Let community nurture, sustain good leadership

Writing in The Muaddimah, Muhammed bin Khaldun said that once the soul gets used to something, it becomes part of its make-up and nature, because the soul is able to take on many colourings.  

Children require parenting and supervision. They are trained in what is right and wrong by adults. They are rewarded if they do what is right, to encourage them to continue to do right. They are punished if they do what is wrong, to discourage them from repeating wrong conduct. 

If the adults, who parent and supervise the young, know what is right and wrong, why do adults in turn require an authority figure and supervision? It is said there is a members’ club in Gilgil where members supervise themselves and do not leave policing of their conduct to an authority figure.

For example, at the club house, the person who serves as the barman of the day is not an employee. He is part of the membership of the club. Members request for drinks from him. The barman doesn’t keep a tab of the drinks members consume. It is the duty of each member who receives a drink to keep a record. At the end of the night every member provides the barman with the record of the drinks he has consumed and hands over money to the barman as payment.

Prepare a tally

The barman’s responsibility is to prepare a tally of the total drinks consumed and the total amount of money he received from all members.

The barman does not keep a record of individual member’s consumption and therefore cannot verity if every member has made full payment. If there is a difference in the cost of drinks consumed that night and the amount of money received from members, the shortfall is paid for collectively and equally by members. 

It is easy to focus and marvel on the honesty and integrity of the members of the club. It is just as easy to dismiss their standards as utopian and unachievable among our communities. However, the most important take away lesson from this club is that all members equally pay the price for any dishonesty of individual members.

The Muqaddim was written in the 16th Century. The writer was of the opinion that the temperament, industry and success of people was determined by the air that surrounded them. Accordingly, climate conditions not only determined skin colour, it also determined the type of trade carried out, the food consumed, the weight and shape of bodies and intellectual capacity. Those who lived in hot climatic conditions were joyous, likely to dance to every melody and had little regard for the future.  They were observed not to store any provisions of food. Those who lived in colder climates were sad, gloomy and concerned with the future. They stored food supplies sufficient to last them for years. 

Leadership, good or bad, comes at a cost. The price is paid collectively by the members of the community. Leaders are born within a community. They absorb the conditions that they find in that community. They learn the values and traits passed down to them. As adults, they are the mirror of the community and reflect what the community is. 

A community that does not provide the proper climate, environment and conditions for its children pays the price. First, it produces leaders that are a mirror reflection of the climate they were brought up in. Second, the leaders perpetuate the values they were brought up on. Three, the community underwrites the cost of the poor decisions that inevitably follow.

A community that long for good leadership must first change into a community that can nurture and sustain good leadership.

- The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]