Model of servant leadership

Blantyre: He is called ‘captain’ and believed to be a God-given leader in his community where every member talks good about him.

Group Village Headman (GVH) Chilipa is a special breed of chief’s under Traditional Authority (TA) Makata in Blantyre District.

A member of his village, Jafali Muli, testifies that Chilipa does not command his subjects to do things but rather demonstrates to them how they should be done with hope for a positive change.

Muli says many people in the area call him ‘captain’, a military name he earned for his dedication, hard work and above everything, steadfastness in development.

Honestly speaking, as an area, we have registered continuous flow of development projects all because of our chief.

The secret is that he is vigilant, humble and takes development of his area as one of his priorities, Muli explains.

Aged 51, Chilipa became chief in 1997 after the death of his uncle and was enthroned as GVH in 2002.

Muli believes that GVH Chilipa’s quality of leadership is an inborn talent and a special gift from God.

In everything, he says, the chief employs a simple technique leading his people by example, paying attention to detail and a humble approach to solving community problems.

He always tells us that a leader must be the first person to show maturity, provide proper direction and, most importantly, take part. He is such an adorable human creature, Muli says.

Another community member, Dalitso Kambewa, also showers praises on GVH Chilipa and explains why the area has registered tremendous progress.

Kambewa says the chief knows how to involve people in development.

He adds that, mostly, when a new project is coming to the area, GVH Chilipa briefs his subjects on its importance to the community and the need for the people’s active participation.

He is always on the ground and does not only speak but closely works with us to achieve our intended goals.

We believe that our area is still registering tremendous development progress because our ‘captain’ is in fore front of every endeavor and always strives that we shouldn’t fail, Kambewa says.

People in the area are proud of good road network, improved healthcare and education systems and increased agricultural production.

But what does the ‘captain’ himself have to say?

He says he cannot boast to have acquired his quality leadership skills from school but owes it to God.

Leading people is a very simple task; all what one needs is to be humble, understand the people and their needs, be patient and apply good leadership principles, GVH Chilipa says.

He explains that the common problem in many leaders is that they forget that they are people’s servants and consider themselves as bosses of the people.

If you consider yourself a boss, it becomes so difficult for people to give out their best in terms of participation towards development work. They feel used and consider everything they are doing not their own, he advises.

I have established a cordial relationship with my people and we are all determined to further develop our area, GVH Chilipa adds.

Chilipa’s leadership model has posted good results in that projects from the district council secretariat continue flowing to the area.

The projects being implemented include Action Against Hunger, Local Development Fund, Foundation for Irrigation and Sustainable Development, Save the Children Ubale Project, Masaf 4 and Malawi Drought and Recovery Resilience Programme.

Apart from the supported projects, the chief, a 1968 Standard Five dropout, champions a community irrigation scheme project.

He is leading his people to construct a dam that will be used to harvest water from the surrounding streams during rainy season.

The villagers have demonstrated passion to support the irrigation project by contributing cash and construction materials.

Mine is a rain shadow area. So we want the dam to provide farmers with water for irrigation throughout the year.

All what we want is an improved agriculture production that would lead to food security and increased household income, says the optimistic GVH.

Away from structural development, the father of four is also advancing issues of gender equality by making sure that women’s voices are heard and that they, too, actively participate in developing the country.

Chilipa believes that men and women must always work together for an area to register meaningful development.

Women have been oppressed for quite a long time and I believe it is time we move on and worked as a team.

While, government is trying its best to close the gap, I am also doing my part; and I can confidently say there is a significant change as my people have started to embrace gender equality, he says.

GVH Chilipa also has a special interest in the elderly. To ensure they, too, live a happy life, he often mobilises his community to contribute various items that are donated to the elderly.

In February, for example, he sourced eight bags of maize flour which were donated to the elderly and the less privileged, a rare gesture from an ordinary chief.

GVH Chilipa’s leadership style attracts praise from fellow traditional leaders including TA Makata.

He is a role model to other chiefs. He is passionate about his job and that is why his area is developing rapidly, Makata says.

He adds that Chilipa is the only chief who has managed to convince his subjects to adopt modern methods of farming and engage in various developmental activities.

Councilor Joy Jalani, whose Mudi Ward falls in Chilipa’s area, hails the chief for his exceptional leadership.

He is in a class of his own because he takes a different path than what most chiefs take. Some traditional leaders take advantage of their royal blood to abuse their power, Jalani says.

Director of Planning and Development (DPD) for Blantyre, Francis Matewere concurs with Jalani saying all the projects implemented in the chief’s area have been a success.

The chief delivers to his best and because of his hard work and dedication, the area continues to attract a number of developmental projects, Matewere says.

The DPD appeals to other chiefs in the district to emulate the good work that ‘Captain’ Chilipa is doing.

Local Government and Rural Development ministry spokesperson, Muhlabase Mughogho, says Chilipa’s traits are rarely found in many chiefs of the country.

She says it is high time the council started recognizing and rewarding such personalities.

From the look of things, the chief has passion for the area, he really wants it developed, an urge that lacks in many leaders.

But let me hasten to say, such talents and exceptional hard work can best be identified at the council level and then the best reward can be decided there.

If there is need for more, the council and royal family may then advise the ministry, Mughogho says.

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA