Leadership 101 – The Chief Mohlomi Leadership Standard A Taster
I could choose to write a piece bombarding you with theories and debates about leadership styles, theories, practices, strategies, models, you name it. But I won’t. No, my mission is to unearth an authentic African leadership standard cutting across these areas using my own intuition and understanding at this point in time.
In seeking to answer the question, “what do leaderly ways look like? what clues do they leave?”, I sought guidance from most of what has been documented about Chief Mohlomi by writers like Max du Preez and Dr. Khali Mofuoa, an academic formerly at the National University of Lesotho.
I proceed from the premise that every single human being is a leader of self and inasmuch as we are all capable of leadership of the collective, not everyone can lead others in the ways I’m about to describe.
Mohlomi was a renowned teacher and mentor who took impartation so seriously that he opened a leadership academy which would produce most notably, King Moshoeshoe I, Founder of the Basotho nation. When Chief Mohlomi died at the age of 96, apparently King Moshoeshoe was inconsolable. How many employees fantasize daily about their bosses dying? How many employees would fall apart if their bosses were to die? Dr Myles Munroe taught about mentoring being the greatest act of leadership and said, “the greatest obligation of true leadership is to transfer your deposit to the next generation.” King Moshoeshoe I is now widely regarded as one of the most diplomatic statesmen the world has ever known and that is a direct legacy of the largesse of the Chief Mohlomi Leadership academy. To take one’s time to impart carefully honed skill, knowledge, insight and wisdom truly is one of the most selfless and heroic acts on this planet.
Leadership is about influence as we’ve seen and heard many times and Chief Mohlomi was such an influential leader that, according to Dr Khali Mofuoa, “Mohlomi developed a good reputation throughout southern Africa.” That influence can be beneficial for tense situations that require a wise sage to diffuse. Conflict resolution is therefore one of the key competencies of an able leader.
Dr. Khali Mofuoa, a scholar in morality and ethics, has this to say about Chief Mohlomi:
“a messenger of peace”
“a man of goodwill and humanity”
“a man of much benevolence”
“his government was that of a prince distinguished for clemency and wisdom”
“as a sage he was considered during his lifetime as the wisest man that had ever lived”
“as a philosopher, he was credited for playing a role in science, business and politics”
“the man who was the most famous of all Basotho famous for his love of peace, his charity to all, his wisdom and for the love he bore to all men”
“regarded as one of the best examples of the brilliance of pre-colonial African intellectualism in responsible leadership in southern Africa”
“he remains a very prominent figure in southern Africa’s responsible leadership history”
Dr. Max du Preez, one of Chief Mohlomi’s most ardent biographers, uses phrases and descriptors such as:
“he gave special consideration to children, women and the elderly”
“he loved spending time with children because their minds had not yet been corrupted and they could understand the natural truths”
“his great herd of cattle ensured that the people in his region were never hungry”
I am not surprised that a human being who had attained the level of consciousness that Chief Mohlomi had attained loved spending time with younglings. Nelson Mandela’s love for children was known and witnessed consistently by all and I have seen plenty of pictures of Barack Obama bonding touchingly with children. In each of those pictures you can see a man who genuinely loves children and the children look equally comfortable in his presence. I’ve seen babies fast asleep on Barack Obama’s chest. Children have very strong intuition and will not respond like that to someone harbouring negative energy. You can fool most adults if you’re really good at fooling others, but not kiddies. Sorry. They’ll see right through you. It sounds all maudlin but truly, we need nice people in leadership positions. This does not even begin to imply that they will not make mistakes, but they are proceeding from a place of goodness, love and benevolence.
It is highly unlikely that leaders with a social conscience would helm organizations with unfair compensation and reward systems. Instead most examples of leadership in the media are that of kleptocrats who steal pension funds, defraud shareholders, cook the books, and indeed ransack our national treasuries because they have political power and access.
Chief Mohlomi is undoubtedly one of the most impeccable examples of democratic, participative leadership in recorded human history. Now take a good look around you, there appears to be a cohort of top leaders who just love to divide and rule, they thrive on it, they feed off of it. This is leadership of a lower level of consciousness and many are paying for it via stress, burnout, suicide, loss of lives and livelihoods, dreams, motivation, confidence, self-esteem, creative energy. A low consciousness human being in a titled leadership position can suck you dry. This pacifist was a paradigm-shifting, transformational leader who displayed a sense of a bigger mission and purpose and totally not compliant with or satisfied by the status quo. Often corporate cultures claim they want mavericks but in practice some actually don’t practice what they preach.
The failure by business leaders to take action on things like sexual harassment for instance created toxic organizational cultures that victimized women and a minority of men. In the wake of #MeToo, the poster boy for that seems to have been the former CEO of Uber Travis Kalanick. On the other hand, a man who lived in pre-colonial times and was born in 1720, Chief Mohlomi, authored and enforced special rules for the treatment of women. One of his favourite sayings, “peace is my sister” shows he had a special regard for women and as a result the men in the culture followed suit not because he had a machete at the ready to hack limbs off but because his enlightenment fanned out into society and inspired men to do better.
There are massive leadership failures pointing to moral compasses that steer clear of acceptable standards of morality and ethics e.g. Wall Street and the financial global crisis, instances of corporate malfeasance, environments thriving on sexual harassment, putting profits over people and communities and the environment, assault and rape and crimes like insider trading to mention just a few. We’ve seen some psychopathic brands of leadership with the combustion of companies like Enron under the leadership of Kenneth Lay. We’ve seen Bernie Madoff running the biggest ponzi scheme the world has ever known taking money from nuns and Hollywood moguls alike without even batting an eyelid.
We all need to look inwards if we hope to emulate leaders of the caliber of Chief Mohlomi. He didn’t read textbooks or go to an Ivy League university, he was not a member of the World Economic Forum, no, he was a man deeply connected to himself, his people, his environment, his Creator and a deep sense of mission. Money meant nothing to him, livestock wealth did not define him. He lived for something far bigger than his own existence. We have a lot of work to do.
Mofuoa, K. (2015). Chief Mohlomi: A Pioneer in Bridging Knowledge from Enterprises of Science, Business and Politics in Southern Africa in the 18th Century. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, (60), 101-116