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Opinions of Saturday, 9 April 2016

Columnist: Appeadu, Charles

Leadership and self-development in the 21st century

(Excerpts from a speech to students of St. Augustine’s College, Cape Coast on March 19, 2016)

First, let me start by thanking the Headmaster, Mr. Connel and the organizers of this event for giving me the opportunity to speak to you this morning. I consider this a great honor and an excellent opportunity to be part of the development of the future leaders of this country – a country that we all love so much. Indeed, sitting in front of us this morning are some of the future leaders of Ghana. As one of the premier high schools in our country, there is no doubt that many chief executives, ministers, parliamentarians, and heads of departments, and probably future Presidents, will be produced right here at St. Augustine’s College.

Today, I have been asked to speak to us on a very important topic – “Leadership and Self-Development in the 21st Century”. Those who know me may be thinking that I paid the organizers to select this topic. You see, I have been talking at different settings about this very topic. I even developed an acronym for the real GOLD that Ghana needs at this time. It is: “Ghanaians for Orderliness, Leadership, and Development.” The real GOLD for our nation is not what is under the ground but what is embedded in its citizens that must be unearthed so it can bear real dividends for all of us. The future leaders of our dear nation must be Ghanaians standing for the creation of an orderly society. They must exemplify true leadership, geared toward the development of Ghana that will inure to all our citizens. We are counting on you to lead the millions of our citizens living now and those yet to be born in the future from poverty into prosperity.

The abject poverty our people find themselves in today did not just happen. It has been orchestrated first from plunder by foreigners and in post-colonial times from bad leadership, incompetence, wanton stealing and greed from our own. Yes, from us, (the so-called leaders who have been educated on the sweat and backs of our peasant farmers and fishermen) with and without the help of foreigners.

I sincerely envy you. I envy you because you will see a Ghana that most of us over 40 years old will probably not see. A Ghana that will rival its true peers and take its rightful position as the first born son of Africa. A Ghana that will be the envy of the rest of the world. A Ghana that will cause the Europeans, the Americans, and the Asians to rethink their negative view of Africa. Sure, our nation has produced some great leaders. Kwame Nkrumah comes to mind and Kofi Annan comes to mind. In fact, throughout the world, many individual Ghanaians are carrying our flag high with dignity and many question why our nation, with the caliber of people in leadership positions across Europe and the Americas, continue to wobble in the quagmire of poverty. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense at all. I would like to posit to you that we have failed! We have failed – as a group, those of us who call ourselves leaders have failed our people. Now, of course, it’s not all of us who have had the opportunity to lead in different capacities. And many who have had the opportunity have excelled but as a group, we have failed woefully!!! Now, the question is: is the situation hopeless? Of course NOT! It is never hopeless as long as humans exist and as long as we are willing to change course. My responsibility this morning is to help us outline the steps we need to take to change course.
My work is made a little easy because this is a Christian School. You see, if you read many leadership books and if you have ever worked in a good company where true leadership is exemplified, and if you are a student of the Bible, you will see immediately that the Leadership gurus have done a good job at stealing. They have done a good job at stealing from the Bible. But this is theft that God strongly approves of. In fact, not only does He approve, He actually strongly encourages us to steal.

I will go further. God, as the universe’s ultimate leader, has given us a perfect model of leadership that He wants us – sometimes commands us – to follow. Isn’t it ironic that we flaunt ourselves in the faces of others that Ghana is a Christian country and yet, we fail woefully at applying the Bible to our lives? I find it one of the greatest contradictions! When I started reading the Bible, I developed great love for Jesus Christ. I just loved what He said. At one time, he pointed out to His disciples: “You see the rulers of the Gentiles; they Lord it over their subjects. Not so with you. In my Kingdom, whoever wants to be the leader should be the chief servant of all. For the Son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” You see, if we apply the Bible we will achieve the promises in the Bible. Many of us in Ghana are actually doing all we can to disprove the Bible. We are doing all we can to tell God that he is a liar. We say we are Christians. God says if you obey my commands I will bless you and you shall eat of the fruit of the land. But our people are really not eating of the fruit of the land. Either God is a liar or we are not obeying God. You choose for yourselves what you think is really happening here; whether it is the case that God is a liar or that we are not doing what we should be doing.

So what is wrong here? We, the leaders and those we lead, are simply NOT doing what we should be doing! Period! In this 21st century, I urge you, our future leaders, to abide by; to believe and live by; to work hard toward demonstrating; sound and proven effective leadership qualities. Any effective leadership must incorporate the qualities of Competence, Integrity, and Passion to Serve. I have already briefly spoken about the need for leaders to see their work as that of serving those placed in their care. Leadership must be self-selected. Only those who wish to serve must seek to be leaders and those who appoint leaders should seek to see that they are appointing individuals who have demonstrated Servant Leadership qualities.
Competence: On competence, I will just pick the low-hanging fruits. You are students so begin with studying hard. Focus on your studies. Ask questions in class and pay attention. If you don’t understand any concept, don’t feel shy to ask your friends outside the classroom. Read widely and, in your studies, pay special attention to the areas of Mathematics, English, and the Sciences.
Integrity: This is an extremely important leadership quality. In fact, regardless of how intelligent a person is, if he/she is not a person of integrity, he/she should not be a leader. Integrity comes from the mathematics root word “INTEGER,” which means whole. You should be whole. Set good examples and live a life of sincerity, a life of truth. The least you can do as a leader is to NOT take a cedi for yourself from the funds entrusted to you for the care of those you lead.

