Leadership, Integrity and Nation building.
– by Elisama Wani Daniel
Leadership is a noble task that demands the highest honour and sacrifices in life. It has both privileges and costs. Not everybody who holds a leadership position today is a leader, be it in the public or private domain, either secular or religious. It is a myth to assume that anybody holding, or who strives to hold, a leadership position is a leader, and conversely that anybody who has not held, or is not holding, a leadership role is not a leader. In Africa, and South Sudan is not spared in this, we see many of those holding positions of leadership are found wanting when it comes to what would properly be considered leadership. Most of the time there is a mismatch in their calibre, character and qualities compared with that expected of leaders. We do have plenty of those who hold positions, and so many others scramble for this noble task of leadership, yet very little consideration is given to the demands of this calling. Another myth about leadership is how it is viewed and defined in our part of the world. When you ask people who they think is a leader, many will give you a list of those holding senior or other leadership positions in society, public life and even in the churches, without giving regard to whether they deliver or perform in that role.
Leadership therefore, needs demystifying. It is different from ruling. It is not just the occupying of a post, position or carrying a title. It is a lifestyle, so leading by personal example. Leaders are distinguished because of the values they cherish and convictions they have for a cause, which is always for the common good of all the people within their jurisdiction, and distinguished for the character they demonstrate. Leadership in most cases is erroneously defined and associated with having power, creating wealth and exercising control over others. While this may be partly true it misses out other vital dimensions of true leading like serving, protecting, caring and shepherding; having the sense of obligation and responsibility (both to a higher authority and to the people under their care). These seem always relegated and less emphasised.
The Christian view and understanding of leadership, which I am passionately biased to affirm, is what I consider the best model for our world today particularly here in South Sudan, although it is a model despised and considered by some as weakness. Servanthood and incarnational leadership were demonstrated and perfectly lived out by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself during His earthly ministry. He was truly a good shepherd; and a shepherd in the Jewish context was known for leading, going before his sheep, one who cleared and set the way. If there are threats, challenges or dangers, then the shepherd leader will be the first to confront them. Hence, those who follow – the sheep – are secure under such leadership. This kind of leadership is concerned with ensuring the common good and the welfare of all people. Such a leader knows his people and knows where he would like to take them – with a clear shared vision.
The nation cries out
Leadership and nation-building are inseparable. The building of a nation is a noble task that demands true and integral leadership. Equally it is herculean task, never to be taken lightly.
In South Sudan the nation cries out for a leadership that will unite our diverse people, while guiding and steering our nation to a free, fair, just and harmonious society, where the rich diversities of all our people are effectively utilised and celebrated. Therefore, in this chapter I would like to outline some of the aspects associated with the kind of leadership needed, that could be applicable to help set our nation of South Sudan (and other nations that may be facing similar challenges) forward on the right footing.
Leader know yourself
First, the leader’s relationship with him or herself is so crucial and undoubtedly the one single factor that determines who and what the person is and how they would deliver their role. The mind-set, the value system and a personal relationship with God always form the bedrock of one’s life and outlook. Leaders whose formative preparation is not rooted in God will lack the integrity to lead others. Their self is always in conflict with God and sitting on the throne of their life in every aspect. They are not even in peace with themselves, something which can only be found through personal living relations with God. Any leader who does not have such peace within cannot lead others. Their stay in office simply and increasingly prolongs the sufferings of their people.
Lead your own family, having their respect
The second aspect is about the leader and his or her family, something that many ignore but I would like to state that its importance supersedes all. True leadership begins from the home and is demonstrated in the way you handle and lead your family. If you receive disapproval from your immediate family, whether you are the husband or the wife, then any claim that you can perform out there in the wider community is illusive. Successful leadership is first demonstrated in the home or family unit and this should serve as an acid-test for other leadership. Peace, joy, love, discipline and harmony are hallmarks that should be found in the immediate families of leaders, and those who aspire to lead, without any exceptions or excuses. Therefore, building and sustaining good relationships and resolving any issues at the family level will greatly boost the capabilities, performance and confidence for a person to do the same at any other level, be it community, regional or national leadership.
The triple A (AAA)
Styles of leadership are explored at more depth in the ensuing chapters. Nevertheless, I wish to allude to a few practical aspects in any style of leadership that make a lot of sense to people. I hereby apply ‘the triple A (AAA) acronym’, namely Acceptability, Availability and Accessibility:
Acceptability suggests that people should always ask you to lead them, they need to accept you whether through an elected process, nomination or any form of choice, meaning that you are not imposed on them, nor do you cling on to leadership by any means you can. Acceptability creates legitimacy and credibility for any leadership. When you are accepted the populace will be happy, supportive and will never (perhaps I should say, seldom ?) groan.
Availability of leadership means that they are responsive, proactive and outgoing in reaching and meeting the people at the point of their needs. In times of joy and sorrow, they are emphatically available to be with the people, not just for show but genuinely identifying and sharing in the people’s lives. In the Bible we see Jesus interacting with all classes of people. He is seen attending weddings, going to funerals and sharing meals with any stratum of society – something that good leaders can emulate. In Africa, again including South Sudan, we find leaders (especially national leaders like presidents, governors, commissioners, mayors and commanders) who are shielded, isolated from the very people they are supposed to shepherd. Huge sums of taxpayers’ money are spent running and maintaining large motorcades and often armed protection forces to accompany them in their movements. This becomes less necessary when a leader is widely acceptable, because hardly anybody will want to harm them.
