professional Utterance

The professional personas journey & expertise

Opening quote:
“Success to me, well I just call success opportunities and not a means to an end. Success is a process. Actually somebody called it; process and not an exhibition. So with the few successes I have had in life, I have also had lots of challenges and the successes have challenged me to move on just as the challenges have also challenged me to move on.”

Political talent… is there anything like that?
Politics is a very unpredictable game and often times it has no rules. You find that political novices come into the field and win elections and their so called people with ‘political talent’ don’t even win and one wonders what is it that causes the swing from the talented to novices.
We have also seen cases of the rich and the poor, where the rich come with a lot of resources and the poor have none and yet in them they have that charisma to draw votes into themselves.
We have also seen the old and the young often times people preferring the young and sometimes the swing goes the other way round; they say they want the old who are more experienced.
So you can see the dynamics are quite great. They are time bound, specific according to situations, they are very selective in nature but they need what one often hears politicians talking about –‘positioning’. Now political positioning –that is a talent.  This is where I would say talent comes in.
You are talented to know when to move, when to start and end the game, where to stand, the moment to go, to learn to give up (yield) or cling against opposition. Often times people relate this to what they call political manoeuvre –unpredictability. Sometimes it’s not very pleasant. It’s negative as a person is seen to have no stand as he/she who keeps moving from one position to another is not reliable, yet one has to look at it very carefully because also being able to choose at the spur of the moment has its own values. A quick decision maker is not useful at times particularly in the current highly technical era where politics also must be played as part of technological advancements to count votes, to prepare voters, set guidelines, set accuracy points, margins and so on. So the ability to change at the spur could be an advantage.
That’s why I said it’s not an easy game, it has no rules.

Difference between a politician and leader?
It’s debatable in accordance to a specific focus. Now, what’s a politician? Who is a politician? Political science is what makes a politician. Leadership is about governance. A political scientist may not necessarily be a governance expert. So leadership here has to be specific and considering what direction the leadership has to be applied. A politician has to be a leader because you have to have something beyond what people know for them to believe and follow you.
Same case for leadership. The same rule exists. You cannot be the leader of people unless you show them you can give them a direction. That you can see much more than what they see, that you add value to their lives. So generally, they are one and the same thing.
To be a good politician one has to be a good leader. A leader also has to practice some positive and healthy politics at times. A good politician is also endowed with leadership skills. A lasting political leader has to have good leadership capacity in order to keep people interested and retain them in his circles otherwise they’ll think he is a conman/con woman and will soon jump out of his boat. (Laughter from both interviewer and interviewee).

Would you advice youth to venture into politics? With what agenda?
You know people often forget that the leader you admire today is the same leader and spirit of the leader the youth of tomorrow will also see and admire in their own context. So this thing of being a youth and therefore a leader is very temporal because you are only young for some time and yes at that time you have the advantage which you can use but tomorrow there will be another youth because every day makes you older. Being young is not the best measure of good leadership.
I want to say to the young people, to be a good politician one needs to start understanding what it is that makes people interested in one and wants them to follow you. This again could be specific to what a group needs and you need to appeal to what their needs are at that point because their needs also changes. What you think interests them today may not tomorrow. The talk of unga, ugali today…tomorrow it will be ‘petroli, petroli’, the following day they will be talking about (laughs) something else so it cannot be constant. The parameters change with time, space and environment.
Young people need to know the environment in which they are in and keep track of the changing needs and mood of the people and be prepared all the time to be there when the need arises and have the knowledge of the people and how to meet their needs. That is what makes you a leader at that time because you jump in with solutions to their problems.
You know, once you finish tomorrow you’ll be a different person. Last elections Jubilee came with a lot of steam isn’t it? This time Nasa is coming with a lot of steam. Jubilee will not change, it will still have steam but just because this is a new thing people think it has got a different weight but it may not be giving the solutions. Leadership may change today but not necessarily create value for life.

