires people to understand the times like the children of Issachar. The financial discipline he alluded to is in implanting measures – austerity measures so to speak. I alluded to some forms of austerity measures as in re-structuring government departments, a simple delay in purchasing Members of Parliament’s vehicles, cutting the number of international delegates for international engagements and prioritising areas of concern.

This will help cut the borrowing percentage to 20 percent or less. This could be done in a spirit of self-sacrifice. As well, those leaders who go further and exhibit concern about the welfare of the group and its mission, demonstrate competent behaviour, and make self-sacrifices for the group without prospects of personal gain, are imbued with attributes of “extraordinary leadership” and gain even greater influence. It is my personal inference that Prof Ncube has no hidden agenda for personal gain.

He is trying to explain and implement a theory to angry, hungry and tired people that have lost hope. All he is asking for is people to be resilient.

I wish Zimbabweans could understand Prof Ncube the same way when Martin Luther King Jr called for people to give up their prejudices and the passion with which Mahatma Gandhi called for the British Government to give up India. Leadership has often been defined as influencing people to do things they would not do otherwise. Leaders who challenge the status quo and demand sacrifices from followers risk rejection which is surely compatible with being selfless.

Prof Ncube is on that warpath with Zimbabweans. Personally, I desire a situation where we could give him time to prove his financial acumen. Like Elijah, in I Kings 18: 44, I see a small cloud, the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea. Zimbabwe shall rise again to be the darling and huge economic giant that it used to be.

She has been sleeping for too long and the time to arise is now. Let us not stop Prof Ncube in our selfless aggrandisement but instead like Ahab, we should hitch up our chariots and go ahead before the rain stops us.

Conversely, Prof Ncube was not voted in any ballot, so unlike the politician who promises to give voters exactly what they want would be serving their needs but, in reality, just buying votes. Prof Ncube is calling on all of us to exercise restraint and a self-less approach to the kairos moment in Zimbabwe.

What kind of leadership is that? Servant leadership, being a slippery concept as we have seen, has other meanings, such as the desire to be of service. But many professional people are so motivated with what is happening in Zimbabwe especially those that understand servant leadership. Do we need to talk of servant doctors, nurses or teachers? No one can criticise such a noble attitude but it is best captured by terms like authentic leadership, character (integrity), selflessness or dedication.

Finally, let us do more praying and less posting of unfruitful and depressant talking on social media, especially WhatsApp.

In Ezekiel 37:12, God speaks to the people of Israel and says: Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” Tell you what, even if you think all is lost and there is no way out, God is able to take you out of that situation.

To the preacher wo/man, don’t despair, don’t lose hope don’t even think of leaving the path of following God. God told Ezekiel that He will open His people’s graves. Our graves are our own conclusions which have nothing to do with God. We have heard people say “Zimbabwe will never achieve this or that…”

Honestly, that conclusion will trap you. Hear the word of God; God is going to open our graves. Our situations which are exalting themselves above God, God is going to deal with them. God has no limit; He can work above, within, below, around and besides any situation.

Just believe and our graves will be opened. God will open our graves and take us into the Promised Land. Blessed are those who believe in God not in situations. Jesus taught and lived servant leadership. He turned around many people’s situations within a period of three years. Let us give the new dispensation time; at least they have a term of office. Give them space.

– Pastor Tomson Dube is a lead pastor at a local city church in Bulawayo and the University Chaplain at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust). He writes this article in his own personal capacity as a leader and a voice to the nations. You can get hold of Pastor Tomson Dube via e-mail on [email protected]

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