Should leaders be the ones to eat last? The US Marines believe so, as it shows they care for their people and are prepared to sacrifice for them. It’s why Simon Sinek chose Leaders Eat Last as the title of his best-selling book, first published in 2014. We selected it as the topic for our Rotary Club’s recent Book Club meeting, where we also discussed how Sinek’s American context applies here. I certainly don’t need to comment on when most of our Kenyan leaders eat – definitely not last!

Central to the requirements for being the kind of leaders Sinek wishes to see is the generation of broad “Circles of Safety” in their organisations. Within these circles staff trust one another, are therefore open and collaborative and so perform well, not least in dealing with external threats. Such leaders promote integrity and have evolved an uplifting purpose for their people, which generates the stamina to defer gratification and reach for long-term sustainability.

There’s lots more in the book about good contemporary leadership, including examples of role models who defy the pressure to go for easier short-term results. By contrast, leaders who turn a blind eye to the benefits of circles of safety tend to reduce their consideration of people issues to mere numbers, making it much easier to slash staff levels in hard times without feeling any pain or empathy. It’s why one of us homed in on Sinek’s insistence on the development of a healthy culture being at the centre of positive leadership.

For me it was interesting that the book was published in 2014. As had Sinek been writing it today he would have explicitly placed Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) issues at the heart of everything, since much of what he complained about and sought is what ESG initiatives promote: ethical sustainability.

We all appreciated Sinek’s easy-to-follow description of the four hormones, the biological chemicals within us, two selfish and two selfless ones that get stimulated in our system. On the selfish front we have Endorphines and Dopamine, that drove our ancestors to be hunter-gatherers. Endorphines mask physical pain, as in “the runner’s high”, while Dopamine makes us feel good when we accomplish something.

Then Sinek describes the selfless chemicals, that make us feel valued when we are appreciated and trusted and keep the circle of safety intact. Serotonin makes us feel strong and confident, proud, while Oxytocin delivers the feeling of friendship and love when we are with close and trusted friends. It makes us social, and feeling that we belong.

We noted that our Rotary presidents tend to eat last, after they’ve done with managing our lunch meetings, but generally we felt that leaders should be eating with their people not after them. We all agreed though that leaders should be the last to speak, having first listened to the other voices.

Uhuru Kenyatta was one of those who recognised the organised discipline of military leaders, putting senior military officers in charge of Nairobi County, the Kenya Meat Commission and elsewhere. And just now William Ruto praised the leadership style of the late General Ogolla. “Are there lessons here for our politicians?” asked one of us, “Or are they beyond redemption?” My concern is that I don’t see them ever sitting together as we were at our Book Club, discussing the fundamental issues of leadership. It’s what should be happening more of at places like the Kenya School of Government.

On the positive side though, we heard praise for the progress made in Makueni County, thanks to its first Governor, Kivutha Kibwana, and now Mutula Kilonzo Jr. I could also have added the good example of the first Governor of Laikipia, Ndiritu Muriithi, another who showed how a leader can make a transformative difference.

Towards the end of the book Sinek writes extensively on why millennials are as they are and how to handle them constructively, and here two of our members talked about their challenges in dealing with such young ones in the medical field. Sinek helps us understand the importance of when and therefore how different generations were brought up, and I mentioned that I am too old to be a baby boomer, having been born before World War II was over. I have therefore been brought up with frugality, which I have held on to since… like squeezing the last bit out of toothpaste tubes. ‘Me too,’ echoed another Rotarian, much younger than me… and a dentist by profession!

In conclusion, reading the book stimulated us positively, so my fellow Rotarians and I recommend it to you.

Some time ago I wrote an article about Trump as a man whose I’m-OK-You’re-not-OK behaviour, one that required consistent win-lose interactions with others, masked a deeply insecure soul. Yet despite these insecurities, despite this lack of self-esteem, he built up extraordinary self-confidence, and through bullying, cheating and lying he achieved all that he did.

I refer to this as I recently read a provocative article in the London Times about Britain’s immediate former Prime Minister, Liz Truss. The headline said it all: “Truss proves talent-free bluster isn’t just for men”. And the opening paragraph tells us she broke one of the last glass ceilings. Not as the first female PM in her country, for she was not, but as “the first woman to reach the highest office propelled by gargantuan self-belief alone”.

Writer Janice Turner rightly reckons the kind of self-belief she displayed has not been associated with her gender. Indeed, she tells us, feminists have been known to pray “Lord, grant me the confidence of a mediocre man”.

We’ve been reading a lot about women holding back from higher office while younger and less experienced men lobby their way through. Here though, Ms Turner observed “a shameless, narcissistic, talent-free sense of entitlement”. Wow. Lots in common with Trump for sure, and indeed with so many politicians the world over.

I have also written about the competence-confidence matrix, with the competent one who lacks confidence often suffering from the “imposter syndrome”, while the confident one who lacks competence displays a cocky arrogance. The ideal position, as espoused by my heroes such as Ed Schein and Adam Grant, are those who behave with “confident humility”.

So where is Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss’s successor, in all of this? In a much better place. We have been reading about the values with which he was brought up and which it appears he has been able to largely hold on to despite entering the cut and thrust world of win-lose politics: family, honesty, education and hard work. Not a bad quartet.

