Robert Greenleaf (1977) coined the term servant leadership, which emphasises that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers and nurture them.
Servant leaders put followers first, empower them, and help them develop their full personal capacities and place the good of followers over their own self-interests and emphasize follower development.
In addition, a servant leader has a social responsibility to be concerned about the “have-nots” and those less privileged and if inequalities and social injustices exist, he or she tries to remove them.
The leader in this case uses less institutional power, shifting authority to those who are being led and values community contribution to his leadership.
During the time of the liberation struggle right into independence, Namibian political leaders have been appealing to the electorate to give them their votes and in turn become their servants.
This clarion call and submission has been the hallmark of political indoctrination in Africa and beyond.
The poor masses of the electorate for all these years have believed the politicians only to feel betrayed in the process.
In contrast to these noble ideas of this leadership, the Namibian electorate has witnessed something different from the promises of their leaders.
Election in and election out, the promises of constructing good roads, building schools, improving the standard of living of many ordinary people, are made, but little is delivered.
In the process, economies deteriorate and the masses despair and lose hope in the political system.
Why do politicians miss and fail to fulfill their promises to their electorate? The following characteristics could be looked at and perhaps shed light:
Most Namibian political leaders suffer from this syndrome. In Silozi, we have a saying, “komu yamwabuhulu, waikayela kwamuhata) meaning a grown-up person who is given a cow for the first time may end up tying it by the tail instead of the legs when trying to milk it.
Most leaders who end up climbing these political ladders never expected or imagined to occupy them. The positions and their responsibilities they inherit are beyond their comprehension and in the process, the leaders falter.
Like in Chinua Achebe’s “A Man of the People”, these leaders fail to engage their local people who can assist in advisory services. In some cases, these leaders fail to sleep for days as they are overwhelmed by happiness and all of a sudden forget the people who entrusted them with responsibilities of leading them.
Their commitment to the growth of the electorate fade and they fail to provide followers with opportunities for career development, helping them develop new work skills, taking a personal interest in the their ideas, and involving them in decision-making. These leaders end up becoming demigods and acquire unquestionable and supernatural powers.
Failing to listen to the electorate
Communication between political leaders and their followers is cardinal and an interactive process that includes sending and receiving messages.
Good servant leaders should possess the quality of communication and listening to their followers and their concerns but many times, the political masters adopt a know-all strategy and their followers become cogs in the wheel.
After elections, the politicians disappear only to reappear after five years to ask for another five-year term of deceiving the electorate.
Lack of empathy
Empathy is “standing in the shoes” of another person and attempting to see the world from that person’s point of view.
This is totally absent from many leaders as a result always see the world from their personal perspective in all angles. If our political leaders had empathy, Namibia would be the best place to live in.
It is lack of empathy which has bred corruption, leading many leaders to amass ill-gotten wealth at the expense of the electorate.
Overlooking the process of healing
In this process, both the followers and leaders should find means of making themselves whole.
Good servant leaders care about the personal well-being of their followers and at the end of it, make the latter fully satisfied because the people they lead are also comfortable.
Many political leaders fail to help their followers even in basic issues and straightforward matters.
The call for help in terms of providing sanitary water and better health services always falls on deaf ears.
The quality of awareness
This is the most neglected component of leadership in Namibia. Most leaders are not aware of what is happening among the people they lead.
Many national leaders lack basic information about their people. Some of them have never travelled to other regions of the country.
How can a leader claim to be nationalistic when he or she cannot understand the national ingredients and what makes nationalism? Many Namibian politicians cannot comprehend the cultures of their followers. One Namibia One Nation is just on paper and as a result politicians have failed to unite the country.
In some cases, our political leaders are not sensitive to the plight of some communities. Namibia has become a country of connections and knowing the people.
The question is, “what happens to those who are not connected and who do not know those in power?”
Use of coercion instead of persuasion
Most leaders tend to use force and intimidation when dealing with their electorate.
Threats like denying the communities the right of access to clean water, schools, hospitals and other services which are rightful theirs are the hallmarks of their political campaigns.
Such leaders do not even understand that all Namibians are taxpayers and hence entitled to all services in the country.
Use of conceptualization
This means equipping servant leaders with skills to respond to complex organizational problems in creative ways. Our political leaders have been failing the test of solving both simple and complicated problems within their parties. Imagine if leaders cannot solve problems at such level, how will they manage to handle issues at national and international levels? All political leaders in this country are grappling with problems of their own making by failing to manage their parties because they lack consistency and keep on contradicting themselves by implementing policies that are not feasible. How can one explain a situation where the leadership of the party fail to seek legal advice and skip the Electoral Commission of Namibia directives in picking members of parliament? This points to the ignorance and inefficiency of the highest order among the political leaders.
The dearth of foresight
Foresight encompasses a servant leader’s ability to know the future. It is an ability to predict what is coming based on what is occurring in the present and what has happened in the past. This is also so prevalent among our leaders that they as a result fail to assess their political gains which can lead them to losing votes. In the current preliminaries, in regional elections some councillors refused to see themselves being abandoned despite the clear signs.
Since independence 30 years ago, many Namibian political leaders have failed to enhance the concept of community building and development. In many circles, these leaders have torn some communities apart, leaving frustration and tension in their wake. The task of building and constructing these communities will take long. In the aftermath, the new generation will only reap confusion and hatred after the current generation is no more.