Virtuous leadership

When the majority of us address our minds to the idea of leadership, what catches our fancy more often than not is political leadership. Leadership, however, goes beyond the long-drawn out war game that is politics. From both our historical and contemporary experiences as a nation and as humanity in general, it would be fair to refer to politics as politics rather than leadership.

This was the speaker’s starting point; to break away from the fallacies on what leadership is and present us with the proper understanding of what it entails. To look beyond the charisma and verve, for these and other superfluous distinctions alone aren’t enough to set apart those who are competent to hold such positions. No, it requires more than that as those who attended the Culture Scene Investigation (CSI) meeting on Friday the 4th of May 2012 came to learn.

But before delving into the core of the matter it will suffice, albeit with a lot of difficulty, judiciousness and regret to dispel the state of pensiveness that the reader must surely be engaged.

I would like to make a slight exposition of what is meant by CSI, but I hope that this will not be at the expense of diverting the reader’s mind from virtuous leadership as this article is so rightly entitled. It is my hope that the exposition will serve to give our readers the complete picture of what constitutes this activity christened Culture Scene Investigation, or CSI as it is now fondly referred to.

CSI is the brain child of one Peter Maina, so brought forth with a view to engaging the minds of interested individuals in an appreciation of one fundamental thing: culture. Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing everyone is invited to this forum where the modes of engagement vary from documentaries on history, art, music and, from time to time, guest speakers.

End of exposition. Now back to what we were discussing:

In giving this particular talk on virtuous leadership, the dean of the Strathmore Law School, Dr. Luis Franceschi, addressed the issue of trust and leadership, drawing analogies from our day to day lives, and the rationale we use in entrusting certain people with responsibility over things we hold dear. He pointed out that when we do something that might appear small such as voting in a national election, we entrust a very precious thing to our leaders – our country.

Evaluating the integrity of our leaders must be pegged on something greater than oratory eloquence and charisma. Only the very impressionable of us would use that as a basis of judging a leader. The Germans looked at eloquence and charisma in electing Hitler, the man who eventually drove Germany into war and a calculated mass murder of people he thought to be inferior and the cause of the problems of Germans.

Evaluating a leader must go beyond his fame and clout. Leaders should be picked because of the virtues they possess as human beings and those that set them apart from the rest of humanity as people who can be entrusted with the nation, as stewards, not as beneficiaries of a lottery.

But what does virtue entail?

Virtue is a characteristic acquired by continuous cultivation of good habits. True leadership requires that one acquires the four cardinal human virtues: fortitude, temperance, prudence and justice.

Prudence is right reason in action; put simply, it is the ability to know what is right and more importantly to make those right decisions when required to. It is about making decisions based on information and not making rash judgments. It further requires that one have the humility to ask when they don’t have the right information.

The second cardinal virtue, fortitude, can also be called courage which simply means to have the strength to take certain steps despite fear or pressure.

The third, temperance, is very much related to the ability to say no. It is the ability to overpower our own base passions, not because they are inherently bad, but because over indulgence is capable of destroying the person.

The fourth, justice, relates to giving each person what he or she deserves. This is what keeps the balance of peace in a society: that people will not appropriate to themselves more than what is due to them.

There are two other virtues that put you out on top and make you a real leader: magnanimity and humility. Magnanimity simply portends a greatness of heart, having that ability to see beyond apparent impossibility.

It is incumbent on every sober minded individual to look for these virtues in those who present themselves to the populace as the best prospects to a brighter future. A brighter future (and that is suggestive of the idea that we have one at all) may well lie in our own hands. For in pegging our choices based on virtue or vice we tilt the balance to either tranquillity or anarchy.

Seeing as we are headed into an election period, this choice will definitely have a greater present and future significance.

by Daniel Kobimbo

The write-up is based on a get-together given in Satima by Dr. Luis Franceschi on Virtuous Leadership. Dr. Franceschi is the Dean, Strathmore Law School.

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