The Morality of True Leadership

Wed, 9 Aug 2006 Source: Asante Fordjour

Since both good and bad leaders come and go, and butlers often remain, Asante Fordjour argues that Ghana’s socio-economic fate, as evidenced by our recent past, rests not only on one incorruptible mind but also on collective efforts of all, “sceptics might say how”.

During the revolutionary ferment of the 1960s, Dr Enersto Che Guevera, the president of Cuba’s National Bank, expected his bank employees to increase productivity through moral rather than monetary incentives. The Argentine doctor wanted to create, yes, El Hombre Nuevo- a new human being guided by moral values rather than materialism. He assumed that an idealist culture would indeed generate productivity forces better than one based on greed.

Hence, the banning of self-employment and the nationalisation of small businesses in the late 1960s. It was presumed that small enterprises too, could foment cultural maladies of exploitation and gluttony as larger enterprises and corporations. This unsuccessful bid had been criticised, as it has to be reversed 30 years later, and small business, according to American writer, Mark Cramer, is now a vital tax-paying sector of Cuban economy (Culture Shock! Cuba, Internal Measures, Times Edns. Pte Ltd., 1998, ISBN 1-85733-254-7, p42)

The monocultural dependency through sugar production and the near exclusivity of trade with the Soviet block, Cramer argues, was less an error and more an obligation of circumstances, only to be abandoned in the throes of crisis situations that demanded escalation of sugar production. In making his case, Cramer says that in the late 1990s, rigid state controls were established to prevent a wealthy commercial class from rising above the rest, as Cuba gropes for methods to expand its economy, evenly, without causing gaps in social and economic class. He wonders how Che, an adventurer, a doctor, and a motorcyclist, could have been named president of financial institution such as Cuba National Bank (Ibid).

Indeed, Che’s doctrine still holds Cubans together. In spite of the said errors now openly recognized by most Cubans, including members of the governing party, Cramer, who holds that the concept of banking, a dominant aspect in most cultures, was of less moral virtue than cinema or sports, admits that Cuban society, which has been refused even a cent, since the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion, which was repelled within 72 hours, had been notably better than most nations in the rest of Latin America, in the realm of health, education, and culture. Yes, over this period, Dr Nkrumah spoke of change of attitude. Yet, our basic endeavours, arguably, had been ‘ad hoc’ leadership and wolf-crying off-shore petroleum hunt, in Saltpond

As Dr Ekow Spio-Gabrah argues, “on 6th of March 2007, Ghana will celebrate 50 years as an independent sovereign nation. But the record [no doubt] is mixed. Under the far-sighted leadership and vision of Dr Nkrumah of blessed memory, Ghana became the black star of Africa in all spheres. His overthrow in 1966 led to some 20 years of instability and lost opportunities until the establishment of the 4th Republic under President Rawlings, which ((honestly)) re-introduced democratic political stability in Ghana?” (www.draftspio2008.org)

Assume that everything about these leaderships, was perfect. Now, things have changed- technology, population and the very sense of multi-party democracy. Unlike in our glorious past, today, to lead our nation or businesses, we need to learn new rules. The path as Martin Chandler, says, may be unchartered if we had a roadmap to direct our ideas. Mort Meyerson, Chandler submits, felt this some years ago when Ross Perot asked him to join Perot Systems as Chief Executive Officer (Executive Focus, Leadership Strategies, May 2002, p.31).

Thus, Meyerson saw quickly that the terrain of business had changed so dramatically that it would take a different kind of leadership to move the company successfully into the future. “They could not simply do what they had done before. The way Perot saw it, the two would recreate their glory days at LEDS where, in the 1980s, they led the company to quarter-after-quarter sales records.” That is, Meyerson had to move in fast and use every resource he had- the very survival of the company was at stake. One may ask that how did the company rise to this challenge? Undoubtedly, by reinvesting in new leadership. “First, he talked to the top 100 people in the company to dig for revealing information. He set up coaching seminars so that employees ((here, we Ghanaians?)) could go through a reinvention process so as to give rising leaders the freedom to stretch into new decision-making roles,” Chandler explains.

But could this be Ghanaian way of life? We aspire to the top, without keen interest in relating to the bottom where we have our foundations. Indeed, our inability to lift our economies to enhance our living conditions, since independence, as India, Malaysia and others, have done, argues the yet-to-declare NDC presidential aspirant, Dr Spio-Garbrah, calls for new thinking.

“It is for this reason that many Ghanaians are turning their attention to the quality of leadership that Ghana should have from now onwards… The next half century will be critical for Ghana’s development, and many wonder if we should continue on the strictly divisive partisan path which we have trodden in the past 50 years… the path of sustainable development will depend very much on the quality of the new leader to reach out to all Ghanaians irrespective of their beliefs…,” the former Minister of Education, cautions (Ibid).