Is a leader born or made? Both. (Nature/nurture)
You can be born because you have inherited. (Laughs a bit).When you talk of dynasties. So they are born queens and Kings, Princes and princesses. Then you have the (pause) hustlers {laughs} Yer. They make themselves out of selling chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, mandazis, bicycle repairs. Tomorrow you see them becoming MCAs, members of parliament, cabinet ministers. They grow into billionaires out of fried chicken, they become the Hilton international hotel. (We both laugh).
Maya: Nicely put :D
What is the most important thing or principle you have learnt in your political career until now?
One lesson I have learnt is humility and trustworthiness. You will keep your friends forever. People will trust you both in politics and out of politics and that just makes my day. I would have hated for people to have loved and respected me when I was a politician because I was providing for them leadership and sometimes shelter and advice and now that I am not one, am not able to provide them that shelter, that advice. So what does that add up to? Not being a leader?
I want to add that, politics taught me to remain a leader at all times. Carry yourself with dignity even after the political reign.

About yourself, any interesting project you’re currently doing and you would not mind sharing with us?
I have been out of practical politics (as Kenyans would call it) since 1983, that’s when I was voted out of parliament. Most people think that if you were a politician then you were voted out, you die (laughs)… but you do not perish. You have to have your career. If you’re doing politics, you remain a politician either in the house or out of the house because it’s that talent, that capacity to keep attracting people with ideas and retaining them because you can sustain their thinking and add value to their lives and you will remain friends.

Projects in KNDI (Kenya Nutririon and Dietetics Institute)?
When I was in parliament, I was part of the process of legislating bills into laws that bring leadership and development. One was the cotton development. People at home are growing cotton now in various areas amidst for the other constraints of it as a crop. I relate to that so much because that’s what took me to school; paid my school fees. So that’s something I continue to cherish.
I also contributed towards operalization of procurement law that enables this country to train a lot of supplies office. There’s the main actors in procurement. If you want to control ‘ufisadi’ you need to help people know what they’re doing to be able to control resources.
I also wrote a law in Nutrition and dietetics (that’s my profession) and I am glad that this country has set up an institute of Nutrition and dietetics which has professionalized the industry, improving the services and quality of service in nutrition and dietetics. But before that, as a politician, I did a lot of projects in Funyula constituency which I still go and relate to.
I work closely in projects with people with disabilities and I am a member of the National fund for the disabled in Kenya. I have been a trustee for the last 35 years. I subscribed my work to that but I also have projects in that sector in my own county and when I go back I am very close to them. I also set up lots of schools, hospitals and dispensaries, water points and several other socio-economic projects that helped people to improve their lives. Over and above that am still a politician.

Maya: At heart? (Smiling)
Dr. Julia: Yes. I started the Labour party of Kenya 18 years ago and parties grow from strengths to strengths. Today it is one of the few older parties in this country but also a party with visibility over the 18 years with an ideology recognized nationally and internationally; that is here to remain and one day a party that will produce a president to this nation. I still lead that party.
Your experience as a presidential Running mate to Kalonzo?
As a politician, I have been a presidential candidate in my own right. I have also been a running mate as a presidential candidate and I have been a chair through the leading political parties. So I have had a lot of time as a woman leader to lead in the political elective politics. It’s not easy but with all the problems there are successes and hurdles to overcome. Besides challenges also inspire people to work harder. I love to be challenged.
I have never found a place where I have felt stagnant and that I have reached. Some people want to feel they’re satisfied or retired and fail to move on but to me, I think life is a continuous process. I thank God for it. (Laughs once more).

Parting shot:
There’s hope all the time to those who believe in working to improve themselves and I encourage young people to work to improve themselves and to improve the environment and leave this world better than they found it.

Interview carried out at Dr.Julia's beautiful home in Karen,Nairobi

Article by,
Muthoni Kirumba.

#talentconversations #talent.