His competence, certainly in matters financial, is indisputable. And his communication skills are definitely superior to hers. Well, that’s no big deal, as rarely have I come across such a wooden performer as Liz Truss in such a high office. Boy was she in need of coaching…but who knows, maybe her excess of self-esteem over self-awareness made her uncoachable.

How about our politicians here? For sure some are more competent than others, and some are better communicators than others. Many are at their best at high-octane campaign rallies whose objectives are mere entertainment, hype and goodies-distribution, while others know how to switch between such show-business performance and more serious and substantive output.

To be a politician, confidence is everything. As each one puts themselves forward for election, they are certain they will win, however justified or unjustified their optimism. So it was with Truss, so it was with Sunak; and so it was with all our political candidates in August, including those who lost.

Our responsibility as citizens is to study the competence-confidence mix of those who seek our votes, where competence includes adherence to good values and where mere confidence is woefully insufficient.

It was good to see the Mkenya Daima campaign focusing on this requirement for not only selecting good men and women, but then holding those who succeed at the ballot to account. It is why the Mkenya Daima tag line is Nitatenda Wajibu Wangu (I will do my responsibility).

It’s so dispiriting to me to see huge numbers of voters in the developed world casting their support for the Trumps and the Trusses of this world.

It shows the weakness in the civic education provided in so many countries that allows for populist promise-makers to get away with what they clearly should not… including Boris Johnson and his Brexit ones.

We’ve been through our elections just a few months ago. Have we selected enough of the humbly competent? Stay on the ball, fellow Kenyans, as President William Ruto has challenged us to do.

Rishi Sunak promised British citizens a government of “professionalism, integrity and accountability at all levels”. And President Ruto, when he confirmed his new cabinet, also called for integrity and accountability. We must indeed “do our responsibility”.

In PwC’s 2020 global economic crime and fraud survey, Fighting Fraud – A never-ending battle, fraud was identified among the top concerns. So the ability to identify fraud perpetrated from either within or outside the organisation and then to deal with it swiftly and fairly is critical.

In one large local company on whose board I serve, I chair the Board Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee, where the issue of identifying and handling fraud and other integrity issues features prominently. So let me share the lessons we have been learning in dealing with such matters.

A major challenge organisations face is just gathering information on fraud being perpetrated by employees or others, which is why many have invested in ways of making it as easy as possible to communicate information about integrity lapses.

These include ethics hotlines, compliance web portals, and email contacts to which to send such information – often outside of the organisation, and typically to an audit firm.

Not surprisingly perhaps, utilisation of these platforms is relatively low when compared to informal reporting, or finding out about cases through the grapevine.

Organisations, therefore, need to build cultures and systems that enable whistleblowers to feel it is the right thing to do and to feel secure about doing so. Some even provide monetary incentives, although this may encourage false whistleblowing – a not unusual occurrence anyway.

The speed with which reported issues are investigated, action is taken, and communication is fed back to the whistleblower, has a direct impact on confidence in the process. So there must be adequate investigating capacity, with staff possessing the relevant forensic experience.

Matters reported must be handled with utmost confidentiality, for whistleblowers need to remain anonymous, thus minimising the chances of retaliatory actions being taken by those involved in the integrity matter.

Then, staff in departments that are likely to access information on matters being reported – such as ICT, investigations and internal audit – should sign Non-Disclosure Agreements.

Some decide to sue staff for damages resulting from integrity issues, pursuing criminal and/or civil litigation. But the evidence threshold for successful litigation is extremely high, so one must ensure that documentation and other sources of evidence are impeccable – no mean feat.

For criminal proceedings, the investigating officers and prosecutors need to be properly appraised of the matter to ensure they fully understand the issues, prepare robust witness statements, and hence prosecute successfully.

In addition to the evidence, witnesses must come forward and corroborate that evidence, so organisations need to publish guidelines on witness protection, together with incentives to encourage witnesses to be present in what are likely to be lengthy court processes.

When obtaining evidence from private investigators, one must ensure that it is obtained through legal means, so that it can stand scrutiny in court.

Organisations also need to be alive to the fact that fraud can be perpetrated by anyone – even those responsible for ensuring internal compliance and investigating abuses.

Serious background checks and vetting therefore should be carried out before onboarding such staff, and an internal mechanism must be put in place to ensure that fraud perpetrated by staff in these offices can be detected.

In staff induction programmes the value of integrity and the importance attached to compliance should be included for all staff, and there should be continuous emphasis by all levels of management on these subjects in staff meetings.

Alongside this, those who uphold the value should be recognised, while those who do not should be penalised.

A major fraud risk results from conflicts of corporate and individual interests. It is therefore important for staff to be given an opportunity to declare such potential or actual conflicts so as to remain relaxed in their roles.

The process of making declarations should be continuous, so that staff are given an opportunity to declare interest conflicts upfront.

What happens when there is proof of culpability, and the organisation wishes to recover its losses from the employee?

With the slow pace of court litigation, it takes forever, diminishing the value of any recoveries. And that’s if the verdict is favourable, in itself of relatively low probability. But at least with the introduction of the Small Claims Courts such matters will be concluded much more quickly.

The more I have been involved in these integrity and compliance issues, the more I have realised how complex and challenging it is to deal with them, and how one must keep constant focus on them and keep applying the lessons learned.