Caroline Mutoko has been running a vlog that shares great insights on different issues. Last week, she ran a very insightful vlog series on #LessonsFromObama. You can watch the vlog here. She shares 3 lessons she picked from the Obama visit and nudges her viewers to think about the lessons they picked as well. So we rose to the bait and decided 3 days of being glued to the TV and mesmerized by this President from the Land of Milk and Honey, best produce at least 3 lessons. We will share 2 of the lessons we picked from Obama’s visit.
Authentic Leadership is the way to go
A few years ago leadership was connoted alongside autocratic behaviors. Leaders were unreachable. They lived in a cocoon that ordinary people could not relate to. However, times have changed. The leaders who will prevail today and in days to come are those who embrace authentic leadership.
Authentic leaders show their real selves to their followers. Authentic leaders lead with their heart, not just their minds. They are not afraid to show their emotions, their vulnerability and to connect with their followers or even employees. They embrace relational transparency.
When President Obama arrived in Kenya, the first people he spent extended time with were his family; not a state dinner, not a TV channel but his family. With that he makes a statement. I am a human being. Next he addressed the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). He chose to start his speech by our foreign version of the English language, ‘hawayuni’. He seems oblivious to the damage he is doing to the queen’s speech! But with those statements, he has come to our level; he is one of us; he is not just the president of US, he is a relatable leader. If you still need one more example, watch him as he talks to the civil society. He removes his coat, folds his sleeves and he blends right in with the members of the civil society.
Our very own president has embraced authenticity and for that he has earned a place in the hearts of many Kenyans. While state house was this foreign place, while presidential spaces were this foreign place, he allows us into all these spaces through selfies and comprehensive social media coverage of his activities at state house. More often than not, his presidential visits are marked with ‘improper’ gestures that must give his security team a run for their money.
The leaders who will greatly impact at the marketplace or any other forum are those who can learn from these great leaders, they are those who embrace authentic leadership. The journey to authentic leadership begins with understanding the story of your life. Your life story provides the context for your experiences, and through it, you can find the inspiration to make an impact in the world.
The power of story telling
President Obama had a chance to address Kenyans. His previous speech at the GES was addressed to the world, but this speech at Kasarani Sports Centre was purely for Kenyans. He seemed to know that many of us are glued to the screen catching every word he makes in this speech. So he does what authentic leaders do, he shares his life story.
He shares an intriguing story about his great grandfather and how he was a domestic servant to the British during the colonial period. He then shares the story of his father, how he went to Hawaii on an education scholarship, how he came back with great ideals that were frustrated by the hard realities on the ground. He then shares the story of his first visit to Kenya, not in an Air Force One but a Volkswagen Beatle that broke down severally. With these 3 stories, we can fully relate to this great man, he feels like one of us. He then uses these stories to make important points around how Kenya has changed over the years. He uses these stories to let young people know they can do and be anything they want to be.
Long after we forget his speech, we will remember these 2 stories. They are stories every common Kenyan knows only too well. He uses these stories to inspire us. That if he can be the first ‘Kenyan president’, the man from these 2 very broken stories, then we all can be anything.
He reminds us of the Lapid Leaders communication class that elaborates on the power of storytelling.
Because of his authenticity, we are pumped up to be great leaders for Africa. We will be authentic leaders; we will get rid of the airs that drag many leaders away from the people they serve. We will explore our life stories, we will share these stories unashamedly, and because of that the sky is our limit. Those are the lessons we picked from this great visit. What lessons did you pick up? Share in the comments sections below and let’s learn from each other.