But will the new leaders and ourselves, be prepared to abandon political preconceptions and attitudes to become new human beings quickly, to change Ghana’s stained corridors through mass education, creating personal links with others that foster mutual respect and inspire change? Can we always communicate in a way that causes our peers to question ideas that we have never questioned before? On several occasions, we hear many that they could, single-handedly, conjure solutions to our age-long chronic problems. But had this been possible? It appears, we still revolve around this personality cult and more perilously, whether the ‘poor must still see the rich as his or her tormenter or the rich must also see the poor as his lazarus’

As Flt J. J. Rawlings, who perhaps, through the unsung errand acts of Cpl. Owusu Boateng and the late L/Cpl Sarkodie Addo, among others, who are said to have kept guard on the then detained leader of the 15 May 1979 fiasco uprising, who was later to become the Chairman of the AFRC, said at a meeting with presidential candidates on June 7 1979: “No matter the quantity of money that’s going to be pumped into this country.. the success or failure of this system will depend on integrity, accountability [and] a certain degree of honesty?” Yes, we are loosing most of these values… these mistakes; rapes and armed-robbery as the Chairman once identified, have been accepted as norm. So much so that Ghanaians no longer see them as evils and sources of our social canker? (West Africa Magazine, 5-11th June 2000, p18/19).

But, after almost two decades on the Black Star Stool, the air force officer, left office without definite solutions to rapes, bribery and corruption and armed-robbery? It must be repeated that just before J. J. left, some 35 “frail women” were perhaps, raped and butchered in cold-blood without hint of evidence, as we write this piece? Yes, like his predecessors, President Kufuor too, hopes not to fulfil his zero tolerance for corruption pledge, let alone to have a faint idea about the potential suspects of that Palace massacre, that paraded a king and his 40 kinsmen into their “village”. Having these around our necks, it is hoped that our rulers, yes, abandon antiquated command-and-control headship as today, managers really have to act as coaches, mediators and team-builders so as to be able to tear down fortified iron-curtains?

With innovative, real-world, hands-on leadership, Meyerson, according to Chandler, helped established a new benchmark for the company and profits at Perot System soared. “Businesses are only now realizing that to be successful, they need more leaders than just those at the top. They need leaders on the front lines, as well- people who are closest to the action who can find real solutions to new challenges,” Martin Chandler reveals. He explains that even a 90-year-old company operating in 130 countries, with annual sales around $128 billion, has embraced this new leadership. If this is really true, then, what are we waiting for?

The Royal Dutch/Shell, for example, ran into problems when its headquarters and operating companies could not agree on how to adapt to this trend. That is what prompted Steve Miller, group managing director, to launch a company transformation. So don’t we think that we need more effective front liners in this our depressing battle? It is argued that without El Hombre Nuevo (civil servants?) at the helm of affairs, that cherished development wonders of the Osagyefo, would have been indeed a sheer fantasy? Here is where Meyerson is right in reasoning that for a business to succeed, it truly needs more leaders than just those at the top.

Their new way of leading is that a leader at headquarters may not just always have the answer. Instead, it looks to its other leadership- teams of marketing executives, union truckers and retail dealers- for solutions, Thus, applying this, Miller saw positive results from all corners of company’s worldwide network- in employee morale and in profits. “In France, where Royal Dutch/Shell had lost half of its retail fuel market over the previous two years, it bounced back with double-digit growth and sped past its goals…,” Chandler revealed this

It might have been obvious to us that for one to be a leadership material, the issue is not over whether or not the aspirant was Lazarus’ daughter or was brought up in Pharaoh’s palace, like biblical Moses. Or perhaps, weaned in a manger, as was the case of our Saviour Jesus Christ, in Him we all have our Being? But rather, on the question of roadmap for the path before us? And indeed the new leader’s drive to learn new rules in high-speed? True, our way will be visible if the leader has clear ideas and explanation of how we tramp to our target so that we are never led off track our objective. The very issue that the 2008 campaign must resolve.

Of course when Flt.-Lt. J. J. Rawlings said during the revolutionary uproar of 1979 that after 22 years of independence, look at my jaw, he honestly meant it. He descended into filthy gutters. In the 1980s, we jarred aluta to his parable of cake/abodoo and akpeteshie/schnapps, at Agona Swedru Sports Stadium. President-elect Kufuor was also right, when he said in his presidential acceptance speech on January 7 2001 that: “we face grave economic challenges that might likely put severe strain on our people’s belief and enthusiasm for democratic methods…” To this effect, he relied on philanthropic gestures in the renovation of his family house. But like his predecessor, it is alleged that his family credit ratings had since soared- a period of uncertainties indeed. So who can cleanse Ghana at all? ( W/A, June, 5- 11 2000)

We may have our reservations about Che and his ageing learned buddy, Fidel Castro, whose image is now being tainted by multi-party Miami exiles. However, whereas the life expectancy in the US, is some 77 years, in the ‘economically blockaded’ Island, where sugar and tobacco plantation is the main source of national income is also some 76.2 years(?) and Ghana, hovering around some 58 years, no doubt, we need more Ches and El Hombre Nuevo. More than being like separatist puritans, who exalted themselves superior as the “elect of God” than the native peoples in the New World?

Thus, unlike Sodom and Gomorrah, where the Man of God, would have spared its population from total destruction, had one incorruptible mind was found, we demonstrate to the Teeming Leaders After Rawlings-Kufuor or the New Ghanaian, might have observed that it takes a collective purge, all of us, rather than political misconceptions and class greed, to safe Ghana.

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

Columnist: Asante Fordjour