Lucas Marang'a

A man at 40

Leading From Behind.

Last week was probably the biggest experience cheque I took to the bank since I took the mantle at my public service job. It was the first international event under my tenure. For many weeks, I together with my board at the union, the event management firm and the vet lab club management hosting the tournament had been planning this event.

I must admit that being the guy heading this event put pressure on me. I doubted myself a few times along the way. I like quoting the phrase, ‘A fish rots from the head.’ I’m currently the head of my organisation and if any rot was to take place, it would have been seen and smelt all over me.

Leadership is (or is supposed to be) very humbling. I felt that first hand due to the commitment I saw in everyone working on making this event a success. In addition our visitors from Uganda came in large numbers and we needed to ensure they were all well catered for. This is the third time the event is being held. It rotates between Kenya and Uganda. Last year it was in Entebbe.

This year we decided to bring on board a PR and Event Management firm to help us with logistics and fundraising. We wanted to hype up the event so as to attract sponsors and increase its value. Our guest of honour was Moses Tanui who donated the Victoria Cup trophy three years ago. Moses is a former long distance runner who won the 10000 meters gold medal at the 1991 World Athletic Championships in Tokyo. Despite such a world class achievement and a successful running career on the global stage, he remains humble and soft spoken.  He just desires to do good for humanity. Now retired from running, he has taken up golf and is the Rift Valley representative of the Junior Golf Foundation. Here he helps kids learn and play golf. Moses also wants to help me incorporate some ideas in golf that have made athletics a huge sport in Kenya. I’m honoured to be his pal.

A lot went into planning the third edition of Victoria Cup 2018. The logistics involved were substantial. From meeting all requirements of the venue, attracting sponsors, advertising the event on various media platforms, preparing team Kenya players to compete well and finally to hosting our guests from Uganda. I felt like I was in charge of a machine that had many moving parts and all had to run smoothly.

I’m indebted to my colleagues in the union and all other stakeholders for playing their part in full to ensure the event was a huge success. Please note that none of us were being paid apart from the event planner who also went above and beyond their mandate. I kept wondering what was driving all of us to deliver a top class event yet it was all voluntary. It must be more than love for the game of golf. Whatever it was I felt under pressure to maintain the psyche that guys had. I worried that I might do something that may disrupt the momentum.

It’s lonely at the top from that point of view where you have to ensure that you take care of everybody. But when a leader leads by facilitating people to shine in their respective roles, then he can still have company at the top. That was my discovery here.

My take away from this event was twofold. Firstly, sports has no tribe or class. It is one of the most effective ways to bring down prejudice and stereotypes. At this event, apart from the rivalry between the players during play, the interaction from the crowd from both countries was one big celebration of new friendships and the African spirit. Ugandans eat life with a big spoon and it was infectious.  We may have won the competition, but they won the party. They actually brought sunshine to Nairobi and warmed up both our weather and our spirits. Their union president did say we are now one and I agreed kabisa. I look forward to going to Uganda next year or sooner.

Secondly, leadership is very humbling. During the closing ceremony I almost got emotional as I thanked everyone who made the event a success. It felt so good genuinely appreciating folks in public. Every time someone thanked me for a job well done, I felt I didn’t deserve to get all the glory. Having intelligent, busy people fully commit to a cause led by you is such a heavy honour. I’m still feeling the weight on my head, shoulders, knees and toes as the Sunday school rhyme went.

After the experience last week I was left wondering, why do we manipulate folks to like or follow us?  It’s so much easier when you lead people who want to work with (and follow) you. When guys are self-motivated, your job as leader is much easier. This event affirmed that I can do this public service thing and create beautiful things. And working with people shouldn’t be as hard as it’s made to appear. But there’s a disclaimer. It doesn’t happen on its own. I’m responsible for making it easier too by creating a respectful, open and conducive environment for folks to operate within.

My work should be to clear obstacles along the way so that my people can do their thing. I feel pretty confident that during my tenure I will be a General with an army alongside me.

Friday, August 3, 2018 | Musings |

4 thoughts on “Leading From Behind.”

  1. Lilian says:

    Wow! I enjoyed reading this article. Great lesson: Leading by letting those around you shine. You enf up shining even brighter. Amazing article Lucas.

  2. Mwongeli says:

    Yes!…… ‘Leadership’……. Pulling together, that’s what it is!

  3. Frank Ireri says:

    Spot on Lucas and leadership can be very rewarding if you choose the right people and let them do their jobs

  4. George Nuthu says:

    Thanks for sharing these simple and true leadership lessons!

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