When I polled my social media friends to list out characteristics of a good leader, I got things like this:

  • A good listener
  • Someone with empathy
  • Someone who is honest, open minded and has courage
  • Someone who knows how to motivate a team
  • Someone who doesn’t always need to be at the front of the people they’re serving
  • Someone who is selfless
  • Someone who has the courage and power to fight for the current & future generations
  • A mentor, coach and servant-leader
  • Someone charismatic
  • Someone loyal!

That last one resonated with me because this post is all about Kocc Barma’s saying Buur du mbokk! Loosely translated, that means a king is not loyal!

So, why did Kocc Barma say that? A leader is technically a king, without the royal context. At the end of the day, they’re both leaders so how should we think about this? How do I reconcile all the positive attributes my lovely friends listed above with this bold statement that leaders are essentially not loyal? Hmmm…

Below, I’ll give examples of good and bad leaders, along with researched opinions, and see if I can reconcile this in my head. Bear with me.

Nelson Mandela – Former President of South African (1994 – 1999)

I have never heard of anyone say this man isn’t a great leader. I mean come on! It’s Nelson Mandela.
Social rights activist.
Nobel Peace Prize.

He worked hard to dismantle the apartheid system that plagued South Africa and spent 27 years in prison for “political offenses.” That sounds a lot like servant-leadership to me. I can’t say enough good things about him. Just Thank You.
Patrice Lumumba – Independence Leader and Congolese Politician (1960)

The Republic of Congo has many thanks to give to Lumumba. He played a significant role in the transformation of the Congo from a colony of Belgium into an independent republic. He paid his life for his efforts and accomplishments, brutally murdered along with other revolutionaries. At the end, even his enemies recognized him as a “national hero.”
Kwame Nkrumah – Independence Leader and Former President of Ghana (1957)

 Nkrumah was the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana. He led Ghana to be the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence in 1957. The Gold Coast (Ghana) was lucky to have a leader like Nkrumah, who was a visionary, a fighter, and a revolutionary. He didn’t gain the name Osagyefo (Redeemer) for no reason.
Robert Mugabe – Former President of Zimbabwe (1987 – 2017)

Let’s do some math. 2017 – 1987 = 30. 30 years is a long time to be President. He went from Independence icon to totalitarian leader…
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (aka The Boss) – Former President of Equatorial Guinea (1979 – Present)

Has been named the cruelest leader on the planet. I mean, they said a king is not loyal and this man embodied it. He overthrew his own uncle, Francisco Mac√≠as Nguema, in 1979 in a bloody coup d’etat and basically refused to leave…ever. He’s been accused of power abuse, torturing his opponents, and get this, even cannibalism! It is said he eats the flesh of his opponents to fain power. That’s just disturbing and all so sad for a tiny, oil-producing country like Equatorial Guinea. I’m really starting to think this oil curse is more dangerous than we know.
Macky Sall – President of Senegal (2012 -Present)

So Sall started off as Prime Minister to former President Abdoulaye Wade and broke away to form his own party in 2008. Nothing wrong with that, cool. Well, he challenged him in the 2012 election and won (which is overall good because Wade was going for a third-term he should have been going for anyways). Well, fast forward to 2020, Sall is trying to do the same thing (face-palm) and oh also, just a host of other things that don’t serve the interest of the Senegalese people. He became what he claimed to have fought against before. Make it make sense.
Donald Trump – President of the United States of America (2017 – Present)

I’m not even going to go down this rabbit hole. I’m just praying.

Good listener. Empathetic. Know when to follow. Selfless. Charismatic. Courageous. Servant-Leader. Loyal.

Notice how all of these leaders are male. I did this on purpose and will dissect this dynamic another day but now, let stay on topic and just say WOW! We’ve got all kinds of “styles” of leadership here and it’s safe to say there’s no magical recipe to getting it done right but I can tell it’s not done right by oppressing your constituents; it’s not done right by overstepping your rights and power; it’s not done right by overstaying your welcome. A good leader, among all other things, knows when it’s time to leave!

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