African leadership legacy from the Bible

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AT least once a month, this column is dedicated to a special series called Bible School Business School (BSBS). BSBS explores the Bible for deep insights on business, leadership and personal growth. BSBS grew out of a quest to explore an alternative source of wisdom to address the challenges of business, leadership and personal growth. In fact, the Bible presents a paradigm or mind-set for thinking and practising leadership. This mind-set is very radical. A study of the root of the word radical shows that it takes on a very deep meaning. The Thesaurus on my computer provides the following alternative meanings for the word radical; thorough, far-reaching, deep-seated, sweeping, fundamental, essential, major and drastic. Thus being radical essentially means getting to the root of an issue. The Bible will often present thoughts and practices that are countercultural or counterintuitive.
On leadership, the Bible is as radical as can be.

Leadership renewal

Leadership renewal started by Africans.

The Bible has a lot to say about leadership renewal.

It is quite interesting that the first clearest example of leadership renewal in the Bible involves two leaders of African origin, more accurately, African leaders. The famous Biblical duo of Moses and Joshua were born and bred in Africa.

They were naturalised Africans. As soon as Moses began his leadership stint he thought about his successor. A careful study of the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land as outlined in Exodus and Numbers, shows that within the first 100 days of taking up leadership Moses was already preparing Joshua to succeed him.

This is Africa! Moses was just as seized about leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land as he was about grooming his successor. That’s serious and rare foresight. In the end it was Joshua and not Moses who took the children of Israel into the Promised Land. It is in fact a popular myth that Moses took the children of Israel into the Promised Land.

Moses had prepared for that eventuality by making sure he began grooming a successor as soon as he ‘came into power’ (The notion of power in the Bible is radically countercultural, subject for another day).

Thus grooming a successor is very African. Not to do so is unAfrican and a betrayal of Africanism. It is very African to prepare for your exit as soon as you come into power. It is completely unAfrican to crush your potential successors. It is also very African to have smooth transitions from one leader to another. Others have taken the heritage that was bequeathed to Africa and built prosperous nations. Africa must go back to its heritage.

Rule of Law vs Law of Rule

The first comprehensive written constitution and code of governance was handed to an African leader, Moses. That code, which is called the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, the moral code or the governance code is the basis of the laws of any nation. Jesus came and explained the essence of the governance code that had been handed to Moses 2 000 years earlier. He summarised the governance code into two simple principles as recorded in Mark 12: 30-31. The second pillar of the Code is clearly stated: “And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31, NKJV). This principle of selflessness, the foundation of the moral code, is what was taught to an African leader as the foundation of governance. It is an African leader who was chosen to teach the whole world about the rule of law. Today, African leaders are being told by others about the rule of law. How ironic.

How is this connected to the subject of leadership renewal? When Moses was about to die, he spent his last days teaching both his successor and the nation the principles from the governance code. If a leader grooms and hands a new leader who understands and practices the essence of the Moral Code, that is selflessness and prepares followers to abide by the same principle thus prosperity and stability are assured.

Leadership renewal, real African way, as taught and practiced by our erstwhile African forerunners is grooming successors and followers to abide by the rule of law. What we see today is leaders who teach law of rule not the rule of law.

Africa is poor despite being rich in resources because our leaders now emphasise the law of rule instead of the rule of law. The rule of law is ‘loving your neighbour as yourself’. Simply put, the greatest benefit you would have for yourself is what you should give your neighbour.

Thus even the well-intentioned indigenisation drive in our country will come to naught if we do not have a radical restoration of the mind-set that was first taught by our erstwhile African forerunner. Without this mind-set, those with power will use law of rule to rule out others from benefitting from Africa’s soil and oil.

If we are true Africans let’s go back to our heritage. If we don’t we will create what an African thinker from Ghana, Samuel Koranteng-Pipim calls Africa’s ‘nillionaires’—that is, the millions of Africans with nothing or next to nothing. Not only nillionaires, I would add ‘illionaires’, the psychologically defeated and physically sick African millions due to Africans abandoning the principle ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. The new African can only be if he/she goes back to Africa’s real heritage, the principles of the moral code as handed to Africa’s leadership icon, the Biblical Moses 4 000 years ago.

Do better than me

We can infer that the principles handed down from Moses of Africa had a powerful impact in the new nation of Israel. In 2 Kings 2, we meet the prophet Elijah preparing to ‘hand over power’ to a new prophet by the name Elisha. Prophets were the direct custodians and teachers of the moral code that had been handed down to Moses. Elijah who was soon to leave office asked his heir apparent what he would like. 2 Kings 2 : 9 (NKJV) records: “And so it was, when they had crossed over , that Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?’ Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”

Astounding! Elisha was asking Elijah to be as twice as selfless! In other words, ‘Before you leave, please Elijah, I ask that I love my neighbour as myself twice as you would.” Elisha’s wish was granted.

He performed twice as many miracles as Elijah. He gave more to the world than Elijah. That’s an African concept, proudly taught by the Biblical Moses, a son of Africa. Africa must give instead of begging.Africa should go back to its heritage as taught in the Bible.

Chulu is a strategic HR consultant and business strategist pioneering innovative HR and business practices in both listed and unlisted firms in Zimbabwe. —brettchulu@consultant.com

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