Sunday, February 26, 2006

Stella Says…How Does the AFC define Servant Leadership?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 26 Feb 2006)

When Raphael Trotman responded to the questions flooding in for his new party, the AFC, on February 17, he made a statement I found to be very interesting. So interesting did I find his statement that I want to devote this column to it.

Trotman said, “We [the AFC] acknowledge that all questions raised must be answered. Our commitment to the notion of servant leadership has compelled us to adopt a bottom- up approach for inputs to influence and contribute to designing an action- plan for change and development.”

The term I want to highlight in Mr. Trotman’s statement is “servant leadership.” These two words did not escape my attention when I read through the letter because I have spent much time studying various forms of leadership and find this type to be the most righteous.

Quite frankly, I first stumbled across this term in regards to church leadership within the parameters of a religious group I once belonged. Not that this group practiced servant leadership, but it was because the leadership of this group was so abusive that I began studying leadership in general.

In fact, I then went on to take a few college classes on the subject because it was so fascinating. Hence, I have studied, to varying degrees, several great leaders and their varying leadership styles. Which is why I could not help but take note when this presidential candidate said his party was committed to servant leadership.

There are many who claimed to be servant leaders, but have as many servant hood qualities as the Queen herself. Just claiming to be a servant leader does not in fact make one a servant leader.

For example, if a leader thinks he/she is better than those being led, then this person is not a servant leader. If a leader expects fame, money or power from his/her position in leadership, the motivation is not to serve the people, but to use the people. If the leader is a micromanager, that is to say that he/she feels no one else is sufficiently competent to oversee even the smallest of tasks; that person is not a servant leader.

As you can see from what I listed so far, to date Guyana has not had a servant leader in the Presidential Office. There have been Machiavellian leaders, the type of leader who does not trust anyone, silences all criticism through whatever means necessary and uses fear to garner the submission of the people. This leader sees the people as nothing more than mere peons and would snuff out a life with the wave of a hand.

Guyana has had the elitist Philosopher King type of leaders too. These are the leaders who view the people as ignorant children and themselves as wise and benevolent fathers/mothers who must watch over the nation. This leadership is limited to the insight of one person who does not believe the people are capable of successfully leading themselves. Marcus Aurelius was a perfect example of a Philosopher King.

However, a servant leader recognises the value of every citizen and considers himself/herself merely the tool by which the people rule together as one. Gandhi was a servant leader, as was Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. All of these leaders saw themselves as facilitators to serve the people as oppose to a privileged sovereign to rule over them.

If Guyana had been fortunate enough to have even one president who was a servant leader, it would be in a very cosy economic state right now. In fact, the one obvious indictment against the current administration is that they all live so well while the majority of the people live near to destitution and in constant fear of victimisation.

Surely a servant leader would be embarrassed at the nation’s current situation. A servant leader would know he/she has absolutely no right to withhold information on government contracts and that there should be detailed accounts of public money. These poor leadership traits alone are enough to guarantee a continued state of insolvency and keep Guyana at the bottom of almost every international economic and democratic report.

The international community continues to pour money into Guyana and one cannot help but wonder where the millions and millions of U.S. dollars go. If there were a servant leader president in office, we would know exactly where the money went and who got what contract and the specifics on each contract.

A servant leader knows his/her place in society – it is to serve the people. The first and only priority is to ensure the well being of the people. To this end, the people can trust the leader and go about their day-to-day business knowing there is someone who is taking good care of the concerns of nation.

It is because I have so much respect for servant leaders (and so little respect for the rest) that Mr. Trotman’s statement peaked my interest. I wonder if his definition of servant leadership is anything close to what I believe it to be, and if so, how does he propose to implement this alien ideology into a long-standing system of poor leadership?

I also cannot help but wonder if this is a propaganda statement. After all, when one watches the PPP day after day as it says one thing and then does another or makes a promise and never fulfils it, one cannot help but be just a bit jaded when it comes to statements that seem like clouds with a silver lining.

If the AFC is the real thing, then I think the PPP may indeed have a formidable opponent in this year’s election. How will we know if the AFC is the real thing? My mom always told me that you can know a tree by the fruit it produces. I’m watching and waiting for some fruit.

Email: Stellasays[at]

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