The PIVA Criteria for Leadership

Instead of asking for twenty years of experience and a PhD in finger surgery, may I propose the PIVA criteria when choosing leaders.

When we founded the doctor’s union in 2010/2011, we had these grand visions of a transformed public sector. In our new found vehicle that gave us voice, we spoke of what could be done from human resource to infrastructure, to supplies to financing, to equipment. The disillusionment and disappointment that followed when we realized that very few were interested in any of the good ideas we had was massive. What we needed were people on the other side, the government side, with sufficient understanding, will and authority to make things better. Unfortunately, if such were there, we either didn’t recognize them or we didn’t find a way to speak their language. The impact of leadership on a sector, more specifically, the quality of the leaders became significant.

Many years later, I narrowed down four characteristics of a leader that I felt would have enabled us, and our country to make progress in the health sector. These four characteristics make up the PIVA criteria:

P: Passion

Look for a leader with passion for what they are being called to lead. Passion is that strong interest, and compelling feelings towards something. May I suggest that unless a leader has a powerful feeling and an extreme interest in something, they may not be the ideal candidate for it. Note that passion is different from simple interest. Many are interested but only those with a passion for it should lead it.

How would you know that one has passion? When you will find them working, living breathing it. You will find they talk often about it, at the very least. You will find their record: not what they tell you at the interview, but their clear record in the area. You will see the excitement in their eyes, and they could talk for hours about that topic.

I: Integrity

The bane of Africa has been corruption, and what belies that is a lack of integrity by those entrusted with various types of responsibilities. Contrary to a lie peddled: that all of us are corrupt, there are those who have integrity and will not sell-out or seek to profit irregularly. I recently walked away from a job I badly needed. The cost to me (what I would have got had I seen out the contract) was 4.4M ATT (after tithe and tax). All I had to do was to turn a blind eye to some fraudulent activity. I was never required to take part in it directly, but I had to allow people reporting to me to go that direction. No way I was going to compromise. The thing is, I know I am not alone in this stance. There are hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who would take a similar stand, possibly millions. Therefore, do not accept the view that everyone is corrupt. That is the excuse the corrupt use to allow us to keep choosing them.

Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. In this context, I am referring to integrity with regards to resources and influence.

V: Vision

Without a vision, a people perish and so do dreams referred. So you get a great guy or lady to lead a department but after several years, nothing has changed. Often, what was lacking was a vision. That picture of a better tomorrow.

For example, can you imagine a situation in which there are forty eight public hospitals in Kenya that offer better services, have better outcomes, at lower cost, with greater customer care than the Nairobi Hospital? Can you imagine our Kenyatta National Hospital rivaling the best Hospitals in Europe? First, both of these are very much possible but secondly, without a compelling picture of a better tomorrow, ambition, aspiration is limited. Most importantly, there is no clarity on what people are working towards.

A clear compelling vision is critical when selecting leaders and no, vague statements such as “make services better” or “hospitals that work for the people” do not qualified as clear visions.

This is the easiest to determine as the potential leader principally has to paint the picture of the future he sees. The catch is in determining what is realistic and what is in the realm of fantasy. A KNH rivaling western hospitals is possible.

A: Ability

So you’ve found a person who has a passion, has integrity and has a tremendous vision that just may work. Then comes the critical question: can they lead?

In ability, three things come together. The ability to inspire and people to work together on a task. A true test of this is the ability to inspire a change in culture and to inspire loyalty. Leaders bring out the best in their workers, earn their respect and not necessarily feared.

Secondly, is the ability to lead the whole team to work towards achieving the vision previously stated. It is this work that brings about transformation, and makes the vision a reality.

Thirdly, technical ability required for the job. Beyond people management, there are technical tasks and there is technical know-how that is relevant to key components of the task. This revolves around the management of resources, controls, strategic processes, implementation, quality improvement, measurement, reporting, client satisfaction and overall performance management. This is where issues such as knowledge of IT and supply chain and human resource processes, and accreditation come into play.

If one is able to find such a person, the therein lies the leader that will bring true transformation in a sector.

The place of education

In the process of looking for the right person to lead, education is a good indicator of ability. However, it is not to be confused with ability itself. For instance, a person who has done accounting is better able to understand financial statements. An MBA may give a leader a set of technical tools that allows them to understand human resource discussions as well as other technical facets, up and above the primary degree. However, the interest is in this technical knowledge, not the qualification. It is very possible to have leader with PhD who cannot do half as much as a leader with basic certification. Therefore, greater education must not mistaken to mean a better leader.

Greater caution is required here. The true test of education is product. Your papers tell us what you are meant to have received. What is more important is your record. What have you done with all the education? An professor of engineering whose roads consistently develop potholes in under a month is of less value and qualification than an undergraduate student whose project has found a process through which roads can be pothole free for three years.

The Place of One’s record

In the search of a leader, a lot of the parameters are indicators. The greatest indicator however is their record. Good examples here are people looking to hire a person to lead a team of marketers to market cars. One person has a PhD in linguistics, another was a car sales person for years, having sold hundreds of cars with a hit rate of over 40%.

The year is 1910 and you are looking to hire people to lead your newly founded aircraft company. Among your applicants are PhDs in engineering and bicycle shop owner brothers whose only achievement was building the world’s first planes only seven years earlier.

Your education tells us how much knowledge you have been exposed to. Your record tells us what how capable you are of translating that knowledge into productivity, what you care about, and how likely you are to succeed at this job.


PIVA leaders are what we need in our society. Do not confuse formal education for competence, else we would deem all our forefathers incompetent. Our education tells us how much we have been exposed to but it is our record that tells us how productive we are and how productive we are able to be.

Pray for our country. Don’t forget to leave a comment. Cheers!

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