By Mahmud Tim Kargbo
A carnival of absurdity or misplacement of priorities Minus deliberately ignoring the facts (Auditors General Reports, Transparency International, United Nations Human Development Index, World Hunger Index etc.) to protect the interests of the selected few Equals Austerity.
To fix the economy: Government must declare National Debt; kick against IMF COVID-19 pandemic loans conditionalities, sincerely cut down government waste expenses; implement the Auditor General’s Recommendations in all Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies to recover monies from unexplained wealth from rogue public officials; Go for Recovery to save the Banks and restore International Partners confidence to sustain SLPP in governance.
Self-praises by government officials in the middle of an economic crisis; are you marking your exam papers on your own, or are you manifesting your normal insensitive acts to the plights of the suffering majority?
Today consultants and thought leaders in Sierra Leone race to find the holy grail of leadership. Research studies into Sierra Leone leadership from independence till date inform us of amazing new insights into the mysteries of leadership in Sierra Leone, but are leadership all that mysterious? Is there really some magic bullet that, once discovered, will openly turn mere mortals in Sierra Leone into towering giants of leadership? The answer is a resounding NO. We know all there is to know about leadership and what it takes to be a great leader. The issue is not in gaining new Presidential praise singers’ data that titillates the mind but in deliberately avoiding checks and balances in the presidential praising singing projects that wreck our economy and inflict the current untold suffering in the lives of the majority, but the key is to practice and apply what we know to be true from the heart.
What does this list of leadership competencies tell us about leadership? There are multiple ways to view these results from a Sierra Leone perspective. An extremely valuable inquiry is to ask, “what are the common areas of leadership that repeat in every study of effective leaders around the globe?” These are the core skills we need to focus on and strengthen in these worsening economic challenges, not a Presidential praise singing diary that failed to change the lives of the majority.
Effective leaders perform three essential tasks. They may be called different things by different authors, but the tasks are the same and show up in just about every leadership study. How the task is performed will vary depending on the leader’s style, the situation, and the people involved, but the tasks remain universal for all leaders.
Direction First, leaders point direction. A leader moves to an end purpose, and people who follow move with him or her. Without movement and change, leaders do not need leadership, for that is what leaders create. Leaders point the direction, and to gain followers, that direction must appeal to others (thus, it must be morally and ethically acceptable to them). This is becoming more of an issue in our country as two very different value systems emerge and collide. What is morally and ethically acceptable is now defined in the eyes of the beholder and less a universally agreed upon standard. As a result, we observe colleagues and elders who are unwilling to listen to others who espouse ethical standards or beliefs different from theirs. We watch our politicians spending State resources unwisely because they personally support causes, for religious or personal reasons, that are at odds with the consensus of the economy and their followers and who, therefore, demand the leader step down. This dichotomy of values will become more and more of an issue in the future. As society and followers fracture on what is ethically and morally acceptable, fewer and fewer leaders will have national appeal. Why is this important? Because there are many, who would make outstanding leaders who will never lead because people will not follow them. These people may become visionaries or prophets but not leaders because leaders cannot exist without followers. The important issue is that setting direction and its related ethical and moral underpinnings is essential to leadership.
Question To Ponder: A key question for aspiring leaders is, “does the leader shape the values and beliefs of the group or does the group shape the values and beliefs of the person, so he or she is accepted as a leader to them?” This is a moral dilemma President faces in Sierra Leone: does the leader say what the group wants to hear in order to curry favour and into a leadership position, or does the leader say what he or she believes in seeing if anyone follows?”
Growth: Not only do leaders lead the way, but they also grow things. In fact, they grow three things: themselves, their people and the government. When a leader grows himself and his selected few people within his government at the expense of the majority, he’s not a leader.
Note: Growth begins with an item mentioned in the direction “bucket”: the leader provides goals and objectives with loose guidelines and direction. This is the foundation out of which growth occurs. The leader seldom decrees the method, the “how”. The leader allows the majority of the people to grow through the struggle with how to achieve something. This is one of the problems with leadership today – all growth and development are structured and accomplished through leadership development programmes, project management training programmes, etc. and ad infinitum. Whatever happened to growth that allows the follower to struggle, experiment, learn by trial and error and ultimately grow by spending long hours talking to a leader? The leader builds a culture of growth by providing goals and objectives and by clearly communicating expectations (what success looks like). Then he or she gets out of the way while followers figure out the “how”. This is the soil out of which follower engagement, commitment and ownership spring. Growth is as common to all leaders as is setting pointing direction.
People & Culture: Finally, as the leader grows people and teaches behaviours consistent with that direction and values, he or she builds a culture: this is the way we behave. Culture is about people, and their behaviour and the leader cares about how followers act. It is not specific techniques that a leader teaches or even decisions he or she makes that make a difference over the long run; instead, it is the leader’s impact on the follower’s life. This is accomplished by building a culture that demonstrates how to practice consistently what the leader and followers honour, value, and belief in. This is where family begins, and family means relationships. The final common trait of the leader is that he or she impacts people over time, allowing the values taught to be lived out through others.
It’s Not A Mystery: Leadership is not rocket science. Three simple tasks are unbelievably difficult to live out consistently across multiple situations and with multiple unique followers. Sunni Giles writes, “While some (of the competencies) may not surprise you, they’re all difficult to master, partly because improving them requires acting against our nature.” I agree these simple tasks are difficult to master, but I do not think it is because they are against one’s nature. If they are, perhaps that person should never have been in leadership in the first place. Consistency is hard when one is tired, exhausted and even discouraged because he continues to fumble with progress by embezzling State funds and lying on oath. But consistency comes more easily when one practices what he or she believes to be true. That is the foundation of authenticity that naturally occurs when the leader’s high ethical and moral values are lived out through all the other leadership activities.
And after all, isn’t authenticity what followers are really seeking?