Leadership is service, not power

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Posted  Tuesday, December 31   2013 at  02:00

This year will soon be gone as we stroll into yet another new year. Many good and bad things happened this year but the most significant was the death of an African giant – Nelson Mandela. He was a true world hero who will be immensely missed, especially if we don’t learn anything from him. Mandela was a true servant leader; he took on the full mantra of servant leadership.

While servant leadership is a timeless concept, today when we talk about leadership, one can’t avoid the negative aspects. From rampant corruption to ever increasing nepotism, from power hungry leaders to egotism and inept bureaucrats… it is difficult to understand if we have any servant leaders.

However, there are a few people who are in leadership for the right reasons. People who use leadership as a tool or means to reach out to others and their most pressing needs, not for self aggrandizement. Such people come to leadership because of their strong desire to serve others.

The main principle of servant leadership is that leaders are attentive to the concerns of their followers and empathize with them. The servant leader uses power and leadership honestly and legitimately for the good of the people he or she serves. He/she sees leadership as a means to obtain the general good, not as a desired personal end. A servant leader cares a lot about his integrity.

The servant leader listens to his or her constituents. Servant leaders actively seek out the opinions and ideas of their followers. This is of top importance to the servant leader as it naturally fosters a relationship of mutual respect. Listening is innate to the servant leader - caring about others is a part of who they are. They can use that skill and learn from their followers.

The servant leader helps others to realise their potential, opportunities and possibilities. In other words, a servant leader helps people to do things they had not imagined. He/she sits down with his constituents to set goals that are both feasible and challenging.

The servant leader inspires others to service. Finally, a servant leader knows that he/she can’t do it all alone, and frankly, he/she would not do so even if he/she could. A servant leader wants to work with and for others. To achieve this, the leader must be able to inspire those he/she serves to serve others.

The above qualities describe the true nature and character that Nelson Mandela was. We see leadership that is measured by how much one has done for others, not by how much one has achieved for himself. With him, we have the extraordinary lesson on servant leadership. A humble but heroic servant of his people.

The best way to keep his memory alive as Ugandans is to emulate him. Let us go back to the true and right leadership mode of servant leadership.

Katherine Nabuzale,