The histories of human societies, without any iota of doubt, have revealed that quality leadership is very fundamental in the task of nation building. Successive thinkers, right from the antiquity, have vehemently posited that there exists a nexus between leadership and the progress of any nation. While Plato maintained that the well-being of a state depends on the knowledge and character of its rulers, Aristotle, on the other hand, argued that the ability of the state to produce the good life for which it exists is made possible by the behaviours of its rulers. The Christian scripture is awash with references that indicate the place of sincere leadership in national prosperity. For instance, it maintains that “when the righteous are in power, the people rejoice, but when the wicked man rules, the people groan” (Prov. 29:2). It also remarks that “an undisciplined king will be the ruin of his people; a city owes its prosperity to the intelligence of its leading men” (Ecclesiasticus 10:2-3). Without doubt, there are cornucopia of evidences that indicate that while morality, sincerity, openness, accountability and virtue are being exiled from our political system. Injustice, corruption, violence, Self-settlement, self-aggrandizement, looting, grabbing and plundering and the philosophy of ‘myselfism’ and ‘myownism’, on the other hand, have taken the centre page of our socio-political space. It is against this backdrop that this article is structured in a way to account for the necessity of embracing leadership as a call.
Meaning of leadership
Leadership has been defined as the process of a person or group of persons to persuade others to act, by inspiring in them confidence in the rightness of ones’ purposes, courage in their collective execution and obedience in the threat of resistance. One thing that stands out in leadership is that it has to be positive for it to lead to a better society. This is largely because; it is the leadership that drives the society into a desirable or undesirable direction depending on the qualities of such leadership. According to John Maxwell, a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. For him, Leadership is not all about titles, positions, or flowcharts; rather it is about one’s life influencing another. Aptly put, it rightly implies that a leader should first and foremost be capable of leading by showing the way, conducting and directing the course of others by going before and along with them. In a pellucid manner, leadership entails the ability to take initiative, influence, direct and control people’s opinion towards achieving a desired goal of the common good. On the whole, leadership qualities do not come in spirits and fleshes but crystalize on one who cultivates it. In this sense, a leader should be able to imbue himself with those essential qualities of leadership which according to Anthony D’Souza include dynamism, commitment, objectivity, flexibility, empathy, sociability, approachability, integrity, sensitivity to people, initiative etc., in order to meet what his office owes the people.
Leadership in Nigeria and the need for mental reconstruction of what leadership entails
A cursory look at the political system of our society, especially our country Nigeria, would divulge that most of the problems that beset the society are squarely placed on leadership. In fact, Nigerian novelist, Prof. Chinua Achebe, in his famous book The Trouble with Nigeria, gave a candid assessment of the Nigeria situation and argues that the problem with Nigeria is nothing but the problem of leadership. He saw the emergence of quality leadership as the only antidote to the plethora of problems that bedevils our country. From this, it can be rightly said that our leaders have not taken into account that leadership is a call for service rather than an avenue to loot the national treasuries. As we can see that evidences of bad leadership in our society are reflected in our poor road network, epileptic power supply, perennial labour crisis in the health and education sectors, rising crime wave in our rural and urban centers and the worst of all, corruption of different sorts which has held back the progress of our society, Nigeria in particular. Hence, we can posit that our society has suffered massively in the hands of leaders whose thirst for powers could be termed barbaric. It has become obvious that People ascend leadership position for their personal glorification and egoistic reasons, thereby seeing leadership position as an avenue for siphoning public wealth and fastest means of making money. Without mincing words, it has become a traditionalized business center where both learned and unlearned, scholars and illiterates, human beings and monsters, good people and criminals venture and become practitioners of Machiavellian morality of “the end justifies the means” and philosophy of “the winner takes it all”. From this, we can say that people has abysmally failed to realize the nitty-gritty of leadership is. Leadership essentially connotes service. It is a call to serve people and not an avenue to make one a demigod or lord over others or even Leviathan. One of the problems that bedevils us today is the inability of our leaders to understand this very fact. On this note, John R. Mott opines that leadership has to be modeled after the teaching of Christ who says “He who would be the greater among you shall be the servant of all”. Leadership in the sense is conceived as rendering the maximum of service. To buttress this point, the words of George Bush becomes relevant to note when he says “power should be used to help people, for we are given power not to advance our own purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name; there is but just one use of power, and that is to serve people”. In fact, if leadership is understood in terms of selfless service; there would be no room for prebendalism, patrimonial, nepotism, lordship, accumulation of public fund to mention but a few. It is also pertinent to adduce here that if leadership is understood in terms of selfless service, and not as that which is meant for every Tom, Dick and Harry, then, before one ascribes to such position, one will in a sincere manner, confront the following questions: what do I really want this particular position for? Do I have the means to achieve this? Am I psychologically, mentally and physically disposed to assume this position? If upon consideration, he or she discovers deficiency in these credentials, the honourable decision he or she would take is to quit.
One truth that we cannot shy away from is that if leadership is viewed from the perspective of a call to serve and responsibility that is required from the occupier of any position, only few individual will indicate interest to lead. Furthermore, for leaders to fulfill what is required of them, they must have sensitivity and empathy as their driving force. It is worthy to mention here that without this very driving force, leadership cannot be responsible and responsive. Additionally, it is an open secret that any leadership built on privilege cannot produce anything beyond porridge of corruption. On the contrary, for leadership to be positive, it must be hinged on sustained and sincere effort to earn trust, and this trust can only be earned by serving society in a manner that transcends personal interest; this is the meaning of embracing leadership as call. We cannot also forget the fact that the leaders’ task is to help societies understand the problems that all must face, to aid in the setting of goals and priorities, to work with others in finding paths to those goals chosen, maintaining public morality, and motivation and nurturing a workable level of public unity. But one outstanding fact that remains is that these tasks can only be achieved if and only if the leader allows that public interest to take preeminent far and above his egoistic interest. Put differently, it is only a leader that sees leadership position as an opportunity to serve people can achieve these tasks.
From the above exposition, we can see that no nation or society grew and enjoyed steady development in virtually all spheres of its nation’s life without experiencing good and selfless leadership. Leadership has to be embraced as call to serve the people, and if this mentality is taken into consideration, majority of the problems that beset the human society will be eradicated. If leadership is to be conceived as an avenue to render service, then our leaders who are players on the field of our endowed fatherland will not continue to assault our sensibilities by their uncontrollable and insatiable appetite for looting and stealing. Hence, we all are invited to seriously take the words of Robert Keating who says “Leadership is service in the sense that it seeks to meet the needs of another or of the group by performing needed functions”.
About the Author
Kingsley Chukwuebuka Ogbete is a final year philosophy Student of the University of Ibadan.
Contact details: phone number: 07062835021 (+2347062835021), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.