Sundiata Teachings on Leadership 


Leaders have a significant role in the lives of their followers. This is because they determine the success, productivity and performance of their followers in their daily lives. Notably, the fundamental assignment of a leader is to build and maintain a high performing entity such as a team, community or society. However, for any leader to lead their people in the right direction, he or she should be morally upright. Moreover, the leader should be of sound mind to ensure the decisions that they make do not affect their constituents effectively. From this perspective, this paper explains the epic of Sundiata’s as a leader in the pre-colonial Africa. Sundiata’s epic contains valuable leadership lessons for leaders to emulate. 

Sundiata is crippled until the age of age seven which means that he cannot help his mother and the entire kingdom even if he becomes the king.  However, his physical limitation does not deter him from believing in himself. At one point, his mother is rebuked because his son Sundiata cannot walk and pick the leaves. The insults hurt her to an extent that she blames Sundiata for not being able to walk. However, Sundiata consoles her by saying that “Cheer up mother, cheer up. Very well then, I am going to walk today.” (19) From his words, it is evident that he is determined to make his mother happy. This teaches that leaders do not allow to be put down by what naysayers say. On the contrary, they use the negative comments that they receive as their motivation.  Additionally, they do not revenge or go against those who are against them. Rather, they work together with them and later outwit them. In the case of Sundiata, he does not talk back to queen mother. He accepts that he is crippled but believes that he can overcome his physical limitation. That is why he calls upon the blacksmith and asks him to make iron rod for him. Moral leaders are not bullied. Instead, they work alongside their haters so that they can teach them the need of being good to others. This is also depicted where Sundiata and his family are sent to exile. He does not resist but does what the queen mother desires. This indicates that he is willing to obey and respect those in leadership.

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Moral leaders should show respect and at the same time command. Such traits are depicted by Sundiata when king of Wagadou speaks to him. He asks his name and Sundiata introduces himself and his siblings (34). This teaches that leaders should not be afraid of their superiors but respect them. In addition, they should be ready to tell the truth about themselves and their teams. A moral leader should also remember all the members of their team and the positions that they hold. King Cisses also acknowledges that Sundiata will make a great king because he does not forget any person that was in their company. This also teaches that moral leaders are recognized through the way they express themselves. As such, one should be true to his or her associates, business partners or visitors. Moreover, a moral leader should not feel embarrassed by the treatment that he receives. Rather, he should demonstrate that he truly deserves that type of treatment through demand of respect. Sundiata was exacting while at Wagadou, a situation that made servants tremble before him. In as much Sundiata might have over-exercised his authority as the king to be, a moral leader does not demand respect. Instead, he treats his servants with respect so that they can reciprocate what they get from him. 

A moral leader is noticed even before he can perform any duty. This is the case with Sundiata while at Mema. King of Mema takes him to a campaign where he astonishes king’s army (36). Further, he displays his strength when he fights the mountaineers causing Mema’s enemies to reduce. Moral leaders are also mandated with taking care of most crucial departments of a state or organization. Sundiata was appointed king’s viceroy which means that he could govern in the absence of the king (37).  Moral leaders are hard to fire or let go. This is evidenced where the king of Mema is unwilling to sell Sundiata a place he can bury his mother (47). This is because he knows that after he buries her, he will leave the kingdom yet he is his most trusted warrior. Similarly, employers find it difficult to let go moral employees. It is therefore important for a leader to be moral because he gains the trust of those close to him. 

In conclusion, it is evident that Sundiata is moral leader. His life teaches that a moral leader does get demoralized by any bullying that he face. In addition, a moral leader does not revenge but respects those in leadership. Moreover, a moral leader is recognized through his words and expression. He knows all his team-members. The story also teaches that a moral leader should not feel embarrassed by the treatment that he receives. Moral leaders are also mandated with taking care of most crucial departments of a state or organization. Lastly, it is hard to let go moral leaders because of their good work in a state or organization. 

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  1. Niane, Djibril Tamsir. Sundiata: An Epic of Mali. USA: Demco Media, 1995. Print
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