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Opinions of Thursday, 21 July 2016

Columnist: Tryphena Lizzert Yeboah

The fault with African leaders

In 2012, serious questions were raised in Uganda when news that over US$12 million in donor funds had been embezzled from the office of the the country’s Prime Minister hit the headlines.

Another case where leadership has been questioned occurred in South Africa when President Jacob Zuma fought a legal battle over allegations of corruption resulting from his financial advisor’s conviction of fraud.

Over the years, especially in Africa, leadership, has somewhat been presented as a one-man task. Inasmuch as the one who wears the crown wields the most power, I believe one’s subordinates play an equally significant role in accomplishing an aim or leading a nation.

What will cause a follower to take a detour when his leader is headed straight on the path? And for what reason will a follower continue to thread the wrong path even after he is told to change his course and fall in place?

What must be done when the leader is wrong? If power ought to serve as a check on power, who makes the final decision?

No matter how strong willed a leader might be, he is never completely capable of handling a nation on his own.

To answer the question about followers deviating from the main goal, I know no team in which each player has a different vision but in the long run, is expected to achieve the group’s ultimate objective. While the leader may have well thought plans on the way forward and specific projects about development, this can only be achieved when his colleagues support him with their ideas, their encouragement and overall, their commitment towards accomplishing the particular task.

No matter how strong willed a leader might be, he is never completely capable of handling a nation on his own. John C. Maxwell supports this argument when he says “teamwork makes a dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.”

The subject of alliance is another controversial topic in matters of leadership. Inasmuch as a leader relies on the cooperation of his subordinates, one cannot ignore the friendship that is formed over the years of working together. This bond, if not carefully managed, can bring about serious challenges.

Psychology has proven that the problem with familiarity is not with how long a relationship lasts but rather, what team members are acclimatizing to. The challenge that develops from a close relationship between a leader and a follower is often, not caused by intimacy but by the turning away from each other. Thus, failing to corporate or follow the direction of the leader.

On the other hand, “an alliance with a powerful person is never safe”. This saying by Phaedrus affirms my belief that with the exception of cases where team players deviate from the agreed course and fail to comply with the leader’s instruction, there are other cases where the leader remains silent about the misdemeanor of a follower.

Here, the friendship that exists between the head and the body makes it difficult for the leader to reprimand his subordinates. Although some common traits of a leader are confidence and equitable, I must agree that in some situations, it becomes difficult to rebuke the very ones you laugh with; mostly because of the fear that the relationship might be tainted.

Despite the arguments raised in the earlier paragraphs, one cannot solely blame the followers for the failure of a project. Unlimited power corrupts the possessor and democracy clearly endorses the need for extra hands on deck through the separation of powers.

Having competent members of parliaments or executives or team players contributes immensely to the success of the group. However, just like every successful journey, there are sure to be hurdles along the way and this can be carefully managed, if not prevented, to ensure a smooth and progressive travel.

I believe that the quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves and therefore leaders must take charge and ensure that the right thing is being done. The value of friendship is relevant but in the case where an entire project or nation is at risk, firm decisions must be taken. Patriotism includes protests and not only service.

Subordinates must come to the hard realization that if they have been chosen to be a part of the leadership process, it is because they have been considered as more than capable to bring their expertise on board for the undertaking of ground-changing projects to affect the lives of everyone else involved.

A crown is not merely a hat that lets the rain in; it is a dedication to lead, with passion and integrity, the task placed in one’s hand. And any individual who has the honor to join the bearer of the crown at a table has the choice to either be a prickling thorn in the act of ruling or a shining jewel that helps to lead the way.

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