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Opinions of Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Columnist: Yanick Noah Agboado

Nomination of Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang as vice-presidential candidate: A leadership perspective

In recent days, our media spaces have been awash with the news following the selection of Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang as the National Democratic Congress’ (NDC) running mate for the December 7th general election. If the Party is voted to power, she becomes the first female vice-president of the republic and an automatic President in the absence of the substantive President.

As a student of leadership, observing the developments surrounding her nomination in recent days struck my attention and I wish to bring some leadership perspectives to the on-going discussion.

I wish to first of all state that I am not a political writer or writing for any political institution. I am however, a student of Leadership and my aim for writing this article is not to project any candidate but to throw light on some leadership perspectives with regard to her nomination and to contribute to the knowledge of my readers.

Following the nomination of the professor who hitherto served as a Minister for Education between the periods of 2013 to 2017, the news was received with mixed feelings with different school of thoughts emerging. Her nomination took many people both within and outside her political party unaware since she was not among the forerunners.

One school of thought welcomed the news and said she is a good-match for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) flag-bearer touting her credentials and personal traits as solid to secure victory for the NDC in the upcoming general elections. Some feminist groups also added that her nomination has broken the glass-ceiling and barrier to women involvement in Ghanaian politics since the NDC is a major-minority political party that has the possibility of winning political power from the incumbent, New Patriotic Party (NPP).

The other school of thought is of the view that the current political space is dominated by males and requires strong men to strive and survive the terrain. They argue that never in the history of Ghanaian politics has a woman risen to such a high office of vice-president and that she does not have the credentials especially the qualification as an economist or a lawyer and the personality to become a vice-president and potential President of the country.

In Ghana, the vice-president is the second-highest executive official. The vice-president together with the president, is directly elected by the people through popular vote to serve a four-year term of office. The vice-president is the first person in the presidential line of succession, and would ascend to the presidency upon the death, resignation, or removal of the President from office.

The duties of the vice-president include; presiding of various meetings in the absence of the President, acting as President when the substantive President is out of the country. He also chairs the Economic Management Team, the National Security Council, the Armed Forces Council, the Police Service Council and the Prisons Service Council among others.

Effective performance of these duties require the possession of certain leadership skills and styles by the vice-president to enable him or her to work in harmony with experts of various government and private institutions and other external bodies in order to aid in the promotion of the interest of the country at any given time and improvement in the living conditions of the citizenry in general.

However, in recent days, there had been misconception of who fit and who does not fit to occupy the position of a vice-president of the country with commentators focusing on credentials and personality traits of a potential candidate. I think the focus has only been narrowed to an aspect of leadership theory or perspective. Specifically, the personality theory which comprise the great-man and trait leadership theories. Researches have proven that leadership theories have evolved over the years hence little evidence exists to show that people born with certain special or supernatural features and abilities could be great leaders.

The phenomenon of leadership has assumed considerable importance. The key question “what makes an effective leader?” continues to attract the attention of researchers.

The purpose of this article is to shift the discussion from personality theory or perspective (great-man and trait theory) to examine other leadership theories that complement the aforementioned since a focus on one aspect of several leadership theories to evaluate the effectiveness of a leader, in this case a potential vice-president may be misleading and will not put the discussion in perspective.

Defining a leader and the qualities that demonstrate effective leadership have evolved over the past centuries. Understanding the ideals of leadership that help identify great leaders requires a re-examination of the historical evolution of leadership theories. Some dominant leadership theories have been described below:

1. Great-Man Theory – this theory asserts that leaders are born and that only those men who are endowed with heroic, physical traits and personality characteristics which distinguished them from non-leaders could ever become the leader. The proponents of this theory opined that effective or great leaders were born and not made.

2. Trait Theory – this theory ignored the assumptions by the great-man theory about whether leadership traits were hereditary or acquired. Proponents of this theory identified two traits. Thus, the emergent traits which are heavily dependent upon heredity such as height, intelligence, attractiveness, and self-confidence and effectiveness which are often based on experience or learning. The other is charisma which is a fundamental component of leadership. Max Weber termed charisma as “the greatest revolutionary force, capable of producing a completely new orientation through followers and complete personal devotion to leaders they perceived as endowed with almost magical supernatural, superhuman qualities and powers”.

