Leaders evolve. They are constantly reformed by experiences. Sometimes the evolution is from reflections, other times forced by circumstances.
The people’s prayer is that leaders change for the better. But this is not always the case. A good leader can turn into an unrecognisable dictator. Language can change from pro-people to pro-power. A leader can move from honest to deceptive. One can shift from a man of the people to a money man.
In the journey of leadership thoughts and priorities are reorganised. Sometimes one will even do things they do not necessarily believe in - like Pontius Pilate who knew Jesus was innocent but still gave him up to be killed.
The question then is not whether President William Ruto will evolve. It is how he will evolve. The President exhibits a heavy, consistent, and open spirituality. Kenyans feel safe with a leader who acknowledges God.
They are wary of a leader who looks like a hater of God. Haters of God are associated with darkness and evil and are therefore deemed dangerous. The country would be shocked if Ruto decelerated his church affiliation. He has even influenced some politicians who are not known to be churchy and tagged them along to the holy place. But this spirituality can be slippery. A leaning towards enterprise-based churches that are high on personality and low on theology is seen as risky.
President Ruto’s intellect is vivid. By all means, he is a good mind and wears his doctorate well. His thread of thought is systematic and his positions are well-reasoned. This definitely poses a challenge to present and future leaders whose thought process is cyclical, cluttered, and confusing. Ruto’s brilliance is observed in his addresses to world forums such as the United Nations while yet still connecting convincingly when speaking to people in the streets out of the sunroof of his car.
He is like a university professor who is also a Sunday school teacher. Since intellect is neutral, the hope is that he will consistently utilise his wit to work for the people. A critical mark of intellect is the ever-present consciousness that intelligence has no monopoly - there is always a brighter thought in the room and in the crowd. With this awareness, critique is always expected and warmly welcomed. Given this, even the best of President Ruto’s thoughts should readily anticipate rejoinders and create a space for further engagement.
President Ruto has charisma. This is most evident in his speeches more than anywhere else. He charms with his way with words. His unscripted speeches are as effective as the scripted ones. He always seems to enjoy the speaking moments! If charisma was rated, he would easily rank as one of the best presidents in the current world.
But charisma is neutral – you can be charmed to progress or charmed to destruction! If all it took for a country to grow was words, ours would be the promised land. While good speeches are nice to the ear and to the mind, a country can never live by words alone. A “sweet talker” is redeemed by being a sweat worker too!
Promises made should not have politics at their heart but the people. Politics-centered promises are often manipulative statements of control. People-centered promises have love at their core and are free from deception. The president’s sweet speeches must evolve into deeds with speed. There is nothing new about a promise maker. But there is something strikingly attractive about a problem fixer.
President Ruto has essential experience. Having entered politics in his youth and worked with different regimes, for him there is no “breaking news” moment on matters of how government works. He has affirmed this severally when he has said “I know what I’m saying” and “I’m not a madman.”
His experience includes an understanding of the ways of the Kenyan people. He can make good estimations of the citizen temperatures, knowing when the code is red and when it is normal. The caution should always be that sometimes people change without giving notice!
Like the biblical Samson, one move can reposition one from the hunter to the hunted. Those who clap for you at sleep time may fold their hands in the morning. The wisdom then is moving from just working from experience to actually creating an experience for the people that invoke their loyalty naturally.
As early as now in his leadership, President Ruto needs a signature spirit. This intentional demeanor will make people derive from their leader such descriptions as “He is empathetic,” “He is tough,” “He is warm,” or “He is witty.” A leader in a corporation will say “I do not want people to fear me” and this intention results in his open-door policy.
Another will say “I want people to be free to do things in new ways” and this results in a culture of idea generation. Such is the poise our President needs to articulate in response to the question “How do I want the people to see and feel me?” Whatever his choice, it must be one that occurs naturally. A stage-managed, photo-shopped, and heavy “make-up” spirit will come apart. A deliberate gravitation gives the people a constant connecting point with the spirit of their leader.
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The President should be a walking piece of his national vision. The Kenya he wants should be the Ruto we see. He should be a mobile specimen, a walking embodiment of his dream for Kenyans.
The manifesto he promoted should jump from the pages of a booklet to become legs and hands with him as its face. Even with all the consultants at his disposal, solo moves are critical. The King will now and again get unique discernments that ascend above and even contradict the opinion of his aides. Success requires solitude sometimes. In this regard, Ruto must hate corruption with all his heart.
He cannot be silent or neutral on this vice. Corruption is the tear gas that blinds our eyes, the landmine that maims our abilities, and the thief who keeps us poor. To be truly inspiring and life-giving, the presidency must make it an ambition to achieve scandal-free status. Where the presidency leads, others follow.