Servant leadership, JFK and CR17 spirit can get us out of the crazy and chaotic times

South-African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Parliament. (Rodger Bosch / AFP)
South-African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Parliament. (Rodger Bosch / AFP)

Only through servant leadership can good governance and lasting peace be achieved. If only every leader in this nation will truly embrace the characteristics of servant leadership then we can truly count on glorious days ahead, writes Rich Mkhondo.

What sort of Cabinet, provincial and national parliamentarians will get us through these, "crazy and chaotic times"?

Even before American business management guru, Tom Peters, coined the term "crazy and chaotic times," the demand for what's been termed servant leadership was often repeated during tough times such as these.

Indeed, every now and then we are in an endless quest for ideal leaders or politicians whose job is to create conditions for economic growth. Even now many seminars and fora are engaged in learning how our country can groom such leaders.

"Servant" leadership is a fascinating concept which requires those in positions of power and decision-making to be open to new ways of thinking, to be less autocratic, to listen and engage with us.

Radical, tough decisions have to be made to drive change in the Ramaphosa administration. Managing these while keeping citizens engaged and positive will be a difficult task.

I join those who advocate that a true leader is a servant leader. The US-based Centre for Servant Leadership has defined servant leaders to have ten basic characteristics: listening; empathy; healing; awareness; persuasion; conceptualisation; foresight; stewardship; commitment to the growth of people; and building community.

For us the emphasis should on servant leaders who are good listeners and good stewards, who are good at building a sense of community, rather than division, and leaders who have insight into problem-solving.

We need servant leaders who do not suppress personal growth or foster exploitation, who have the wisdom to do what is right, first and foremost, instead of putting their party politics and their own agendas first.

Of course, we live in an age where many elements would try to corrupt the minds and spirits of leaders who have the power to decide on behalf of citizens. The temptation for money and power is stronger than ever.

However, more than knowledge and skills which they can acquire through study and experience, their integrity and character are equally essential – or perhaps more significant – elements, in serving us with honour and integrity.

To lead, therefore, requires our Members of Provincial Legislatures (MPLs), Members of Parliament (MPs) and Cabinet to be servant leaders who possess a combination of knowledge and skills, on one hand, and acumen anchored on character on the other, with each side complementing and reinforcing the other.

Akin to a father and mother who bear the noble duty to deliver their children and family to the good life, our Cabinet, MPLs, MPs owe our rainbow nation, progress, security and prosperity.

They should care about the nation, more attuned to the challenges the average citizen faces day-to-day. They should be what the country needs right now, leaders who have compassion for people.

I believe that servant leadership and John F Kennedy's test of "Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You ... Ask What You Can Do for Your Country," are the only way for our rainbow nation to realise the dream for positive change through President Cyril Ramaphosa's "Thuma Mina" (Send Me), peace, and sustainable development.

Only through servant leadership can good governance and lasting peace be achieved. If only every leader in this nation will truly embrace the above ten characteristics of servant leadership then we can truly count on glorious days ahead.

Of course, it is no secret that our national government and provincial governments don't have all the answers alone.

There are those who believe that our government causes more problems than it provides solid solutions.

Indeed, many South Africans think all politicians are a bunch of greedy, corrupt, self-serving windbags. The last thing they want to do is help fuel their little delusions of grandeur by actually getting involved in politics.

I fully understand that position. But they got into power anyway, some of them because of our indifference and cynicism. After all, activists and extremists always vote. And they always vote for the wrong people because they want to maintain the atmosphere of conflict, distrust and bigotry that serves them so very well.

This time around there are many reasons for us all to make our voices heard. This time it is about real issues – about trust, accountability, competence and ending the cycle of corruption.

There is a saying: "All of us need all of us." As in most situations, there are shared responsibilities, and in a perfect world, JFK's call to service and "CR17's" call for "Thuma Mina" literally, not figuratively, should resound from house to house and community to community, town to town and city to city.

Starting at the local level with a unified front would go a long way toward building a positive path that would lead to identifying and addressing our local concerns and implementing viable solutions.

To deal with the "crazy and chaotic times" let us embrace the JFK and CR17 test and redefine our idea of what it means to be a citizen, that everybody has something to contribute and everybody has something to give back to this country that's given us so much.

- Rich Mkhondo runs The Media and Writers Firm, a ghost-writing, content development and reputation management hub.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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