Leaders like Kagame push us to think about the concept of flawed leadership. Can we still label leaders be great, when like Kagame, they have some form of a “darker side”. Simon Sinek certainly believes so: “great leaders don’t try to be perfect, they try to be themselves. And that’s what makes them great”. Kagame’s leadership style also seems to match Sinek’s view.
“I don’t want to be a saint. I don’t even attempt to be. It wouldn’t make any sense. It would divert me from my responsibilities. Concentrating on being a saint would end with me doing nothing that I was supposed to.” – President Kagame 
My Position on the Spectrum
Alignment of Values
The most significant learning experience I gained from studying Kagame is the appreciation for the role that values play in assessing leadership. I learned that there is no one definition or checklist for what it means to be a great leader. Rather, what makes a leader great in our eyes is when their fundamental values align with ours. Therefore due to a clash of values, those like the Human Rights Watch violently oppose Kagame because they put a premium on individual rights of liberty and political freedom first. By violating that crucial final level on the pyramid, freedom, Kagame cannot possibly be a great leader. In contrast, others like myself, who value group rights to peace, stability, development, and access to healthcare and education, view Kagame more as a benevolent dictator or at the extreme a hero. In their eyes, he is a great leader because his values align with theirs. For us, the top of the pyramid is the icing on top of the cake, not a fundamental need for Rwanda as it stands today.
Key lessons from President Paul Kagame’s leadership style:
- Build a loyal following with a logical and aspirational belief system that people can buy into
- Be resilient in the face of criticism and opposition by remaining steadfast to your core values, vision, and goals