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My Father?s Leadership

Today?s decline of the social structures in America that hold families, churches and communities together is largely attributed to the absence of fathers at home and ineffective leaders. As I reflect on the importance of quality leadership I think of my father, Johnson Kituku Musoo.

My father is a living testimony that what you don?t have should not stop you from achieving what you want. His mother died before he turned ten leaving him with a younger brother and sister to care for. I learned about his struggles from other people. l never heard him complain??although I once saw him cry, wishing that his mother was still alive.

He served in the King's African Rifles (when Kenya was colonized by British) and left to start a small business enterprise at Kangundo. His full energy was in that business. Eventually he owned several buildings, operated several businesses and had a personal vehicle in addition to two others that he used in a public transportation business. His determination and hard work transformed our living structures from a unit we shared with rodents, snakes and ticks to a compound with twelve bedrooms and a water fountain.

My Dad was a visionary. He knew the future would be bright for his children if we had an education. He made us aware of it consistently. He encouraged us to study and did everything he could to eliminate anything that he deemed to be an obstacle in making his vision a reality. We were not allowed to go to movies until we were in high school. He thought shoes, long trousers, or even watches were destructive to young minds. He allowed us minimum involvement in his business.

The ability to lead and inspire ordinary people to do what seems extraordinary is what set my Dad apart. I remember one morning in November 1974 when my young brother and I were to sit for high school entrance exam. Before we left home, my father woke up and with a towel wrapped around him and no shirt said, ?My children, you have prepared for this day. This day will be a turning point for a better future. Think of what can go right.? I have never forgotten the color of the towel, the wall Dad was leaning on and those words??"Think of what can go right.?

Dad?s word meant everything to me. He had spanked me many times when I brought my report card home, and had humiliated me by having me spend six years in three grades. In January 1975 the results were announced and my brother and I were admitted to government high school. Dad took us to the University of Nairobi's gate and said, ?My children, that is where men and women get knives to cut their portion of the national cake.? That?s where both of us were admitted six years later after succeeding in two high school exams that eliminated hundreds of thousands students.

Another area in which my father showed wisdom in leadership was when we worked in our garden. We had coffee and corn gardens. Dad knew what he wanted completed and how long it should take. At about 4:00 p.m., he would show up with extra help and sometimes with food. He would also clear his throat just before arriving to announce his presence??lest he find us engaged in the talk of the youth. He never found us sitting down! Good leaders try to find their employees at those moments when they are doing something good.

Dad was a lifelong learner. Because of circumstances beyond his control he didn't have the opportunity to go to school for more than two or three years. He taught himself to read. He never used a calculator in monitoring his inventory or managing his finances??everything was hand written after mental calculation.

One thing that astonished me was to find my father reading literature books by Ngugi wa Thiongo. I was in high school junior class and Ngugi's works were our class literature books. I knew it was hard for him to read English at the books level, but I was moved by his determination??I learned that learning is a lifelong project.

No words can describe my Dad's mood and celebration when my brother and I passed national exams. While my mother pondered her joy in her heart, my Dad literally let the "world" know of his sons? success??which essentially was his own success. He would call his friends and host an evening party without us. Then he would come home and praise us for our efforts. When we were admitted to the University of Nairobi, Dad gave each of us a gift of 5,000 Kenya Shillings (about $400.00 back then, more than a school principal?s monthly salary). I don?t know any other student who received such a gift. We were also taken to the university in one of his vehicles instead of going by bus.

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