The death of Robert Collymore, the iconic leader of Safaricom who passed on this week brings to light what true leadership is all about. For us at Leadcast and personally as an avid and keen advocate for true servant leadership, it will be a big mistake if I don’t pen down a word or two about the leadership elements this great man demonstrated.

When we discuss leadership, in a sense, many people do not understand exactly what we mean. Not a surprise though. Many people think of leadership as a position, as a title or as the authority that we get when we feel powerful. Leadership is an experience and trying to put it in a simple way can only be understated. For Bob, it was a lifestyle of leadership. He perfectly showed us practically and unequivocally what leadership is all about. I will try to distill a few of them so that we can ponder on them in this conversation of leadership.

Care for People

A true leader has a genuine care for people. Bob Collymore did not say this, he did it. When you saw Collymore in his natural element, his care for humanity and people in general was evident. He did not need to pretend or act for the cameras, but he was simply caring. True leadership starts with caring for others. Some of us never saw Bob in person, but we felt it nonetheless. When he appeared on TV, one would get a feeling of the care and love he had for people. No wonder, when the news of his death came through on Monday morning, I wa going through my Facebook account and was surprised at the messages that flooded regarding his demise. Everybody, was typing R.I.P, ‘what a sad day it is’ I, too felt something, some loss and it felt like I lost a friend. I thought about the bundles I was using to browse and the money transfer I had just made and it was clear, I felt Bob was a friend I had lost. That was a universal feeling indeed. When a leader cares for people, when he dies, people do not struggle to mourn him or pour their hearts out, it comes automatically. In some instances, when a true leader leaves, may be to another organization or retires or resigns, people feel the loss just like the way Kenyans felt the loss of Bob Collymore. As John Maxwell says, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care for them”

Character

True leadership is anchored and stands on the pillar of character. A character is one which is steadfast. Be it raining, be it sunny, be it cold, be it hot, and so on, character stands strong and consistent. The power of Bob Collymore’s character was all out there to be seen and experienced. He stood against corruption at all times, he always focused on the benefit to the common man, he went ahead and showed this strong leadership element by being the first senior corporate leader to declare his wealth. Whenever the character and integrity of Safaricom was at stake as it was during the 2017 elections, Bob showed the greatest remorse and was in court day in and day out to clear the name of the company. He was pleading and showing in action how his stand on honest and transparency was a big agenda in his life. Bob therefore showed clarity of character as a leader and it was not a wonder that he did not fear showing off his social life to the public. He married a Kenyan lady, and stood fast on his family values. That is a mark of true leadership.

Courage

Someone once quipped that true leadership isn’t really about the academic things or the muscle power, it all boils down to being courageous. The lion in the jungle is not the biggest animal, is not the fastest animal, it is neither the most intelligent, but it is quite courageous. Leaders have this element in their sleeves always. Be it at work or at personal level. True leaders demonstrate courage in their decisions and their actions. Bob Collymore made daring and courageous acts in the field of telecommunication and in life. He was courageous till the end, in the face of cancer and worse, acute myeloid leukemia, a very painful bone marrow cancer. Even outside this personal challenge, Bob courageously made serious decisions like partnering with KCB to issue loans, giving out Fuliza services, opening up the Company Safaricom to people and not being afraid to risk banking on the poor and what most academicians would say a high risk group. A leader’s courage is what inspires many. They say change is brought by people who are so courageous that they are even ready to die for the cause they believe in, and in most cases the interest of his people. Myles Munroe is quoted “Real change is brought about by ‘dead’ people”