A Powerful Tool to Improve Ugandan Health Care

19 01 2012

By Caroline Hope Griffith
DGHI Associate in Research

What are the most important attributes of a leader in the African Great Lakes region? One quality stands out above the rest: the ability to lead by serving, instead of leading by being served, a concept known as “servant leadership.” Many leaders (all over the world) see their position as a privileged one, and expect to be served. Leaders hold their position until they die and often forget the real reason they are elected to lead, which is to care for and serve their people. This problem is especially prevalent in this region.

Dr. Celestin Musekura, Founder and President of ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries), teaches GLI participants about servant leadership.

Robert Greenleaf writes that a servant leader makes sure that other peoples’ highest priority needs are being served. A servant leader measures success by asking: do those who I serve grow as persons, become healthier, freer, and more likely to become servants themselves? What is the effect of my leadership on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit, or at least not be more deprived?

I see servant leadership not only as a powerful tool for bringing church leaders back to their roots to serve God and others, but as a powerful tool for improving health care in Uganda. Through a joint Duke-Uganda project to improve management and leadership of health facilities in western Uganda, we’ve learned that many problems in health facilities (unclean facilities, corruption, etc.) arise because managers do not practice the principles of servant leadership. What if our project could train these leaders to put the growth, freedom, and health of the people they lead and manage above all else? I am confident that the least privileged in society would benefit.

Note: In my last blog, I wrote that Dr. Sabina Mtweve had started an initiative to reduce unsafe abortions and reconcile families in Tanzania. It is actually Dr. Jean Kagia who is an ObGyn in Kenya who started this initiative. I’ve had rich conversations with so many people here, that I confused the work of the two women when I was writing the blog late the other night.

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