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By Kwesi Atta Sakyi
19th June 2012
One may ask who a Leader is. A leader is anyone who shows the way or guides and directs a group of people to follow a particular direction in order to arrive at a chosen destination. A leader is principally a guide who counsels his people and creates a vision for them to follow to realise their dreams. In the past, we have had great religious or spiritual leaders such as Moses, Muhammad, Buddha, Jesus, Guru Narnak, Zoroaster, among others. We have also had great secular or political leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Kemal Ataturk, Mohandas Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Ben Gurion, Martin Luther King Jnr, Muhammed Ali, Chairman Mao, Kwame Nkrumah, among many others. The progressive and modern states of Malaysia and Singapore were created by their visionary leaders, Dr Mahathir Muhammad and Lee Kuan Yew respectively. A good leader is the one who understands the needs of his people, and who has the unusual knack and flair for articulating their aspirations and clarifying complex issues into simple ones for them to understand and fall in line with. Hence, leaders have to be persuasive and be gifted at swaying the views of their followers. Leadership is an art which does not follow particularly beaten tracks. This is because a leader, like a chameleon, must be flexile to adapt fast to changes in his environment or else he perishes with his followers. A good leader is one who has analytical skills and who brings his clout and influence to bear on issues, whether domestic or foreign. Thus, a leader should be competent at his job and be current with events in his immediate and remote environments. It is required that a leader should be endowed with personal charisma or magnetism in order to influence his followers to his point of view or vision. In fact, a leader is one who is proactive, and works through other people (delegation of authority) to achieve collective goals. A leader leads by applying basic managerial principles of planning, organising, co coordinating, communicating, controlling, directing or commanding and allocating rewards and sanctions. It is said that every leader is a manager, but not every manager is a leader. Leadership is wider in scope and in responsibilities, more than being a manager. A manager’s remit is about achieving much with little (efficiency, economy and effectiveness). A manager’s remit is confined to his role on the job, while the role of the leader cannot be circumscribed, because it goes further afield beyond the confines of the organisation that he leads. He has the duty of being a boundary spanner, creating networks, mending fences and building bridges across national and organisational boundaries. This is why in this globalised world, no political leader can escape from shuttle diplomacy. To use a metaphor of a former Minister of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria, Dr. Bolaji Akinyemi, every nation is entangled in diplomacy of concentric circles, because starting from the inner circle, you tread outside into wider outer circles such as ECOWAS, AU, UN, among others. A political leader’s role extends to areas of socio-economic welfare of the people and he is an exemplar. Someone once observed that a political leader is like a conductor of an orchestra or symphony, who has to use his skills to conduct the different players of diverse instruments to produce melodious music. Despite the different pitches, tunes and vibes, the conductor makes the orchestra produce music which is pleasant to the ear. So it is with the art of political leadership. A political leader has to pursue policies that the people want, need and aspire for. However, it is indeed uncalled for to be a populist leader in the eyes of the people if the leader knows that their aspirations are flawed. No good leader worth his salt is ever popular. Leadership is a thankless job. A political leader is also like the captain of a ship who has to steer the ship through thick and thin, through the seven seas, The Bays of Biscay and Bermuda Triangles of this world, to reach their destination safely. It does not mean that if you are a captain, you will always have it smooth sailing. There will be tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes, causing rough seas and killer waves. Leadership can therefore be partially classified or dubbed as organized chaos. This analogy applies specifically to leadership in Ghana in particular and Africa in general. We have organized chaos because our nation states in Africa today are like those in Europe 50 years after the Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648. We are therefore 300 years behind the Western World in political and social engineering. This is because our nation-states are still having their teething problems, what with tribal sentiments and crude political propaganda. Our African leaders are not asking J.F Kennedy’s question, ‘what can I do for my country’, but instead, asking, ‘what is my interest in becoming a political leader in Ghana?’ Is it not to amass wealth and live off the sweat and toil of the gullible masses?
We need now more than ever before, patriotic leaders to push forward the frontiers of accelerated development. Ghana, like any other African state, is still relatively in its nascent and embryonic stage of development, of its democratic institutions. We have not done badly, though. Only we are a nation that is impatient for progress and development. We are hypercritical and we talk too much. Our tribal cleavages are still distinct as our politics is often conducted along tribal lines. Our first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, worked hard at independence in 1957 to achieve tribal balancing by running an inclusive government. He devised devious schemes to unify the various tribes in Ghana through the boarding house system in secondary schools and colleges throughout Ghana. He also encouraged inter-regional transfers in the civil and public services. He encouraged inter-tribal marriages and cultural exchanges among the various tribes of Ghana. This positive trend of nation-building was neglected or abandoned when the military dictators took over under their khakistocracies. Tribal balancing can be crafted and grafted consciously or in a subtle manner. Nkrumah was a dues ex-machina, one who worked assiduously to help to create the nation-state which we now know as Ghana. In Zambia, where I live, we have the founding father Dr Kenneth Kaunda, who came up with the national slogan of, ‘One Zambia, One Nation’. There are 73 different tribes and languages in Zambia with 8 countries sharing their borders with her, yet the tribes have cohabited peacefully. Zambian tribes practise what they call tribal cousinship.
This arrangement serves them very well in maintaining very peaceful co-existence. Perhaps, we Ghanaians can borrow a leaf from this tribal cousinship arrangement. For example, if a Frafra man dies, the Dagarti or Dagomba or Mamprusi people could call themselves tribal cousins and undertake to dig the grave and carry the coffin for burial. This is a reciprocal arrangement which engenders goodwill, and cements the bonds of solidarity across tribal divides. During international football matches and other national occasions, you clearly see the high level of national solidarity and patriotism among Zambians. This spirit is now lacking in Ghana. What with recent fracas in the Central, Northern and Volta regions, which are counter-productive and do not augur well for the future.
There is no need for anyone to make tribal statements, nor elicit inward-looking feelings among Ghanaians. Therefore, we need altruistic and non-tribalistic leaders to lead us. Every Ghanaian is a leader in one way or another, so let us all start being patriotic in our various stations of life and eschew all tribal sentiments. We cannot divorce ourselves from our names or origins or tribes. Yet, we can practise unity in diversity. Our founding fathers, including Nkrumah, taught us by example to march abreast as equals. There is no superior or inferior tribe in Ghana. Basically, we are all human, endowed with various human rights, which are enshrined in the UN Human Rights Declaration of 1948. We have different talents and strengths, which we can contribute to nation-building. When a nation begins its journey of nationhood, it needs a champion leader to propagate the lofty ideals of the founding fathers. This happened in the USA in 1776 when they declared independence from Britain. Those who championed the ideals of the founding fathers included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and later, Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. The champion leader is needed in the early formative years. Next comes the storming and norming stages which require tank-commander-like leaders to impose order and discipline. These could be found in the Fidel Castros, Stalins and Chairman Maos of this world. Next is the performing stage or project management stage in the project life cycle model. The implementation or performing stage is critical as it is the take-off stage in W.W. Rostow’s model of economic growth. Here, we need a housekeeper kind of leader to organise. Here we need technocrats, entrepreneurs and professionals. This stage requires action-centred leadership, where the leader has both high concern for the task at hand and the welfare of his followers. It requires a balancing act and a holistic approach. Right now in Ghana, we are at that critical crossroads of take off, and we need to ensure political stability and continuity. This does not mean we do not undertake change management. We could adopt the incrementalist strategy of making step by step changes instead of quantum leap or transformational radical changes. Xenophon of old Greece (c.439B.C) observed that ‘change is the only constant which never changes because it is forever changing.’ We in Ghana think that our country has stagnated, yet it has not. Socially and politically, we are changing and learning from many daily occurrences. Change is not only physical but also social/ spiritual and intellectual. To be successful as a nation, we need individually to be entrepreneurial and risk-takers. We should lead wherever we are in Ghana. Our politically elected leaders are mere token/titular leaders. We have to take ownership of our own self-directed leadership in our offices by thinking big and working hard through people to realise our dreams. We can progress as a nation by having the concept of inward-oriented growth rather than an externally-driven growth strategy. No political leader in Ghana can do all the things that we have to do for ourselves. Our national leaders are just facilitators and co ordinators. When they make policies, budgets and other statutes, they empower us to empower ourselves. Perhaps we need an entrepreneur at the centre stage as a role model. Here, we can think of Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom of the PPP, Dr Spio Garbrah, Busumbrum Kofi Annan and Dr Frimpong Boateng, formerly of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. These have track records which they can use to network with outsiders to bring in FDI. Much as we await Foreign Direct Investment, we should rely on mobilising our own internal capital resources to kick-start growth. Right now, going by Tuckman’s stages of growth of a group, we can see that the advanced economies have reached the adjourning/ dorming /mourning stage, as they are experiencing very low growth rates. We in Ghana and Africa have still got room to grow our economies and transform them from commodity exporters to become tertiary and quaternary service providers. Which leader can take us there? We need a leader who can look at the bigger picture or who can use the helicopter factor to rise above petty tribal issues to create the necessary and sufficient institutions needed for economic growth and development. These institutions include a vibrant and robust constitution, strong and independent arms of government, and decentralised regional/district administration.
Right now in Ghana, people have been blinded by uncritical allegiance to their political parties. The media is full of NDC this, NPP that. As elections approach in December, let us open our eyes to the opportunities and wonderful vistas ahead for this country, and elect credible and action-orientated leaders who can lead us to the Promised Land. Let us elect leaders of proven track records, leaders who eschew tribalism, nepotism, corruption and who are imbued with the sense of urgency for national development. We want leaders who can formulate long term development plans to create jobs, boost our public infrastructure and make Ghana a safe haven for inward Foreign Direct Investment. In two subsequent series, I will further explore leadership as it applies to Ghana and perhaps, develop some metaphorical models of leadership.
There is a famous Chinese proverb which states, ‘Talk does not cook rice’. We need action-oriented leaders and not those who cannot walk the talk. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) once observed, ‘I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles, but today it means getting along with people.’ He said it all by harping on the ideas of modern day leadership which is based on democracy, the rule of law and not on the brutal application of force by the leader on his subjects. Leadership is only one side of the coin because bad followership can bring down a good leader. We need both our leaders and followers to have the following traits or qualities, namely: trust, loyalty, commitment, teamwork, respect, obedience, passion, ambition, honesty, competence, risk-taking, proactivity, vision, decisiveness, transparency, good judgement, intelligence, physical fitness, responsibility, accountability, drive, goals, control, persuasiveness, flexibility, emotional stability, fortitude, humility, selflessness, discernment, resilience, among many other positive traits. When I write, many readers comment that I touch on many issues and as such, there is lack of focus. Well, what do you expect from a polymath with more than four decades of plying the chalk trade? Stay blessed for my next two series.
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