By Dr. Ian Clarke
Have you ever spent time with someone and felt exhausted as a result? Such a person has negative energy that sucks all the energy out of the room, so you lose all your own and end up tired.
They are not bad people, but you find they are needy and hard work. On the other hand some people give out positive energy, the best example of whom is Oprah Winfrey, which is one of the reasons why her show was so successful. She exudes positivity, while at the same time she is empathetic; she laughs and cries with people, but in the end they feel healed and uplifted.
This is one of the qualities of a good leader: the person should be able to lead in a way that is visionary, uplifting and creates positive energy for his/her project. A good leader gives people direction and creates that ‘can do’ attitude so that his/her people feel they can rise to the challenge.
Visionary leadership, which imparts positive energy, is important in all walks of life. I was in a board meeting where they were discussing how the organization needed to improve its profile in research and attract more funding. It was a public organization and while their proposal was technically correct, it lacked any passion. If one analyses many government organizations and departments, one will find that the people may be competent but have little passion in what they are doing, so there is no positive energy.
I was sitting in a meeting related to Operation Wealth Creation in which a private company was presenting its vision of farming centres in each district that would act as training and marketing hubs and centres for leasing and repair of agricultural equipment.
My impression was that it was a well thought out proposal, and the company could make it happen, and then I envisioned how it would be implemented by a government agency and saw a whole different scenario. So what is the difference? Primarily that government programs have poor leadership: they are implemented by bureaucrats according to processes and guidelines; no-one has any skin in the game or burning passion to ensure the program succeeds. It is not that there is no vision at the very top.
The government is desperate to see such programs succeed, but when it comes to their implementation by politicians, party members and public servants, the vision and passion trickles away, and the most that one can hope for is that the implementation is according to the correct processes, and not too much money has been syphoned off.
If we take the example of KCCA, when the new structure was implemented (from KCC to KCCA) many of those who were appointed as directors, including the ED, had passion and vision to make a difference. But with the incessant political wrangling and budgetary restrictions, people ended up disillusioned, and it became just another job.
Now many of the staff are simply filling positions, but there is little in the way of outputs. I used to get really excited when I received a full truck of hot premix tarmac to fill potholes, and I would give the guys working on the potholes an extra few thousand shillings on the days they received the premix to ensure that it was all used productively. Because I was excited myself to see the potholes fixed I had positive energy which made everyone enthusiastic about what we were accomplishing.
I was hands on and ensured that the workers had the equipment, the truck was there on time, the potholes were prepared. If I didn’t do this they might repair a few potholes and dump the rest of the premix in the yard, and if you dump hot mix it becomes cold and useless. I had passion and positive energy which transmitted to the workers, and as a result they accomplished much more than in other divisions. Now it is sad and pathetic to see the same group fix only a few potholes because no-one has passion or takes leadership.
It is easy for us to criticize government workers, politicians and public servants, but we should ask ourselves how much positive energy we are exuding because it is needed in all walks of life. So instead of criticizing, causing depression and sucking all the energy out of the room, let us each see what we can do, in our own spheres, to create passion and positive energy.