Igbo Leadership Lessons from Ancient Kemet.


What does it take to be an effective leader in the Black Community?

If you ever have or ever will find yourself leading a family, an organization, or a business, look to the example set by your ancestors.

The first leaders of Egypt – properly called Kemet – were not the godlike figures that we imagine them today. They began as warrior scholars who held two simultaneous responsibilities: to feed and to protect their people. Rather than choosing the sword, spear, shield, or other weapons to embody the power and authority of the ruler, it was the Shepard staff and the farmers flail that represented supreme authority in Kemet. It is from these choices that we can draw modern leadership lessons.

The Shepard staff, called a crook,  is an ancient tool used to guide livestock from the fields to shelter. When predators would appear and threaten the flock, the staff could also be used as a defensive weapon to fend off  wolves. Thus, the crook in the hands of the Pharaoh represent two critical leadership functions: to guide the flock to green pastures and to protect the flock from the ‘wolves’ that surrounded them.

In terms of ones family, you must have the vision and the ability to lead your flock to pastures, and the courage to protect them when external threats appear. Business owners have a responsibility to their customers to guide into making the right decision while protecting them from  competitors who may lure them away by offering a superior service or product.

If the first function of the Pharaoh was to Shepard his or her people, the farmers flail represented the duty of the leader to “feed” those under his or her charge. As a leader, you have an obligation to ensure the quality of life needs of your people are met by “feeding” your flock with knowledge, wisdom, and solutions.

Thus, before any person can declare themselves a leader, they must possess the knowledge and the resources to feed their people. In terms of leading a family,  the ability to provide both tangible and intangible “food” for ones family members is the difference between a Father and a sperm donor, or a Mother and a “baby mama”. In terms of business ownership, leadership is determined by the ability to deliver value to clients and customers. In terms of leading any organization, the flail represents a leader’s responsibility to give to – rather than take from – those you lead.

Servant Leadership

The rulers of Kemet understood that leadership was both a blessing and a duty that was not to be abused, and that their sole responsibility was as caretakers – not rulers – of their people. A Pharaoh that was unable or unwilling to live up to the task would lose the favor of God, and thus the favor of the people.

The ultimate lesson that we can retrieve from our ancestors is the importance of servant leadership – the idea that the function of the leader isnt to look good or to enrich him or herself at the expense of those who trust their leadership, but to guide them, serve them, and protect them. By reviving the concept of servant leadership, perhaps we can also revive some of the glory lost with the passing of Kemet.


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