Key lessons I have learnt in leadership

Murang'a Governor Irungu Kang'ata

Murang'a Governor Irungu Kang'ata before the Senate's County Public Accounts Committee on March 21, 2023.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • It is wise to align oneself with persons who share your values and beliefs.
  • That improves synergies and chances of betrayal since all parties have goal congruence.

I've learned some lessons in my life.

Always be careful of mankind

Be careful of mankind

They'll make you promises today

But tomorrow they change their mind

Make you faithful promises today

But tomorrow they change their mind


Money can make friendship end

It makes friendship end

But I'm an up full man

And I love up full people,

I'm a progressive man

And I love progressive people,

I'm an honest man

And I love honest people,

I'm a genuine man

And I love genuine people,

I'm an aggressive man

And I love aggressive people,

I'm a determined man

And I love determined people,

But I'm a three eyed man

And I love three eyed people

(Peter Tosh Song , ‘Lessons in my life’)

Someone did an email inquiring what key lessons I might have drawn in my career of leadership. There are many and probably they mean nothing –since they cannot be replicated on any other persons since we are all very different. And their social settings were different and hence there is nothing like ‘standardization’ to enable one draw lessons that can be replicated anywhere else.

As Kikuyus say, every morning of any single day is different .Be that as it may ,there is no harm in sharing some key life lessons in this leadership journey .

The first lesson is that politics is a ‘social endeavor’ as opposed to being a mechanical one. A social endeavor entails appreciating people are equal despite their characters and morals.They should be treated as they are –and leaders should respect them as they are. Any attempt to remake or unravel social bonds is very problematic in politics. 

To understand this point, let us rewind the sweet campaigns for the Juja by-election of 2021. The Member of Parliament for Juja had passed on triggering a by-election. It set the stage for a fight between the then President Uhuru Kenyatta and the then Deputy President William Ruto’s troops and probably set the tone for the oncoming 2022 General Election. 

Juja is a very small but highly populated urban constituency. The campaigns entailed politicians moving from one polling center to another and talking to the people. Because polling centers were so close to each other, some cheeky members of public would follow an aspirant from one stop to the next with a view of collecting the facilitation amounts politicians gave at each stop.

Electoral contest

These fellows did not make any effort to disguise themselves as politicians made their speeches at any stop. Infact they would be clapping animatedly as if they are seeing the politician for the first time .But, offcourse, their only concern is what they get at the end of the speech .

One aspirant made a fatal mistake of saying; “ I have just seen you in the previous stop. I won’t give you anything here”. He got a backlash and lost because the unhappy ejected lot started spreading negative vibes .A wise politician would just keep mum and assume these cheeky voters. It is wise to avoid showing any form of vengeance to voters .

The same logic happened to another electoral contest at ward level. An aspirant called his agents from all over his ward to his homestead for a feast. When his fellow villagers gatecrashed ,he ejected them saying the meeting was strictly for agents who came from far away villages .He faced a backlash and lost .

The moral lesson in both instances – it is wise to avoid taking action that renders indignity to voters ,like chasing them away from feasts ostensibly because one had not planned for them. Related to this is the dilemma one faces when dealing with persons with clear “morally problematic credentials.”

Whereas a known thief might not convince anyone in his village — in public places where people do not know each other, say inside a matatu or a hospital amongst strangers — he might convince many . 

When I was in Standard Two, one morning there was drama that brought business to a standstill in our school. A teacher had molested a Standard Six pupil in a store where we used to store Nyayo Milk. He was arrested and arraigned in court. Years later, I heard he was released after parting with a bribe. He went to a neighboring school and caused similar problems .

Values and beliefs

Eventually, he left service. Years later when I was serving as an MP, I went to a church gathering and found him acting as the master of ceremony .I could not believe my eyes – the man who had molested a pupil and bribed his way to freedom was now holding an influential position in church. He could literally sway votes.

In a perfect society ,the man should have been in jai, but here he was. Probably that explains why, in some instances, morally problematic people can weave their way to positions of power.

Finally, there is the lesson concerning people whom politicians help with an expectation for them to return the favour during the elections. Some people will seek direct and personal favours like employment or money for some personal issues like paying medical bills. It is moral and good to help .However, it is never a guarantee that such people will return the favour during elections. Politicians should respect the decision of such voters. One should help without expectation of reward. 

When the late JJ Kamotho defected from Kanu in the run up to 2002 General Election, the then President Daniel arap Moi publicly wondered and said, “Hata wewe?" (Even you?). He could not understand the betrayal by such a longstanding friend. Jesus was right when he told Simeon Peter how the latter would betray him.Therefore, betrayal in politics tends to happen all the time.

What is the best hedge against such? It is wise to align oneself with persons who share your values and beliefs. That improves synergies and chances of betrayal since all parties have goal congruence.

Dr Kangata is the Governor of Murang’a County; Email: [email protected]