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Election 2016: The role of leadership and electorates in conflict prevention.

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Tue, 19 Jul 2016 Source: Osei, Nana Yaw

Lord Acton in his famous dictum: “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”, reveals the dangers associated with dictatorship.

Definitely, democracy is the way to go from the views of many nation-builders with the framers of 1992 constitution of Ghana no exception.

Certainly, democracy is an import from the Western world. The essential features of democracy include: respect for personal liberty and individual rights, pursuit of happiness, diverse views, periodic elections, the rule of law and to some extent love of simplicity and disdain for ostentation.

In the view of Abraham Lincoln, “No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” Why then must election of leaders in partial fulfilment of democratic responsibilities bring acrimony, insult, conflicts, acid attacks and so on?

This article tries to decipher the significance of assertive communication and how psychopathy influences leadership identity taking into accounts, the role of leaders and voters in conflict prevention during and after election 2016 in Ghana.

In the first place, there is an evidence-based empirical research that suggests the correlation between psychopathic personality trait and leadership style. For example, Lilienfeld et al (2012) asserted that notwithstanding the fact that psychopathic personality trait is basically due to faulty lifestyle or maladaptive behaviors such as impulsivity and “lack of guilt”.

There is an association between some ‘features of this trait such as fearlessness, interpersonal dominance inherent in certain jobs; including political position.’

Psychopathy is a psychopathological case in which an individual manifests amoral and antisocial behavior, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, failure to learn from experience, and so on.

Psychopathic personality trait is closely related to antisocial personality disorder. Psychopathic personality trait has implications on leadership style.

For instance, van Eeden, Cillier and van Deventer (2008) found “the linkage between personality traits and leadership types such as transformational, transactional and laissez-faire.” This means that certain leaders can naturally be violent by virtue of their personality traits.

Some individuals with psychopathy possess natural instincts which compel them to exhibit inordinate and uncompromising ambitions for political power. Some of them find it hard to accept defeat. Such psychological drives are somewhat recipe for dispute.

In a country like Ghana where we don’t evaluate prospective leaders psychologically, electoral dispute prevention plans must be factored into policies and programs. Conflict management interventions such as the use of assertive communication must be adopted to complement the effort of security agencies.

Assertive communication is an evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapeutic technique useful in anger management and dispute prevention and resolution. The leadership, electorates, political parties and all the stakeholders in 2016 elections have a role to play in promoting assertiveness.

The national commission on civic education must be restructured with qualified staffs throughout the country and must be trained on anger management and conflict prevention tools. Our prisons are crowded with many inmates with mental health issues such as minor cognitive impairment and intermittent explosive disorder.

As we approach the elections, conflict prevention must be a concern of all. Assertive communication is maximally efficient in the management of stress and anger. The leadership, the electorates and all the stakeholders of election 2016 all have a role to play in the use of assertiveness.

Being assertive is an essential communication skill. It means that an individual expresses himself or herself effectively and stand up for his or her point of view, while also respecting the rights and opinion of others. Being assertive can also help boost your self-esteem and earn others' respect.

This can help with stress management, especially if you tend to take on too many responsibilities because you have a hard time saying no. Some people seem to be naturally assertive. But if you are not one of them, you can learn to be more assertive

Since assertiveness thrives on mutual respect, it's an effective and diplomatic communication style. Being assertive shows that you respect yourself because you are willing to stand up for your interests and express your thoughts and feelings. It also demonstrates that you are aware of the rights of others and are willing to work on resolving conflicts.

It is not what you say that matters but also how you say it is very important. Assertive communication is direct and respectful. Being assertive gives you the best chance of successfully delivering your message. If you communicate in a way that's too passive or too aggressive, your message may get lost because people are too busy reacting to your delivery.

We must also live in the present moment all the time. This is otherwise known as mindfulness. We must be mindful that the geographical name of our country is Ghana not NDC or NPP. We must learn to distract, relax and cope with our provocations. One basic feature of assertiveness is “I” language instead of “he or she” language. Instead of saying candidate “A” is a liar, an assertive communicator will say, “I disagree with candidate ‘A’ on this issue.

As a country, we must stop putting too much pressures on our leaders. The leadership, political parties and the electorates must learn to be assertive. The media must lead the crusade on assertiveness.

As we approach elections, it is only honorable that the media, far from trying to maintain a stance of Olympian detachment must reveal their political affiliations to the public. Every successful democratic governance is anchored by a vibrant media.

The founder of individual psychology and psychotherapy, Alfred Adler (1870-1937) asserted that “the only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” Let us not fight because a leader thinks so. God bless our homeland Ghana.

Reference Lilienfeld,. S. O et al, (2012). Fearless dominance and the U.S. presidency: Implications of psychopathic personality traits for successful and unsuccessful political leadership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(3), 489-505.

van Eeden, R., Cilliers, F., & van Deventer, V. (2008). Leadership styles and associated personality traits: Support for the conceptualisation of transactional and transformational leadership. South African Journal of Psychology, 38(2), 253-267.

Writer's e-mail: Padigogoma77@yahoo.co.uk

Columnist: Osei, Nana Yaw