Are Kenyan youth ready for servant leadership?


With the 2017 General Election nearing, many young people have taken an interest in democracy and governance as aspiring political leaders.
While this is a positive resolution, it is imperative that they be well informed on constitutionalism and civic liberties.
While I believe youth are well versed in civic liberties, they still have to satisfactorily answer the following before they can take that plunge.
Do they have a sense of what it means to be a leader?
Some maybe be motivated by the desire to benefit their communities but most get into politics for fame, power and control, with little or no understanding of the job descriptions and the requirements of the 2010 Constitution. Ken Blanchard said that, “leadership is not just what happens when you’re there; it’s what happens when you’re not”. It is this that should motivate youth to adopt a servant leadership model.
Prospective youth leaders also lack basic leadership values and understanding of what servant leadership entails. This is mainly because Kenya’s political culture is rigged with tribalism, corruption and nepotism. There is no example to follow.
Why should youth be leaders?
Information is key and the youth have an advantage in that many actors, both State and non-State, are at the forefront advocating for the right of access to information. There are also many training opportunities solely tailored to build the capacity of young leaders as they transition into national and county politics.
All these are aimed at incubating a generation of leaders with a difference, who will understand the relevant governance instruments and who can enter leadership to propel the agenda of their electorate.
With this influx of information and opportunities, young leaders must apply these principles in implementing favourable policies, and adopt and give precedence to democratic processes even after the elections.
This will inculcate transformational leadership that the citizens can resonate with. Youthful aspirants also have to keep in mind that being a leader does not make one a politician by default, and vice versa. It is important for aspirants to be well informed on and be faithful to what their voters expect of them.
Likewise the governed should be aware of the liberties granted to them by the 2010 Constitution, and both demand them and exercise them responsibly. This includes liberties such as public participation, social accountability and freedom to information. An informed citizenry is necessary to keep our leaders in check, and ensure that transformational leadership is realised after the next elections.
Barriers towards achieving servant leadership
Sycophancy and “comrade power” have created the illusion that politics is all about majority votes. This, in turn, has encouraged unhealthy competition that is uncalled for even in areas where the youth are called upon to create synergy and advocate for important issues.
Young leaders have a lot to offer, but if only they come together and form a force to be reckoned with by the establishment. The youth need to learn how to establish their spaces and still work with others.
On their part, citizens need to trust that they can vote people in who will be willing to put aside political differences for the benefit of the many.
An unfavourable political culture also poses great challenge. Over the years, tribalism has formed the basis for our political arena.
Political parties need to embrace the spirit of oneness. With an aggressive youth population, politics-based on nepotism, tribalism, corruption and other ills may form a nesting ground for civil unrest.
A servant leader has to be committed to the growth of the people. With some being in it for fame and control, positive stewardship aimed at empowering the communities may not be a priority.
Way forward
To groom the youth to take leadership positions, State and non-State actors need to come together to directly support achievement and application of devolution strategies.
Youth must also take a proactive role in forging partnerships with new and existing partners, who can promote and endorse youth engagement. This has the potential to positively impact performance of the youthful segment in the coming elections.
Stephanie Muya



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