Absence Of A True Leadership;

Tue, 27 Jul 2010 Source: Badu, K.

An Intrinsic Factor Of The Sinking 'Ship'!

In the wake of the public discourse on President Mills’s leadership approach, I intend to critically evaluate and analyse the qualities of ‘a true leader.

“The purpose and intent [of a true leader] shall be to elevate mankind’s faith and to fill the world with justice -- Maimonides, Laws of Kings, 4:10”.

Who is a leader?

A leader can be defined as a “person who is appointed, elected or informally chosen to direct and co-ordinates the work of others in a group” (Fiedler, 1995). This definition acknowledges the pertinent truth that the formally appointed leader is not always a real leader. But it is also confines the notion of leader to a group context. If we take the word “group” literally, this definition excludes leaders of nations, large corporations and so on, except in so far as they lead a small group of senior colleagues.

On the other hand, leadership can be considered to be the personal qualities, behaviours, styles and decisions adopted by the leader. In other words, it concerns how the leader carries out his/her role. Hence while the role of leader can be described in a job description, leadership is not so easily pinned down. The point is frequently overlooked that the dynamics of leadership when followers do not have direct contact with the leader may differ from those when they do.

Waldman and Yammarino (1999) have argued that similar concepts can be used to describe leadership styles in these two situations, but the ways in which followers form the impressions of the leader differ. For those close to him/her, impressions are derived from day-to-day interactions, whereas for others, impressions depend more on the leaders stories, visions and symbolic behaviours and also on how well he/she performs.

Early investigations, which focused on the personal characteristics or the behaviours of individuals who emerge as leaders, were followed by those that considered the influence of situational factors of leadership behaviour.

For example, most recent research interest has centred on relationships between leaders and followers, with some connoisseurs stressing the need to study followership. This has been argued as important, not only because all leaders are also followers, but also because modern notions of leadership place considerable emphasis on the power and importance of followers in ultimately legitimizing and enabling leadership.

In Ghana today, we are girdled by people we may call leaders; in government, in business, in education, in the arts. But we are enduring the deficiency of true leadership. Where are these ‘shepherds’ actually directing us, and why this quagmire?

After attesting to so much duplicities and such frequent abuse of power, many people have ceased believing these leaders. Still, no matter how sardonic we may grow, we abdicate ourselves to the fact that we require someone to keep our nation in order. Since we are engaged with our own lives, we are acquiesced to elect or appoint officials to manage the affairs of the nation.

But, the question is; is a leader merely a manager? What should we expect from our leaders? And do we really need leaders in the first place?

Yes, we do need leaders. Obviously, we need someone who has vision, direction, and strength to reach our goals. We all begin our lives in need of direction- even the most progressive child could not possibly be anticipated to make certain crucial decisions. Once we become adults, with the ability to make decisions ourselves, we are so engulfed by the pressures of daily survival that we rarely find the time and energy to focus on life’s larger issues. And when we do, our emotions and inherent subjectivity limit our vision and compress our movement.

A leader provides a new direction, inspiring us to abandon our “old ways of doing things”. When we are imbibed with our self-interests - be they infinitesimal or magnitude - a leader sends out a wake-up call, alerting us to seek the true priorities in life.

This sense of urgency is just as important in a leader as a sense of vision.

Leadership today is primarily lacking the quality of urgency and afflatus. Needless to say, we have politicians whose rhetoric inspires millions of citizens to support them.

What these leaders do not provide is simple - and essential: a vision of life itself. Genuine leadership must give people a long-term vision that “guzzles” their lives with meaning; it must point them in a new direction and show how their every action is an indispensable part of a positive change ahead. It is not enough for our leaders to teach us to be productive or efficient; they need to inspire us to change or improve the world in a productive, meaningful way. And this creates a compelling sense of urgency: to fulfil this vision of life.

What Makes a True Leader?

With so many people purporting to be leaders these days, how do we distinguish between a true leader and demagogue? To answer the preceding question, we must sigh deeply and ask: What is it that a leader is actually trying to achieve?

A true leader wants nothing more than to make people independent, as leaders in their own rights. Instead of trying to inebriate us with his or her rhetoric, a true leader reflects our own light back to us.

Biblically, Moses was the paradigmatic leader. We see in Exodus that he was a shepherd - a rather unpretentious beginning for the man who would speak to God. He kept watch as thousands of sheep grazed the fields. Moses noticed that one sheep was missing and went off to look for it, finding it at a distant apart. When the sheep had finished drinking, Moses lifted it onto his shoulders and carried it back to the flock.

When Jehovah God saw this, he became aware that Moses was a man of reason, empathy and selfless devotion, a man truly worthy to lead His people; a man who would put his empathetic qualities at the disposal of the needs of his subordinates. After all, no one was keeping an eye on Moses; Moses could easily have thought to himself, “why be concerned with one sheep when there are thousands”?

In our anfractuous society, we tend to believe that a leader is a person who is well-connected, who is powerful or charismatic or wealthy. We judge our leaders by what they have. But a true leader should be judged by his/her extraordinary qualities, not -- ego, arrogance, and self-interest. A true leader sees his/her work as altruistic service toward accomplishing a goal. As the sages say, “Leadership is not power and dominance; it is servitude.”

Fellow Ghanaians, I think it is about time we distinguished between a demagogue and a true leader, in this way, we would avert the apocalypse of our dear nation sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. But, the question is, how do we cease backing the loosing horses?


Columnist: Badu, K.