Credibility: An Essential Presidential Quality

03.04 Kufuor

Fri, 21 Sep 2007 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, both of the Leavy School of Business, Santa Barbara University, California, in their bestseller, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, maintain: “Credibility is about how leaders earn the trust and confidence of their constituents. It’s about what people demand of their leaders as a prerequisite to willingly contributing their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. It’s about the actions leaders must take in order to intensify their constituents’ commitment to a common cause.”

A president may have only a few opportunities to demonstrate patriotism, munificence and heroism during his tenure, which is why I am concerned that President Kufuor, even as his time in office draws to a close, has missed some genuine chances to establish himself as a compassionate, meaningful, and assiduous leader in Ghana’s march towards irreversible self-determination and pluralism.

Kouzes and Posner bolster their argument: “If people don’t believe in the messenger, they won’t believe in the message. If people don’t believe in you, they won’t believe in what you say.” It is therefore saddening to note that President Kufuor, a man determined to buttress the position of Ghana in the African Union after he assumed the latter’s presidency, will commit one of the greatest gaffes of any president, when he decides to jet off to Canada, while northern Ghana is inundated by some of the worst floods the area has seen in recent decades. What has President Kufuor got to do in Canada that could not wait until the devastation in his country improves? That his policy advisors, public relations consultants and personal advisors have failed him miserably during this time of crisis is really an understatement!

Will Ross, reporting for the British Broadcasting Corporation from Accra, surmises: “The floods have washed away many homes and they have also destroyed crops and people have lost livestock. The whole country’s food supply will be affected” (culled from Ghanaweb.com on September 17, 2007). Panapress paints this gloomy picture: “Northern Ghana, which comprises three regions ? Northern, Upper East and Upper West ? has been hardest hit by floods following heavy rains. Between eight and 18 people are said to have died and more than 250 people displaced” (culled from Ghanaweb.com on September 17, 2007). And CNN, perhaps the world’s most influential media powerhouse, highlights the problem in a similar manner: “Ghana in west Africa has also been heavily hit. Three regions in the north, the country’s traditional breadbasket, have been declared an official disaster zone after whole towns and villages were submerged.”

In all fairness to the president, he has visited the devastated region (see the Ghanaweb.com article of September 15, 2007, titled “Floods wreck havoc across Africa – Ghana Hit Hard!”), but why will the leader of the nation fly out of the country when a state of emergency is presently in effect to help better manage the conditions on the ground in the three northern regions? While President Kufuor has vowed that “the government would mobilize resources to restore roads, bridges and other infrastructure destroyed by the floods,” nothing could have enhanced his credibility ? the goodwill would certainly have benefited those in his party eager to succeed him ? more than if he had stayed behind and actually toured the affected areas a few more times.

Should the presidency go to the National Democratic Congress in December 2008, this faux pas would have contributed in a large measure to the “baton changing hands,” as the impression has now been created that this president and his cronies do not care about the very people whose votes his party will attempt to garner!

Leadership credibility is demonstrated in three ways: clarity, unity, and intensity. By clarity Kouzes and Posner mean “the clarification of the leader’s and the constituents’ needs, interests, values, visions, aims, and aspirations.” Even as Kufuor’s administration gradually winds down, those eager to succeed him should make the effort to learn the basics of true leadership ? the willingness to sacrifice themselves and the rejection of personal comfort for the betterment of the Ghanaian society as a whole.

Unity of purpose is realizable provided the president and his constituents can come together to build a viable society. “Credible leaders are able to build a community of shared vision and values. Unity exists when people widely share, support, and endorse the intent of the commonly understood set of aims and aspirations” (Kouzes & Posner). What Ghanaians need presently are a strong economy; improved infrastructure; educational opportunities for all; excellent and affordable health care; and the ability to afford three decent meals a day. These are achievable goals that require fortitude on the part of the president, any president.

On the notion of intensity, Kouzes and Posner insist that since “actions speak louder than words,” those with the capacity to fulfill the promises they have made to their constituents must not renege on such promises, once the constituents give them the mandate to lead. The fractious political atmosphere in Ghana today can be ameliorated if leaders will not trivialize the promises they have made to their constituents.

In his award-winning book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey, a Harvard- and Brigham Young-trained leadership consultant, emphasizes: “Most people are deeply scripted in the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if somebody were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else. The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life.” Covey maintains that people with this mindset have a hard time sharing success with others. Such people also “harbor secret hopes that others might suffer misfortune ? not terrible misfortune, but acceptable misfortune that will keep them ‘in their place.’” The Scarcity Mentality is destroying the fabric of the nation, as people are scrambling for what is not theirs by right. The sum effect is the disingenuousness seen in Ghana’s leaders and the proletariat alike.

A perfunctory look at the jostling within the National Patriotic Party in regards to who eventually succeeds the current president as the party’s representative in the next general election reveals the Scarcity Mentality trait: not one of the approximately twenty aspirants, even those who are very aware of their limited chances of getting the nod to lead the party come January 2008, is willing to relinquish his personal ambition and throw his weight behind one of the few more illustrious and electable candidates.

It is the writer’s utmost wish that this president, as well as his eventual successor, will take a cue from the leadership examples set forth in this article, so Ghana can experience improved governance. Credibility is enhanced by selflessness and a near-irrational devotion to the welfare of the citizenry, and President Kufuor must transform his approach to nation-building, even while he still has time to salvage his credibility. Ghanaians are very magnanimous and will ultimately forgive President Kufuor if he unassumingly apologizes for his gaffe ? jetting off to Canada, leaving the reins of power in the hands of associates, and watching the continuing catastrophe in Ghana on Canadian television stations!

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, in addition to two undergraduate degrees, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@gmu.edu.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.