When Leaders Fail

Fowls will not spare a cockroach that falls in their midst.” – Akan proverb


Society is most scandalised when its leaders fail. History has taught us that more and many individuals have lost hope in systems and given up trust in humanity because of the misconduct of their leaders. Societies thrive on leadership. Without it there will be anarchy, characterised by chaotic situations wherein people will do whatever they want without considering the detrimental effect of their actions on the wider society. We need leadership for the proper functioning of society. It is society’s oxygen. Thus, it is disheartening when people we trust with the mandate are unwilling or unable to lead. They demoralise individuals and disintegrate systems and programmes, thereby impoverishing lives.


Leadership represents the ideals of an organisation, community or society. It epitomises freedom, justice, ethics, discipline, peace and excellence. Thus, a failure to lead dampens the spirits and depresses hope. When leaders are exposed for their hypocrisy, or are tainted with misappropriation of funds or labelled with moral misdemeanours, the impression created is that there is nothing else left to prove that the ideal is not possible and that the doable is only talk. It follows logically that people will be discouraged. And why not? Their leaders are unwilling to invest in them, and/or are unable to lead as envisioned. It is like telling people to do whatever they want.


That is not what we desire, which is why we hold leaders to higher standards than the average person. Sadly, and too often, instead of helping leaders to lead we find sympathisers making excuses for failed leadership. They plead for tolerance and time to allow for self-correction and learning. Though it is always important that we have such empathy in society, the other side of the coin is that such sympathisers do not understand leadership is more than just strategising and inspiring societies by heightening the emotions of people.

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Fundamentally, leadership is about showing the world that “what we say is doable”. Leadership is “walking the talk”. Anything else is merely a con. And in all honesty, that is what con-men do: they talk without walking it. Thus, if we give people authority to walk their talk and they fail, what can we compare them to?


In a world trapped in globalisation, people can no longer tolerate hypocrisy and incompetence from leadership. The Internet keeps exposing us to the quality of life others are enjoying, thus inspiring aspirations that were unheard of previously. The average person no longer desires the average; s/he wants that which is the best out there. This renewed ambition means they do not easily forgive leaders for their failings and mishaps. Leadership should deliver or not tolerated.

History is littered with consequences of failed leadership. These were individuals and groups who were handed formal authority and positions, but failed to provide true and proper command, inspiration and strategic vision for their people. And in all of such cases, their failures scandalised their people – from disillusioned societies to economies that shrank to uprisings which took lives.


When leaders fail, we have a duty to help them. We are to present the realities of their followers to them – not sugar-coat them. The negativities of failed leadership are disheartening and best left for time to heal. That is why we can no longer allow our leaders to fail. We all have a duty to ensure those we give power to actually deliver. We need to help them build credibility; but more importantly, we all need to do our duty, too. We need to work on our integrity so that they think through their thoughts before they approach us. We have to improve our work ethics and our sense of responsibility wherever we find ourselves. We are to become examples for them, so that they will have no other way but to work harder at themselves.

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In our everyday interactions, we must demand higher standards from those in authority – especially when they are our relatives and friends. We should never forget that when they are disgraced, we will be partly blamed. They will point fingers at us for contributing to their downfall. We must help them to become people of irreproachable character, so that when they are praised we, too, will have a sense of pride. We must teach them that wisdom is not in any one person’s head, and so they must be humble enough to admit their weakness and engage those who can do that which they cannot do. Great leaders are the ones who recognise their limitations and work with those with such strengths.


The truth is that leaders are like parents who want their children to have a good life. Interestingly, the challenges of parenting are the same in leadership. What they desire may not come to pass. And so, we have to help them to understand that instead of trying to push challenges under the carpet, they must face them and use them as maturing steps to reach out to their followers to come on-board and help build the organisation and/or society.



Kodwo Brumpon inspires individuals and groups to aspire to think that which is true, positively respond to that which is beautiful, and nudges them to let goodness govern their actions. Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at kodwobrumpon@gmail.com

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