Leadership And Conflict

By John Brian Oyaro

We live in a very interesting time in history, where technological advancement has shaped how we communicate and how we respond to issues. Being a millennial in an African country, I appreciate the fact that I can easily send my thoughts and perspective to a multitude of people at an instance. However, as a young leader, I can’t help but draw some conclusions to the fact that Social media has become a nightmare of a recurring conflict among leaders also to a large extent the citizenry. Everyone now has been given un-trampled authority, to state what they feel, like or dislike at their pleasure, with little or less consequence.

Martin Luther King Junior, a renowned leader and activist shared what I believe has bedevilled our ability to bring people together and consequently led to the urge for leaders to thrive in a state of chaos “The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become spiritually, we have learnt to fly in the air like birds and swim in the ocean like fish, but we have not learnt the simple art of living together as brothers”.

It’s interesting to see the irony of Martin Luther`s words and the present state of leadership in the world. Leaders have embraced conflict as a way to win people over. This is no longer a developing nation problem but shared by the developed states too. For instance, America had one of the most divisive elections in modern history. According to a research done by Pew center, the demographic profiles of the Republican and Democratic parties were strikingly different. On key characteristics – especially race, ethnicity and religious affiliation – the two parties look less alike today than at any point over the last quarter-century.

Why would this be the case in a well-established democracy, well both the Trump and Hillary campaigns dwelt more on divisive politics that was marred with fake news and unverified circulation of information on social media. Instead of cringing at conflict, the world’s leading superpower elected a leader who could thrive in a state of chaos and consequently be the author of chaos itself.

Kenya`s case is no different, with leaders measure of words and deeds being worlds apart. From a historic Supreme Court ruling, that nullified the presidential election to a boycotted election that resulted in a fraction of the country calling for a session. The influence wielded by both President Kenyatta and Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is immense, but the direction by which it’s been blown is worrying. When our country is contemplating separation rather than a pursuit to unification, we can be quick to point fingers and blame each other but aren’t we the same generation that quickly contemplates divorce rather than tolerance and patience.

When I was the Student President at Daystar University, I had my equal measure of praise and criticism. At the back of my mind, I was able to convince myself that I could bring people together. In my historic years as a student President, I realized that I was happy when people around me were happy, I was peaceful –when people around me were at peace and every single moment was an opportunity to show that despite the differences I had with those I had chosen to serve, I was presented with a chance to lead by example.

I might not have achieved all that I had set my eyes upon achieving as a leader- but just because I valued unity over conflict, every single time was a God-given chance to influence those around me, to view things from the same pedestal that I did. In both of my electoral wins, as a leader, I tried as much as I could to let my actions and principles speak louder, rather than my ability to shame my opponent. Not only was I elected twice as Student President but contrary to the pundits and the naysayers, I was able to lead easily. Two years later I won the Exemplary Student Leader of the Year award, an award given to 5 exemplary student leaders in Kenya, for their great work and efforts to make an impact in the lives of their students.

As young leaders, we should ponder at President Barrack Obama`s statement that it’s hard to divide people during a campaign then be in a position to lead them when you win. We can rise up from the social media urge to criticize and trivialize anything that we encounter, and lead by example by stating, acting and posting statements that bring us together rather drive us further apart.



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