People do only what they can see done. Lead by example! If you believe it, you will live it! It is complete deception and a travesty against the truth when so-called leaders preach the theory of good leadership but live differently. Humans will see through your hollow preaching and do what they see you do – not what you say. If you believe in Servant leadership, then they should see you serve and not lord it over them. If you lord it over the people, they will see it and copy you. After all, you are the “leader”.
You cannot climb the leadership ladder alone. Leaders are always taking somebody with them. When you are at the top alone, you are not a leader, you are a hiker, or a dictator or a proud selfish person. Leaders take people with them. Take a look at our Lord Jesus Christ and His example of coming down to teach us true leadership. He selected twelve apostles to be with Him and to learn closely from Him so that they can in turn lead others. I can take an example right from my home. My brother, Freduah-Agyemang’s selflessness is a living example. His decision to lift me up from our village at a time when I had to stay home for weeks because my mother could not buy the school uniform I needed, transformed my life. I always consider, Monday, September 7, 1970 as the biggest turning point in my life. The day that my brother brought me here to Cape Coast. Incidentally, we arrived at Cape Coast at about 7:00 pm. God used that singular decision to transform a very poor family into who we are today.

Folks, we can do this. In fact, if we do the right things and put the Biblical examples of leadership into practice, we can quadruple the per capita income of our dear nation in a decade and move millions of our citizens from poverty into prosperity. Standing in front of me this morning are some of those who will make this happen. But life is a continuum. It’s not the case that all of sudden, all the old folks are wiped out and new young people of integrity are deposited into all leadership positions. It therefore stands to reason that all of us, young and old alike, make a decision to do the right things. If there are politicians in our midst, I urge you to enforce the laws of the land. God disciplines us when we stray from the path of righteousness, because He loves us and wants us to do the right things. Please don’t shy away from punishing corruption! And punish corruption consistently without regard to tribal and party affiliations or economic status. The flip side is also very important. Reward those who live right and contribute in diverse ways to our development. I don’t have much time this morning, but let me suggest that in a chaotic environment where bribery and corruption thrive, it is very difficult, very confusing, for the citizenry to map effort to reward. People see their neighbors become rich without the attendant effort that would lead to such wealth. In such a society, the citizenry become confused and tend to attribute success to mysticism and fatalism. They become vulnerable to fake pastors and jujumen who promise them success, because these people don’t see a clear mapping from effort to success. The benefits of closing loopholes to stealing and bribery and corruption are just immense! And we should do all we can as a people to create an orderly society where such societal vices are reduced to a minimum.

Let me say this to self-development: it will be difficult for you to achieve your potential without a clear purpose for your life. You are going to face difficulties on your journey to leadership excellence. If you don’t have a clear, powerful, purpose, you may be forced to quit. In my view, a purpose that is focused on helping others is more powerful than one focused on yourself, and will enable you to withstand the headwinds you will face in life. Again, Christ gives us the greatest example of this. It was the joy set before Him in seeing His sacrifice bring salvation to many (including you and me) that enabled Him to endure the cross!

Hebrews 12: 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

If you focus only on yourself, it will be easy to give up – you will say, after all what am I looking for? Many who focus on themselves commit suicide when they feel the easier way out of problems is to give up and end it all. But when you focus on others, during periods of difficulty, you can throw your mind back to how your efforts will bring great benefits to them and that will help you to keep going.

Let me end with a story I read about a man who moved to New York after the Jewish Holocaust. He found a low-paying job and provided for the large family under his care. But, as it was in those days for the Jews who immigrated to the United States, and is still in these days for several African immigrants, this man was taunted, jeered at, ridiculed regularly. Most people would have called it quits under those circumstances. In fact, someone asked him why he kept coming to this job under such harsh conditions. He replied: “There are fifteen people in my family who depend on the paycheck I receive each week from this job. It is the money I receive that provides food and accommodation for those fifteen people and the smiles and joy on their faces when I am able to provide for them is what enables me to overcome the taunting from my coworkers. It is those fifteen people who keep me coming.”

To end, in this 21st century, let’s go back 21 centuries and learn to put into practice what our Master/Lord taught us. His words still ring true – it is not those who say Lord, Lord, but those who do the will of my Father. It is the will of the Father that we serve our people and help lift millions from abject poverty into PROSPERITY. We can do this, folks. We can do this!
I trust that you will take hold of this responsibility and lead your generation into prosperity so that where we failed, you will succeed! Thank you and God bless you!

Professor Charles Appeadu is Associate Professor of Finance at University of Cincinnati Carl H. Lindner College of Business.