About two weeks ago after our AGM at Muthaiga golf club I got a weird feeling. I was happy to pass on the baton to my very able vice chairman Anthony. I was looking forward to life away from the spotlight under this chairman title. Once the AGM was over and it was time for dinner and drinks, the media rushed to interview the new chairman. It didn’t mean anything to me until one of the delegates in the room made a joke. He alluded to how no one wants to interview me now and that I’m even seating like a mwananchi with everyone else.
Let me be vulnerable and say I felt kidogo hurt. I wondered if I was distant from my colleagues while in office yet here I was believing we were tight. Or is it the office that just sets you apart from everyone else whether you like it or not. I would often joke throughout my term that this job is voluntary and the only payment we receive is parking and mandazis during meetings.
Could it be the reason why many leaders struggle to leave office is because they cannot handle life as a commoner? I will confess that I enjoyed the respect and courtesy I received whenever I visited golf clubs across the country. Will I miss it? to some extent yes. I may have gotten slightly tipsy with the power at times but not drank with it. At least that’s my self-evaluation.
We have often heard that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I have witnessed in dismay how leaders in some of our clubs change overnight once they get a new title and reserved parking. Many become unreasonable to the extent of suffering amnesia and forgetting their buddies, treating them like strangers. Why are we like that? Are we starving that much from the need to assert ourselves and crave attention? I wonder.
That comment after our AGM made me aware that I have an adjustment to make from life as chairman. I honestly do feel that it will be just a slight adjustment. I think I have achieved my mandate and its time for bigger and better things. The antidote to avoiding severe after power blues is to constantly remember while in office that your current occupation is a stepping stone to something better. Or at least be aware that you will not last forever and that your position is but for a limited time.
It’s easy to get caught up because pride and maringo of status and titles creep up on us like a bandit at night. We can reduce the chances of that happening if we focus on our mandate and why we got into office in the first place. If many leaders worked hard in silence and let success make the noise, then this country would be a much better place to live in. Of course I’m talking from my little experience heading the Kenya Golf Union. Maybe it’s a different ball game further up the ranks of bigger and more powerful roles and organizations. Though I’m convinced the principles remain the same.
Maybe the short one-year term in Kenya Golf Union has saved me from blacking out in the trenches high on power. The Mugabes, Musevenis and Bashirs of this world started out as very good leaders driven by the desire to uplift their people and grow their economies. Then somewhere along the way power got into their heads and that was the beginning of the end.
I have enjoyed every bit of my tenure. It was challenging when I had to make unpopular decisions amidst balancing various interests. At the same time, I enjoyed going to new places and meeting good humans. I believe we worked and delivered best way we could.
My pal Tony just sent me a clip by a guy who spoke at an event as the chief guest when in high office. He was invited to the same event after one year but not as the chief guest since he was no longer the mkubwa. When he went as chief guest he was treated like royalty. He was sent his air ticket and itinerary processed for him. He found a car at the airport waiting to pick him up to take him to his five-star hotel. At his hotel his deluxe room was all set and after checking in he was chauffer driven to the venue of the conference. Upon arrival he was ushered to a VIP seat at the front of the conference hall and handed his favorite coffee in a nice branded mug. This five-star treatment continued until the conference ended.
The following year when he was out of office he took a train to the conference, checked himself into an AirBnB, took an uber to the venue and when he asked for coffee an usher pointed him to the coffee machine in the lobby. He took his coffee from a styrofome cup dispensed by the machine.
Moral of this story is that most of the accolades and preferential treatment we get is not because of who we are but the position we hold. It’s the position (not Lucas) that got me reserved parking, reserved tables at presentations and single malt whiskeys that I didn’t have to pay for.
Folks once we remember and accept that the cup that’s forever ours is the styrofome one and not the expensive branded one then we will go through life using our power to influence people positively. Real power is not dependent on positions and status but on the self-awareness that we are equipped to help others and change society irrespective of the titles and positions we carry. The positions and titles definitely make it easier to effect positive change on a larger scale but sadly derails most of us into self-preservation and greed.
Good people on fourth floor I know this resonates well with most of us because we tend to get to the apex of our careers or organizations at this age. May we never forget that even when we are served expensive champagne in crystal glasses with our names engraved on them, what cannot be taken from us is the styrofome cups (and glasses if they exist).