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Opinions of Monday, 28 September 2009

Columnist: Addai, William

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s Leadership Style

By Dr. William Addai, (Ph.D.)

"He who knows others is learned. He who knows himself is wise." Lao Tse said it well. The most effective people are those who understand themselves, both their strengths and weaknesses, so they can develop strategies to meet the demands of their environment. A person's behavior is a necessary and integral part of who they are. In other words, much of our behavior comes from "nature" (inherent), and much comes from "nurture" (our upbringing).

This is a behavioral research on the Late Kwame Nkrumah: First President of the Republic of Ghana. The study comes 100 years after Dr. Nkrumah’s birth. It is not for him, but for us the living to learn. We can learn from his strengths and weakness and chart our blue print for effective leadership.

In this study, I focused on four dimensions of Kwame’s leadership style. They are:

? how he responded to problems and challenges.

? how he influenced others to his point of view.

? how he responded to the pace of the environment.

? how he responded to rules and procedures set by the world around him.

The observation, using Success Insight Survey, analyzes his behavioral style; that is, his manner of doing things. Is the observation 100% true? Yes, no and maybe. I had opportunity to frequent the home of Late William Ofori-Atta (member of Ghana’s legendary Big-Six). Paa Willie, as we affectionately called him, was imprisoned along with Kwame. I also had opportunity to listen to Late R.R. Amponsah, whom Nkrumah detained for many years. I used some data from conversations with these great men who knew and worked with him very closely. To improve accuracy, feel free to make comment on this article regarding any statement that may or may not apply, but only after checking with his family, friends and foes to see if they agree!

Kwame was aggressive and confident. He was comfortable in an environment that was characterized by high pressure and was variety-oriented. Some saw Kwame as an initiator. He was a dominant, forceful and direct person who was seen as an individualist. He had high ego strengths and was viewed by some as egotistical. Kwame wanted to be viewed as self-reliant and willing to pay the price for success. He liked being forceful and direct when dealing with others. His desire for results was readily apparent to the people he led and managed. He would lose interest in a project once the challenge ceased. He was then ready for another challenging project. He was forward-looking, aggressive and competitive. His vision for results was one of his positive strengths. Kwame was often frustrated when working with others who did not share the same sense of urgency. He was goal-oriented and driven by results. He was the team member who will try to keep the others on task.

Kwame was logical, incisive and critical in his problem-solving activities. Sometimes he was so opinionated about a particular problem that he had difficulty letting others participate in the process. Many people saw his decisions as high-risk decisions. However, after the decision was made, he tended to work hard for a successful outcome. He made decisions quickly. Kwame was a good problem solver and troubleshooter, always seeking new ways to solve old problems. He was direct in his approach to discovering facts and data. He maintained his focus on results.

Kwame should have realized that at times he needed to think a project through, beginning to end, before starting the project. He worked long hours until a tough problem was solved. After it was solved, Kwame became bored with any routine work that followed. He needed others to carry on routines. Kwame challenged people who volunteered their opinions. He tended to be intolerant of people who seemed ambiguous or thought too slowly. His creative and active mind hindered his ability to communicate to others effectively. He often presented the information in a form that could not be easily understood by some people around him. He liked people who gave him options as compared to their opinions. The options helped him make decisions, and he valued his own opinion over that of others!

When communicating with others, Kwame should have been careful to avoid being excessively critical or pushy. He tried to get on with the subject, while others might be trying to work through the details. He lacked the patience to listen and communicate with slower acting people.

He was not influenced by people who were overly enthusiastic. They rarely got his attention. He liked subordinates who communicated with him in a clear, precise and brief conversation.

The following are identified specific behavior Kwame brought to his job – the presidency. By looking at these statements, one can identify his role in the making of Ghana, Africa and the World. Kwame:

? was suspicious of people with shallow ideas.

? would join organizations to represent his country and continent.

? placed high value on time.

? was a change agent--looked for faster and better ways.

? was tough-minded.

? usually made decisions with the bottom line in mind.

? was creative in his approach to solving problems.

? was a “Think big” person.

? was tenacious.

Kwame was an ambitious, forceful, decisive, strong-willed, independent and goal-oriented person.. When communicating with Kwame, people around him needed to understand his preferred style:

? Being clear, specific, brief and to the point. And Sticked to business.

? Be prepared with support material in a well-organized "package."

? He preferred people to Ask specific (preferably "what?") questions.

? Listen to him.

? Provide questions, alternatives and choices for making his own decisions.

? Read the body language--look for impatience or disapproval.

? Stick to business--let him decide if he wants to talk socially.

? Be patient and persistent.