Accessibility means that there should never be any serious barriers between the leaders and their people. Somebody one time said that “it is much easier to see God than to see certain earthly leaders”. They become so out of touch with reality and their people. They have no time to listen to or understand what their people are going through. Good leaders are accessible and their leadership demands simplicity of life, where they are intentionally incarnate, creating opportunities to interact with the common man. Thus they entrench accessibility in the apparatus and systems of their institutions. Dr John E. Johnson stated that “I do believe Jesus modelled an incarnational leadership; a leadership which is about influence, and leaders who influence are those who walk in proximity to their followers. Their leadership is tangible and impactful”.
Knowing and keeping the vision
A good leader should also be strategic in direction, have foresight and be visionary, as these are attributes that propel, inspire and give impetus to any leadership role. I should, however, mention that leaders may not necessarily be the best qualified, most skilled or longest experienced people in any organisation, but they should uniquely be the vision’s custodians and carriers. Only then can they provide strategic direction. If any leader lacks this, then the organisation, or even a nation, is in a very serious situation. Hence the wise proverb, “where there is no vision, the people perish”.
Choosing to make a difference
True leadership and nation building go together. They are inseparable. In history, we have seen successful leaders who have left legacies behind even when they have gone to their rest. Such people are still referred to as the ‘fathers of nations’, ‘fathers of organisations’, or ‘founders of the vision’, hence the saying, ‘leaders never die’. So, what made them uniquely exceptional, so much so that they are sometimes fabled as superhuman or extremely special people? I agree that such people are indeed special people who have exceeded expectation, but I also believe that this can be by their own choice rather than only being attributed to a superhuman disposition, (with one exception carefully made for God the Holy Spirit, who is given to all who follow God). Thus, with the right mind-set, being Holy Spirit-filled and firmly resolved, one can choose to make a difference in one’s life time for an ‘institution’, or a ‘nation’, and thus one becomes a nation-building leader if and when the opportunity comes along.
God has His plan
This book, therefore, wishes to introduce you, the reader, to the conviction that wherever God has positioned you now is not by accident. It is God-designed and God-sent. Hence, seize the opportunity to do the needful things and exceed expectations by resolving to make a difference, aiming to have your name go into the chronicles of the acclaimed.
Mordecai, the uncle (guardian) of Queen Esther challenged her to seize the moment and make a difference at the palace. He suggested God had called her saying, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such at a time as this?” She was there so that she could save the Jews. Mordecai did however warn her that if she failed to act and did not do what was needful, then God is more than able to bring somebody else to do His work. She should watch out for herself if she fails to use the God-given opportunity at her disposal. This is good news for us all. God wants to use us for the common good, to serve and deliver all people around us from terrible situations, so that all the people will rejoice, be happy and live in peace. For leaders of nations the building of a nation is a continuous process like a train journey, where people get on and off at different stations. When you occupy your leadership position, you must rightly play your part. Then you must leave and let God’s next appointed continue. It can happen that people may be tempted to stay too long at the founding of a nation or after bitter wars as is our case in South Sudan. However, it is always best to leave and, leave graciously, honourably and with dignity. These are signs of a good ending for any leader. This can and should happen at any stage of development in the nation building process. Nobody stays on a train forever, not even the driver! The essential attributes and the right perspectives must guide such continuations and transitions.
Accountable to God and our people
I also want to emphasise that we must consistently live in the fear of God. We are stewards of ourselves (for we all belong to God) and we are stewards of the people under our care (for they too are God’s people made in His image). Each of us is accountable to God. We are all God’s servants, called and responsible to serve God through serving one another at different roles and levels during various times.
Leaders are, therefore, not rulers but people’s shepherds who guide, direct, feed, care, tend, protect and do everything to ensure the welfare of all. In governance, this is referred to as a ‘social contract’, where leaders and the citizenry are expected to meet and deliver on both responsibilities and obligations, for the common good of all.
When seen and unseen, serving everyone
Good national leaders are also those who strive to live above reproach. Their lifestyle, both public and private, their words and deeds, must not lean in favour of any ethnicity, clan, region, religion or any external affiliation or patronage. National leaders must be – and be seen to be – impartial, just, and ‘fathers’ or ‘mothers’ for all, especially to the seemingly weak, marginalised or minorities among the population. They must ensure that every citizen feels that they own and are part of the system or national apparatus, so they can identify and see themselves participating in all echelons and across all sectors of national institutions.
