Part 4: Servant Leadership - Reflections of a Young Man™

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Part 4: Servant Leadership

In black and white in this photo is Stephen Lenai, a sensible high school classmate of mine who also served as my house captain when I was in Fourth Form and in the Institute at Starehe Boys' Centre. He is posing here with Peter Omondi, another classmate of mine who disappeared without trace after we finished high school in 2005. To this day, no one in our class knows whether Peter Omondi is dead or alive.

I recently came across a post on the differences between a boss and a leader that one of my acquaintances posted on LinkedIn. The differences are:
Relies on authorityRelies on goodwill
Issues ultimatumGenerates enthusiasm
Says "I"Says "We"
Uses peopleDevelops people
Takes creditGives credit

When I think of a friend who exhibits those qualities of a leader, the person who first pops up in my mind is Stephen Lenai - yes, the one I have mentioned in the caption of the photo above. Why? Okay, let me narrate.

For all the time I got to know Lenai since we met in Form 1 at Starehe Boys' Centre, he never said anything negative to me. On the contrary, I found him a sensible person who occasionally advised and encouraged me while trying to draw out the best in me.

Like I remember during one lunch session in the Starehe dining hall when we were in Fourth Form, he called me aside and asked me to be controlling my temper. Believe you me, I sometimes used to erupt violently for reasons I will not explain today.

Then on our first days in the Starehe Institute in 2006, Lenai requested me to be attending the 6.00pm roll-call after I missed it when I reported back to Starehe for college education. You see, I used to feel lonely on those first days in the institute because my dreams of landing a job had failed and some of my best friends in high school had left Starehe. But thanks to Lenai who encouraged me to be attending roll-call, my feelings of loneliness began to thaw, which eventually led me to feel at home in Starehe Institute where I acquired a transformative Diploma in Information Technology.

And then later on during our time at Starehe Institute, Lenai requested me on one or two occasions to address house members during 6.00pm Sunday roll-calls. I found that encouraging because while some people saw confusion in me, Lenai saw potential. And thanks to him, I became one of the best public-speakers at Starehe.

But of all the positive things Lenai did to me, the one I will always remain grateful to him was the way he allowed me to sneak out of Starehe early in the morning on Sundays to be with my home-town Catholic Church youth group when I was in Starehe Institute. You see, nothing much used to happen in Starehe on Sundays. We were just expected to wake up at 7.00am, have breakfast and attend a mandatory church service after which we were free to do whatever we wished.

So I instinctively felt Lenai wouldn't mind my sneaking out of Starehe on Sundays provided I was back for the 6.00pm roll-call. And my instincts were right because throughout our time at Starehe Institute, Lenai never minded. I am sure if some people I know had been my house captain, they would have created hell for me by forwarding me to the Starehe administration that I was sneaking out of Starehe. Oh, how I thank God that Lenai was my house captain! He truly was a leader, not a boss.

If you've enjoyed this part 4 of my story on servant leadership, you might also enjoy part 1 and part 2 and part 3 of the stories. Just click those links in blue to jump straight into the stories.


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Thinking. Believing. Daring.

In a thought experiment, I am imagining myself 50 years from now. It's 2067 and I'm 79 years old. I am seated on a sofa listening to Handel's March from Scipio.

Then, I begin to ponder on my life: the career successes and how I've been able to provide for my family. I think of all the great moments I spent with my friends. But then I start to think about all of the things I wished I had done just a little differently: my regrets. I can guess what they might be.

Sitting in 2067, I will wish I had appreciated my parents and told them how much I valued them before they passed away. I will wish I had married a better partner - someone who filled me with joy and emotional contentment, with whom I shared values and interests, who respected me and loved me for my uniqueness. I will wish I had spent more time with my children. I will wish I had better used my gifts to empower others and make the world better. I will wish I had pursued my passions: music, politics, writing, teaching, public-speaking, entrepreneurship and web development. I will wish I smiled more, laughed more, danced more and created more.

Just as I am thinking about all those regrets in 2067, an angel of God appears and tells me, "Thuita, you are a good man. And for that reason, God has decided to give you a second chance at life." All of a sudden, I find myself where I am seated today. Awesome!

It is 2017 and I am in my pleasantly fit and pain-free 29 year old body. I begin to realize that it has really happened. I actually do have the chance to do it over again. To have the same career successes and deep relationships. Now I can optimize. I can laugh more, dance more and love more. My parents are here again so it is my chance to love them like I wished I had done the first time. I can be the source of positivity that I wished I had been the first time around. What a lucky young man I am!

Following this chance I have been given by God, what do I need to do with it? Okay, let me think about it.

First, I need to appreciate each successive day, whatever it brings. I should greet each day with a smile and be a source of energy as well as optimism. In addition, I need realize or even rationalize that the grass is truly greener on my side of the fence. Just the belief that it is becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Secondly, I need to pursue my passions and follow my heart. I should remember that real success comes from maximizing my internally derived happiness. It will not come from external status or money or praise. It will come from a feeling of contribution. A feeling that I am using my gifts in the best way possible.

Last but not least, I need not be depressed or overly worried about anything. When I feel down, I should look up at the night sky and ponder the distance to the next star and the age of the universe. That will help put things in perspective.

The ball is in my court. I need to be inspired to achieve my dreams so that when the year 2067 comes, I will look back at my life and comfortably say to myself, "I have made the most of my life. It has been truly fulfilling."


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Using Our Gifts

While leafing through a colourful, uplifting History book at the Kenya National Library in Nairobi a few years ago, I came across a startling fact that the Sun will cease to burn about five billion years from now. That means life on Earth will also cease to exist at around that time because it is the Sun that sustains life in this grand and magnificent planet.

Me thinks that when life on Earth will be about to end, God will summon the living and the dead for final judgement. And on that Judgement Day, God will not first ask us to recite the Ten Commandments. No. Instead, He will first inquire, "What did you do with the life and gifts that I gave you?"

I don't know about you but for me, I have already identified my gifts. They are:
  • Jogging
  • Cooking
  • Walking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Singing
  • Socializing
  • Networking
  • Gardening
  • Web-design
  • Piano-playing
  • Story-telling
  • Public-speaking
  • Computer-programming

There you have them: my gifts, that is. What is most wonderful about my gifts is that they are diverse enough to make each day of my life prosperous, healthful and interesting. That's why I am now striving to make use of them everyday. And I am praying regularly for God to open me doors of earning a living from some of those hobbies.

I beseech you to also join me in this journey of using our gifts. Identify them. Take time to develop the gifts everyday. Persevere when things seem not to be unfolding according to your plans. And remember that what you want to do with ease, you must first learn to do with diligence. Over to you!

If you've enjoyed reading this story of mine about using our gifts, you might also enjoy another story I wrote sometimes back about fulfilling our dreams and another one about life skills and another one on making life beautiful. Just click those links in blue to jump straight into the stories.


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