It was his retirement party. After serving his people as a public servant for many years, he was retiring – old, grey and tired. Like it happens at some retirement events, he was expected to give a speech. Typically, everyone expected he would pay glowing tribute to his team, say a bit about his achievements, maybe joke a bit about his failures and possibly the nicknames his teammates may have called him. He did not. This leader kept it short and sweet. He said:
“Here I am. Witness against me before the LORD and before His anointed: Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or who have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind my eyes? I will restore it to you.”
I Samuel 12:3 NKJV (Bible).
Here are a few lessons of leadership from Prophet Samuel’s example. An example of accountability, responsibility, humanity and integrity – 4 key attributes of a successful leader.
You see, in our part of the world, leadership is first considered in terms of position, title and privilege. The leader is typically the one who gets priority parking, prominent seating and perks to go along with it.
It is always an expression of “oh it’s not his fault”, “he is a nice man”, “it’s the people around him…they are the ones squandering our money”.
A leader must be accountable to the people, responsible for all his/her actions, be real enough to exhibit humanity and be a person of integrity.
The old prophet said:
“Here I am” – I am an open book. I am asking you to tell me, publicly, who I have stolen from, cheated or lied about?
The response: “You have not cheated us or oppressed us, nor have you taken anything from any man’s hand”
But he gave a caveat – a human leader, he knew he was not perfect. He knew he could falter but he also exhibited what leadership is – responsibility.
After asking, “Who have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind my eyes”, he made a simple but profound statement of responsibility – “I will restore it to you”
That statement says – I will take responsibility and I will make it better. No excuses, no explanations, no passing the buck. Just plain and simple – taking responsibility.
A leader must have integrity. Wholeness, no crooked corners.
He was aware of his humanity and the possibility of mistakes. Leadership does not make us gods…it makes us the first among equals.
Let me add one more lesson for good measure – from the greatest leader of all time. Also at his retirement party, this time unknown to his team. He was a young man, at the peak of his career. He had just been the leader of this team for 3 years…he was doing great! No one wanted him to leave, but He had to leave when the applause was loudest. So, he decided to have dinner with his management team. After dinner, this leader did the weirdest thing.
He “rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13:4-5 NKJV (Bible).
When He got to Peter, one of his executive council members, he said: “no way! You can’t wash my feet” but with some persuasion, he succumbed and even wanted a full body wash. Talk about an Oliver Twist asking for more.
Jesus showed us the greatest attribute of a leader – service. Those disciples had dirty feet! They were always out and about walking the length of the country. They were busy men! So, to think the leader after having dinner will descend, undress, wash and wipe – possibly smelly feet….is the greatest lesson of leadership.
I am convinced that if we can adjust, just a little bit of what we believe leadership is, our families, our businesses and our nation will be a better place.
©Petra Aba Asamoah 2017