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Opinions of Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Columnist: Badu, K

Confirmed: Mahama has no leadership skills to transform Ghana

This periodical seeks to deconstruct the all-important question of the relevance of effective leadership skills in the contemporary governance.

It is worth emphasising that most recent research interest has centred on relationships between leaders and followers, with some experts on the topic stressing the need to study followership. This has been argued as important, not so much because all leaders are also followers, but also because modern notions of leadership place considerable emphasis on the power and importance of followers in ultimately legitimizing and enabling leadership.

What is leadership?

Leadership can be considered to be the personal qualities, behaviours, styles and decisions adopted by the leader. In other words, it concerns how the leader carries out his/her role. Hence while the role of leader can be described in a job description, leadership is not so easily pinned down (Waldman and Yammarino (1999).

Waldman and Yammarino observe that early investigations, which focused on the personal characteristics or the behaviours of individuals who emerge as leaders, were followed by those that considered the influence of situational factors of leadership behaviour.

Once upon a time, the general belief was that leadership was a trait from birth, and more so leadership was only ascribed to tall, handsome and well-connected individuals.

That was not entirely correct, for the fact of the matter is that leadership skills can be acquired through schematic tutorials.

The crucial question then is: with so many people purporting to be leaders these days, how do we distinguish between a true leader and demagogue?

To be able to do justice to the preceding question, we must sigh deeply and ask: What is it that a leader is actually trying to achieve?

Apparently, a true leader wants nothing more than to make people independent, as leaders in their own rights. Instead of trying to inebriate us with his or her rhetoric, a true leader reflects our own light back to us. More importantly, a true leader always comes up with pragmatic ideas with a view to transforming the lives of his/her subordinates.

Biblically, for instance, Moses was a paradigmatic leader. We read in Exodus that he was a shepherd - a rather unpretentious beginning for the man who would speak to God. He kept watch as thousands of sheep grazed the fields. Moses noticed that one sheep was missing and went off to look for it, finding it at a distant apart.

When the sheep had finished drinking, Moses lifted it onto his shoulders and carried it back to the flock. When Jehovah God saw this, he became aware that Moses was a man of reason, empathy and selfless devotion, a man truly worthy to lead His people; a man who would put his empathetic qualities at the disposal of the needs of his subordinates. After all, no one was keeping an eye on Moses; Moses could easily have thought to himself, “why be concerned with one sheep when there are thousands”?

Experts stress that although each leadership style has its own merits and de-merits, visionary leadership draws much attention since it contributes to firm innovation, organisational learning, and creativity skills (De Jong and Den Hartog, 2007).

Moreover, some scholars have examined leadership in various disciplines (Yammarino and Bass 1990). They nonetheless define leadership in terms of idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration (Nemanich and Keller, 2007).

Furthermore, scholars observe that visionary leaders act as role models, motivate, provide meaning, optimism, enthusiasm , strategic thinking and stimulate the intelligence of their subordinates(Bass, 1985).

Thus, some experts explain the first component, idealized influence, as charisma (Schepers et al, 2005), while a few scholars mentioned the first two, idealized influence and inspirational motivation as charisma (Kark et al., 2003).

Therefore, some scholars maintain that true leaders exhibit idealised influence and inspirational motivation in their quest to effect change (Kark et al., 2003).

It should, therefore, be emphasised that idealised influence portrays visionary leaders as most respectful, reliable and meritorious, and shows the characteristics of setting vision and articulating it to accomplish, and describes leaders’ risk sharing with their followers in line with ethical principles (Bass et al., 2003).

Besides, inspirational motivation explains how true leaders encourage their subordinates to achieve vision through creating individual and team spirit (Bass et al., 2003).

While the component, intellectual stimulation, explains how true leaders promote their subordinates innovative and creative skills by solving problems entirely in new ways (Bass et al., 2003).

The Polemics of Transformational Change

Schein (1995), building on Lewin’s force field analysis, emphasised that the stability of human behaviour is based on "quasi- stationary equilibriums" supported by a large force field of driving and restraining forces.

Schein emphasised that for a transformational change to occur; this force field has to be modified under complex psychological conditions because, as often noted, just adding a driving force toward transformational change spawns an immediate counterforce to maintain the equilibrium.

According to Schein, this observation explains the important insight that the equilibrium could more easily be moved if one could remove restraining forces since usually there are already driving forces in the system.

Schein stressed that restraining forces are difficult to reach, because they are often personal psychological defences or group norms embedded in the organisational culture.

It is, therefore, important to point out that one of the biggest restraining forces in President Mahama’s much touted transformational change process is payment of dubious judgment debt.

Giving gargantuan sums of money belonging to the nation to people who have no entitlement would nonetheless hamper any meaningful transformational change process, so to speak.

It is also worth mentioning that President Kufuor and his NPP government showed true leadership by helping to move Ghana from the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) status to a Lower Middle Income status.

On the other hand, we cannot state that President Mahama and his NDC government have also shown visionary leadership for wilfully sending us back to the HIPC status.

Of course, former President Kufuor and his NPP government displayed unbelievable leadership by quadrupling Ghana's economy to US$ 28billion in 2008, a period of eight years.

According to the World Bank, in 2011 Ghana’s GDP reached a staggering $47billion, and only for President Mahama to incredibly dragged it back to $40billion as of October 2016.

At the same time, we must not and cannot stand accused of exhibiting risible and inborn bias for criticising President Mahama and his NDC government for collapsing the economy during the last seven and half years due to their lack of true leadership.

Apparently, there is an unobjectionable evidence of lack of leadership skills on the part of President Mahama and his NDC government.

For example, according to Dr Bawumiah, in the last seven and half years alone under this NDC government, Ghana’s total debt has ballooned from GH¢9.5 billion to a projected GH¢110 billion by the end of September 2016.

This means that 90% (i.e. GHC99.5 billion) of Ghana’s total debt since independence has been accumulated under this NDC government from 2009-2015 i.e. the last seven and half years.

Ironically, however, after failing to improve upon Ghana’s economy during the last seven and half years, President Mahama and his clamorous apparatchiks are cunningly taking refuge in their much publicised infrastructural projects.

Paradoxically, though, it was the same President Mahama who happily pontificated somewhere in 2008 that every government undertakes infrastructural projects and therefore it would be an exercise in mediocrity for any government to hide behind infrastructural projects in the face of economic collapse.

In that regard, it is somewhat ironic that President Mahama will then turn round and insist that governance is all about putting up infrastructural projects. How bizarre?

Clearly, this is a sign of a leader who has lost the plot. President Mahama is indeed devoid of ideas to lead the nation.

K. Badu, UK.