? Provide facts and figures about probability of success, or effectiveness of options.

? Take issue with facts, not him, if one disagreed.

? Come prepared with all requirements, objectives and support material in a well-organized

? "package."

This is a list of things Kwame hated, that created tension or dissatisfaction:

? Directing or ordering him.

? Pretending to be an expert, if you were not.

? Leaving things open to interpretation.

? Asking rhetorical questions, or useless ones.

? Being superficial.

? Making statements one cannot prove. ? Going to him with a ready-made decision, or making it for him. ? Forgetting or losing things, being disorganized or messy, confusing or distracting his mind from business. ? Rambling on, or wasting his time. ? Letting disagreement reflect on him personally. ? Talking about things that were not relevant to the issue. ? Leaving loopholes or cloudy issues.

? Appearing disorganized.


A person’s behavior and feelings may be quickly telegraphed to others. Kwame’s did. Kwame's had self-perception and how, under certain conditions, others perceived his behavior. This empowered Kwame to project the image that allowed him to control a situation. Kwame usually saw himself as being: Pioneering, Assertive, Competitive Confident and Positive Winner Under moderate pressure, tension, stress or fatigue, others saw him as being: Demanding, Nervy, Egotistical, Aggressive. And, under extreme pressure, stress or fatigue, others saw him as being: Abrasive, Controlling, Arbitrary and Opinionated.

Kwame was often described as: Demanding, Egocentric, Driving, Ambitious and Pioneering. Others described him as Strong-Willed, Forceful, Determined, Aggressive, Decisive, and Venturesome. To some, he was Inquisitive, Responsible, Active, Impatient, Self-Willed and Stubborn


Kwame's natural style of dealing with problems, people, pace of events and procedures did not always fit what the environment needed. He struggled, under stress and pressure, to adapt to the environment-the world of his days. PROBLEMS - CHALLENGES Kwame naturally tended to deal with problems and challenges in a demanding, driving and self-willed manner. He was individualistic in his approach and actively sought for goals. Kwame attacked problems and liked a position with authority and work that would constantly challenge him to perform up to his ability. Kwame saw no need to change his approach to solving problems or dealing with challenges of his time. PEOPLE – CONTACTS: Naturally, Kwame was undemonstrative in his approach to influencing others and liked to let facts and figures stand for themselves. He felt persuasion needed to be objective and straightforward. His trust level was based on each interaction--the past was the past. He presented facts without embellishments. Kwame saw a need to be factual and logical while attempting to influence others. He felt a direct and straightforward approach was really what others wanted before they could be influenced. PACE - CONSISTENCY : Naturally, Kwame liked mobility and the absence of routine did not traumatize him. He felt comfortable juggling different projects and was able to move from one project to another fairly easily. Kwame enjoyed an environment that was variety-oriented. He felt a great sense of urgency to get things completed quickly. He was eager to accept change and work on many activities. PROCEDURES – CONSTRAINTS: Naturally, Kwame was independent by nature and somewhat self-willed. He was open to new suggestions and could, at times, be seen as somewhat freewheeling. He was most comfortable in an environment where the constraints could be "loosened" for certain situations. Kwame sought adventure and excitement. He wanted to be seen as his own person and will break rules to display this desire for independence. He wanted to be judged by the bottom-line results--not how those results were achieved. Kwame saw his work environment requiring him to exhibit certain behavior. For example: ? Persistence in job completion. ? Being creative and unconventional in making a point. ? Anticipating and solving problems. ? Responding well to challenges: "You say I can't do it? Just watch me!" ? Willing to take risks when others were hesitant. ? Firm commitment to accomplishments. ? Flaunting independence. ? Dedicated to "going it alone" when necessary. ? Quickly responding to crisis and change, with a strong desire for immediate results. ? Having the ability to see the "big picture" as well as the small pieces of the puzzle. ? Acting without precedent, and able to respond to change in daily work. ? Being innovative Kwame had a tendency to be disruptive because of his innate restlessness and disdain for sameness. He resisted participation as part of the team, unless seen as a leader. He lacked tact and diplomacy as long as he gets the results he wanted. He had a tendency to be explosive by nature and lacked the patience to negotiate. He had difficulty finding balance between family and work. Kwame keep too many balls in the air, and where his support was weak he had a tendency to drop some of those balls. He had no concept of the problems that slower-moving people may have with his style. To sum up, Kwame was naturally a CONDUCTOR, a performer, if you will. He remains a historical mentor to many. For that many people who look to him, I share these findings. Dr. William Addai, (Ph.D.) Center for Africa Leadership Studies Comments to: