In theory and practice, in books and from mentors, at home and in the public, in the private sector and in government service, we see leadership in action and inaction. There are men and women with pretensions of servant-leadership and those with acclaimed skills of entrepreneurial leadership.
There are those with obsession with history; there are those with mission without vision; there are democrats and there are autocrats as leaders; there are laizes faire leaders as there are also the charismatic; there are those with the eyes for the loot; there are errand boys and yes men on parade as leaders in the public sphere just as there are failures and jobless men and women strutting the leadership corridors and arena of power.
There are men and women of diligence and distinction making little successes in their private arena or hidden in the back offices of power or making waves and long lasting impact in the public glare too just as there are lousy occupants of power centres in our general polity as well. For now, we are in a quandary as to which form of leadership will serve our national interest better, now or in the future.
Therefore, our nation must decide which typology of leadership eventually predominates in our leadership training, recruitment and selection process. It is not the fault of those who find themselves in leadership and they started misbehaving.
Those who rose to power to loot the resources of the state should not be blamed for their indiscretion and corruption. We must sympathise with those who landed in the opulent state houses or the hallowed green or red chambers without a clear idea of what they are supposed to do other than to debate their allowances and official perquisites.
But it is a national tragedy that we are still struggling to evolve a system that will guarantee the emergence of credible leadership at various levels of our polity to drive productivity and integrity in our nation. What seems to be lacking for us is the correct appreciation of leadership.
Leadership is vision and mission erected on conscience. Conscience, on the other hand, is nurtured by sincerity. Sincerity is a product of certain spirituality, altruism and fidelity. This leads us to raise more questions?
What are the hallmarks of sincerity? The defunct National Concord has as its credo, “Truth is Constant”; The Guardian proclaims as its motto: conscience nurtured by truth and goes on to adopt Sheikh Uthman ibn Fodio’s maxim: “Conscience is an open wound, only truth can heal it.” Between the notion of truth and sincerity is a just a thin divide. In fact, they overlap.
The presence or lack of Truth or fidelity and sincerity are what defines or qualifies the purity of conscience and action when we get to leadership. When conscience is clean, service is rendered unconditionally; power is sought to serve purely; leadership is anchored on the utilitarian worldview, For God and Man.
But these assumptions and positions are not adopted just voluntarily. No. They come from a disciplined orientation over a long period. They are cultural. They are systemic. So, we should ask if our system of leadership training, recruitment and selection has evolved through such a disciplined orientation process.
We should ask if our national culture conduces to producing leaders who will serve with integrity, for God and Man. We should evaluate our leadership benchmarks and standards to see if they meet the best performing indicators in other climes.
There is an irony: a large chunk of the followership also hate to see the emergence of a credible leadership in action. We tend to favour someone who will bend the rule in our favour. We dislike a leader who has the courage to make difficult choice and decision because it is unpalatable, albeit temporarily.
But it is also from the followership that the leadership evolves and emerges. So, if we have a followership that is easily pliable, that cannot endure difficulty, it becomes a recipe for a compromising and corrupt leadership in the future.
The point to be made here is that we are still struggling to erect a conscious and consistent leadership training, recruitment and selection mechanism in the country. The reality, however, is that it is extremely difficult now to prescribe where leadership training should start. Who taps or what institutions discover and train the future credible leaders? This is a tall order of a question.
We are in a situation where reform institutions are heavily compromised. We are in a world where ecumenical centres are a cesspit of depravity. The right and value-oriented parenting have given way to media surrogating at a time when globalisation is advancing the clash of civilisation, with the authentic African values being the victims of materialist merchandising from the West.
Agents of social change and socialisation are today easily the best vanguards of moral corruption. Institutions that should glorify in character and learning are today the bastions of intellectual fraud and licentiousness. Elders who should mentor future leaders are guilty of defiling the innocence of youth.
Scholars who should be embodiments of intellectual honesty are deeply enmeshed in academic fraud. Workers in the Lord’s vineyards are the apostles of apostasy.
So, what quality of leadership do we expect to emerge in this confusing scenario? We can guess that they will be leaders schooled in hedonism where the flesh and the belly take precedence over conscience, the intellect and the spirit, or they will be products of the school of Machiavelli where competition, distrust and betrayal are the main values.
Here, little or no room is given for cooperation and compromise. Our leadership experience seems to suggest that we do not believe in win-win. We seem to relish in the winner takes all mentality. While competing with others, our subconscious seems to always tell us, ‘it’s either me or nobody else’.
It is usually no mercy, no forgiveness. No friend, no foe. No permanent friends but permanent interest. We easily forget that power and sovereignty belong to the Most High, even though we are also aware that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
However, the leadership training vacuum is not entirely irredeemable; after all, not all conscience will be dead. Some souls will always see hope. Therefore, the long wait to mind the gap, fill the vacuum or compensate the deficit for and evolve the right leadership recruitment and selection process is worth all the endurance, faith and hope.
It begins with YOU, not the system, not the school, not the screen, not the one you see before you pontificating on salvation. This is because the Almighty will not change the grace or condition of someone until he makes the resolution and takes the initiative. Bridging the leadership lacuna begins with your resolve.
By Abdul-Warees Solanke, Assistant Director,
Strategic Planning & Corporate Development,
Voice of Nigeria,
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