3. Contingency Theory/ Situational Theory – the theory suggests that no leadership style or theory is precise or stand-alone. Theorists opined that the style or theory used is dependent on factors such as the quality, situation of the followers or a number of other factors. According to the theory, there is no single right way to lead because the internal and external dimensions of the environment require leaders to adapt to that particular situation and transform their leadership style between task-oriented and relationship-oriented.

4. Style and Behavior Theory – this theory recognizes the importance of certain necessary leadership skills that serve as enabler for a leader to perform effectively. It also suggest that each individual has a distinct style of leadership with which he or she feels most contented. Thus, a style that does not fit all heads, similarly one style cannot be effective in all situations. There are three common leadership styles. Thus the Democratic leadership, Autocratic leadership and Laissez-faire leadership style. The follower or employees serving with democratic leaders display high degree of satisfaction, creativity, and motivation; working with great enthusiasm and energy irrespective of the presence or absence of the leader; maintaining better connections with the leader in terms of productivity while, autocratic leaders mainly focus on greater quantity of output. Laissez – faire leadership is only considered relevant while leading a team of highly skilled and motivated people with excellent track-record. Other researchers identified two additional leadership styles focusing on the effectiveness of leadership. These are “consideration” which is referred to the amount of confidence and rapport a leader stimulates in his subordinates. Whereas, “initiating structure” on the other hand, reflects the extent to which the leader structures, directs and defines his or her own and the subordinates’ roles as they both have complementary role toward organizational performance, profit and fulfillment of the mission.

5. Process Leadership Theory – this theory and others that have emerged suggest that the work of leaders is to contribute to the well-being of others with a focus on some form of social responsibility. This theory opined that leadership theories have moved from birth traits and rights to acquired traits and styles, to situational and relationship types of leadership, to the function of groups and group processes, to the interaction of group members with an emphasis on personal and organizational function of groups and group processes and currently, to the interaction of the group members with an emphasis on personal and organizational moral improvements.

6. Transactional Theory – the theory of transactional leadership suggests that the specific perspective of the leader, leadership context and the follower have moved toward practices that concentrated further on the exchanges between the followers and leaders. The transactional leadership is described as that in which leader-follower associations are grounded upon a series of agreements between followers and leaders. The theory is based on reciprocity where leaders not only influence followers but are under their influence as well.

7. Transformational Theory - this theory distinguishes itself from the rest of the previous and contemporary theories. This is based on its alignment to a greater good as it entails involvement of the followers in processes or activities related to personal factor towards the organization and a course that will yield certain superior social dividend. The transformational leaders raise the motivation and morality of both the follower and the leader. The theory suggests that the transformational leaders engage in interactions with their followers base on common values, beliefs and goals. This impacts the performance which will subsequently lead to the attainment of goal. The transformational leaders are considered by their capability to identify the need for change, gain the agreement and commitment of others, create a vision that guides change and drive the change. These type of leaders treat subordinates individually and pursue to develop their consciousness, morals and skills by providing significance to their work and challenge. They produce an appearance of convincing and encourage vision of the future. They are visionary leaders who seeks to appeal to their followers, nurture and move them toward higher and more universal needs and purposes.

In conclusion, the effectiveness of a potential vice-president or a leader cannot solely be examined through the lens of a great-man or trait theories of leadership but through a holistic evaluation of other leadership theories and perspectives.

To succeed as a vice-president, the nominee requires the combination of these theories and the ability to navigate through them and apply them in a situation as and when necessary. To function effectively, requires the proper combination of approaches and the styles of leadership that the vice-president brings on board to relate and rally the experts or technocrats in the Economic Management Team, the National Security Council, the Police Service Council, the Armed Forces Council, the Prison Service Council and other government Institutions and the Private Sector Organizations in order to promote the best interest of the country and subsequently improve the socio-economic livelihoods of the Ghanaian citizenry.