Reflection on my Public Service – advice & apology

Every time I look back at the 10 years I spend in public service in Liberia, I always wondered whether I was able to live up to what I promised myself: that I would do everything within my human capability to keep the friends that I had before rising to any level of prominence. I said to myself that I should never let power or authority get into my head that I am unable to relate to my friends or begin to treat them like ‘subordinates’ or any lesser status.

My thought was that these are the people I sat in classes with or played marble (pee) or football with and so it would feel too unnatural or nonsensical to treat them differently simply because I wear a certain title or hold a certain position.

I remember very clearly when Bill Clinton indicated that one of the most difficult aspects of leadership was keeping the friends you had before rising to that level. And this is extremely important because those friends are the ones, if you keep them as friends, who can tell you the truth. They are the ones who can say Jimmy (JFK or Kollie), “you are screwing up.” They can tell you that the statement you made was out of place; or that the decision to do a certain thing was not proper; or the decision to not do certain thing was poor judgment.

Because we all do screw up every now and then, it is important that we have these ‘friends’ who can frankly tell us our errors or mistakes or shortcomings without being afraid of ‘repercussions.’

The moment we start to play ‘boss’ with our ‘friends’ to the point where they are afraid to speak truth to us; it means that we are on our way to destruction. When we start to remind our ‘friends’ of who we are (by our title), then you know that we are doomed.

The new friends we make when we are in power, may not tell us our shortcomings or faults because they want to make sure they continue to enjoy the access and benefits. The only people we can trust or count on are those who knew us when we were nothing. In most cases, they want the best for us because we were friends before the power divide came and they might just want to continue to be our friends. But if we terrify them by asking them if they know who we are then we will destroy ourselves.

With all these in mind, I got up every morning praying that I didn’t treat any of my friends in such a manner. I really do hope I kept that promise. And if I didn’t, I want to apologize in this public manner. If power got the worse of me and made me to throw away 30 0r 40 years of friendship, I am deeply sorry. It was never my conscious intention. All I wanted was for us to continue to be friends. I knew the position would come to an end and wanted to still have my friends when the that came.

I may not have been able to give whatever you asked for, but I did not intend to disrespect you or throw away our friendship. If you worked with me in any of the capacities I served over the last 10 years, I hope I never asked you whether you knew who I was. If I ever did that, I am so sorry.

Based on my shortcomings, I want to honestly advice those who are either in leadership or aspiring, to be mindful of how they treat their friends. You need to remember the relationship you people had before you rose to prominence. Your friends can be your guard rail; they can save you from destruction or self-destruction.

 

This is not the speech ho! I am editing the speech. I always wanted to give that speech. I wrote it since 2014 and missed three (3) opportunities to have given it.

Author: JAMES F. KOLLIE

I am a Liberian professional with passion for pro poor economic development and grassroot political organizing. I have read public policy, corporate finance and accounting at various levels. I have worked in government, private sector and non-profit sector.

2 thoughts on “Reflection on my Public Service – advice & apology”

  1. Well, I was fortunate to have worked with you for some of the ten years. You respected everyone. You served your friends with great humanity. As a human being, it is likely that you may have wronged someone, maybe not necessarily that you were wrong, but that the person felt so. Dr. K, you were always humbled and everyone says that even today. May God always bless you for your good spirit. Do not forget, there are some original friends who will not be happy that you were ahead of them. Such group will always feel you have wronged them.

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