In the Bible, God instructed Moses to prepare the children of Israel after leaving captivity in Egypt on their way to the promised land to build their nation. He organised the people and set up institutions of governance. A vivid and useful example for us is when he formed the national army. God requested him to select men aged twenty years and above from all the twelve tribes of Israel to contribute proportionally to the army, so that the big tribes, although more in number, were still proportionate and vice versa with the smaller tribes. Because of this, the children of Israel won victories and took over their promised land where they enjoyed peace, victory, development and prosperity for all (not just for a clique or a few). Surely this should be our model, not just for the army but for all government sectors and institutions. Notice, though, this does not happen automatically. It was a deliberate and intentional act that demanded strong and perceptive leadership – and one which I think national leaders in South Sudan and beyond should borrow.
Seen to be fair and just
Another fact that cannot be compromised is that the power, authority and resources entrusted to leadership ought to be distributed fairly and equitably, invested for all, with visible integrity. Many leaders in the world, and more so in Africa (South Sudan included), abuse and misuse power with apparent impunity. They selfishly enrich themselves and their cronies at the expense of the populace. This is not only wrong but sinful and immoral, and it does not depict true leadership. Earlier on, I stated that good leadership begins at home. Remember that good parents will not selfishly enrich and lavish themselves at home at the expense of their own spouses and children. Instead, they will sacrifice themselves to care more for their families, all those for whom they are rightly responsible. A sad experience happened in South Sudan in 2012, when the government, due to an economic crisis, introduced austerity measures throughout the country, cutting down its expenses including salaries and allowances. This affected all civil servants, but the leaders exempted themselves from the cuts! Civil servants who had the lowest pay carried the greatest burdens. They sacrificed in contrast to the leaders who, though few, kept their pay which constituted a huge chunk of the budget. Leaders’ living standards were hardly affected. This was not good shepherding. It did not show a good example. Showing by example is always the best and leading by example is always right, beginning from home and proceeding to the society at large.
As I have mentioned before, to lead does not necessarily mean you are the best and most qualified person for the job. But your attitude, passion and, most importantly, your beliefs should be fundamentally correct and good. Then you can inspire others in the direction you wish everyone to take. You simply pass on to others the vision you have grasped, others who will also grasp it and in turn pass it on to more. Your main role is a life enhancer – creating the space and conducive environment, guiding the people and giving them the opportunity to excel together to greater heights than you as a leader would otherwise ever reach. Max DePree stated that “a good leader is not one who will do the work of ten people well, but is he or she who will allow and facilitate ten people to do their work well”. Similarly, late U.S. President Ronald Raegan said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things”.
Good leadership is, therefore, not about position, power, wealth, titles and so on. Rather it is about servanthood and sacrifice and hard work, always seeking after the common good and the welfare of all who are under your care. It is about creating a legacy by exceeding expectations – going beyond what is expected of you. It is a lifestyle based on godly values, character and humility.
Where from here?
Our nation of South Sudan is in need of such leaders: God-fearing leaders of integrity, who manage and care for their families well before they show off in the public sphere. Those who become faithful stewards of the national resources and wealth entrusted to them by God and the people. Those who are sober and not given to intoxication or reckless pleasure and excesses. Those who are not corrupt or tribal. Instead, and positively, they should be visionary, faithful, hard-working and committed to the nation and its people. They should always be progressive, laying strong foundations for good governance, the rule of law, economic development and growth, the provision and delivery of services. Their lives must be exemplary of the things they expect from the people, such as upholding and submitting 100% to the rule of law.
South Sudan needs leaders who will invest their lives through sacrifices for the future generations ahead – building not only institutions, places and physical infrastructures, but also the national reserves for the studied needs of tomorrow. Their personal needs must come last (including those of their tribes and relatives) while the needs of all the people must come first. And after doing these good works, any leader must be willing and quick to step aside, and not cling on to power for the sake of being in power. Honourable and graceful exit is rare, but it is a very important trait of true leadership. Many good leaders even in Africa have stumbled or fallen over this. Let us keep praying South Sudan will not fall into the trap.
Using this chapter and Scriptures quoted
1. What are some of the “privileges and costs” of leadership? Hebrews 13:7-8; 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10; Psalm 140:1-13.
2. “True leadership begins from home”, true or false? Why? 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Does leading the nation change these requirements? Why?
3. What aspects of being “good parents” can all leaders beneficially learn from?
4. “One can choose to make a difference … for an institution or a nation”. Being guided by Joseph, Genesis 39:20-23, and Daniel, Daniel 1:8-21, explain how one may “choose” today. Be as practical as you can.
5. “Then you must leave and let God’s next appointed continue”. Why do people find it so hard to “leave”? Think about Paul, Philippians 1:19-26; and Saul, 1 Samuel
6. Produce your own definition of a “God-fearing leader of integrity”. Consider Acts 4:36-37; Acts 6:8; Acts 8:26-29; Acts 10:2; Acts 11:22-24.
7. “leaders who will invest their lives through sacrifices”. Describe the price – some of the costs that must be paid – to be a godly leader. Luke 9:23-26.
 Present and representative https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english .  Dr John E. Johnson Under an Open Heaven: A New Way of Life Revealed in John’s Gospel (Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA) February 2017.  Proverbs 29: 18 King James Version.  Esther 4: 14.  Numbers 1:1-46  Max DePree Leadership is an Art (Crown Business.com, part of Random House Publishers: New York) 1987.  https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/the-100-best-leadership-quotes-of-all-time.html