We’ve come thus far, as a people and a country. Obviously, a leader’s comforting phrase. The bigger question is; what did we come with and what do we have to show! Anytime I think about our country, Ghana, I prefer looking forward. Great men and women have come and gone, but our country is still here. Leadership is not only about taking the steps for others to follow. It is also about making your space a better place than you found it. I like to celebrate Leaders.
In fact, I admire every leader from a Grade one class rep to a corporate CEO and from an Entrepreneur taking that bold walk to make things happen to the President of a country who promise better life to his people. I like those who talk less and do more. Nevertheless, I go gaga for the ones who say more and do more! Because leadership is, also about painting that captivating vision which followers have no option than to follow.
Leadership is not supposed to be boring. It is exhilarating. Even in its frustrating times, leaders steal moments to smile over the anxieties of Leadership. Leadership is a beautiful mixture of the Leader, the Follower and the Situation as always been shared and heard. It takes a leader to create followers to fix situations. In my experience, I learned one thing. When the commander stands, the team shall rise.
There are constant social issues, history of conflict of interest cases, financial misappropriation matters and scandals from public to private institutions and from churches to traditional politics; and everything keeps pointing to the fact that Ghana, as a country, and Ghanaians in general do not respect Ghanaians. Respecting people starts with respecting time. We take people for a ride.
I have been part of not less than 50 programmes and seminars where politicians and key figures turn up for events sometimes an hour-plus late and shamelessly fail to even apologise to audiences. The time has come for us to shelve phrases like better late than never and rephrase them as Better Never Late (Ahenkorah 2017). We have misplaced the concept of Time Management as a people and we careless about our actions.
A friend visited from the U.K, he kept singing, and dancing aloud every time he went out bawling, Ghana is the best place on earth! Ghana is the best place on earth! In the company of other friends, we were happy anytime he was, until he had a near-death malaria and he had an experience of Ghana’s ‘killing’ customer service and a well-packaged healthcare delivery at a local hospital. He left and he has not been back since 2013.
We live in filth, corrupt systems, pull-him-down-society with wish-you-dead people. So where is leadership? Our educational system is the real definition of the word ‘change’. Oh! How about security and our death paths, we call roads? Every serious country will deliberately and passionately develop SHEE policies to transform people and society.
Security, Health, Education and Economy are strategic imperatives that should be calibrated consistently to keep countries going. Even in institutions and offices, if leadership provides security at work, pay attention to employee well-being and consider their health needs as paramount, constantly developing employees and remunerating them right, the whole institution becomes appealing for transformational growth.
As a country, we need to do the right things and also do things right. I propose value-based leadership for Ghana. I mean authentic leadership. I have seen brilliant leaders and executives who excel in their fields. I struggle to see brilliant executives, public figures and role models with good values. The time has come for us to measure values as part of leader successes.
21st century leaders must be brave and courageous to instill discipline and push for what is right. I’m not preaching courage, because it is not enough. Knowledge is crucial. Strength is in the minds not in the arms (Ahenkorah 2019). Wisdom opens the eyes of leaders to see tomorrow before it arrives. Leadership is about sacrificing for tomorrow.
Honestly, it’s about painting a paradise you may not enjoy. In our part of the world, because leaders would always want to enjoy the paradise they intend to create of which they may not be ‘alive’ to see, they always find a way to eat their eggs before they are hatched.
Leaders who fail to prepare for the next generation degenerate the next leaders. Leaders should perform, transform and inform. They should not deform, always conform, freeform and misinform. Good countries and institutions prepare the future for the next generation to take off.
The next generation do not owe current leaders a dime for the creation of a better future tomorrow. To the point, leaders should see their very existence as an opportunity to create a future of good legacy with relevance for the next generation (Maxwell 2013).
So let me come home to Ghana. We see ourselves discussing our motherland and we ask many questions but I hardly hear relevant answers. From universities to corporate institutions and from churches to bars, we yell that we want a better Ghana. Leaders come leaders go since 1957. A 63-year-old country should not be focusing entirely on political leadership to fix its woes.
Of course, politics holds the centre for strategic national development. Nonetheless, if the people are positively disruptive, policies shall be introduced to shape the future. The nation needs thinkers and doers than talkers and looters! Growing up back in the days, GBC (Ghana Broadcasting Corporation) had a programme ‘Talking Point’. As a boy, the question I kept asking was; after talking, what’s next?
The typical Ghanaian sees Leadership as a position and not a process. This is why leaders in our part of the world would crave for power like vampires hankering for blood under the moonlight. To the point, the typical Ghanaian want power and not the job.
I remember years ago, I visited my village and I saw a man been carried on the shoulders of celebrants singing and dancing ‘jama’ songs jumping with pumps, whistles and vuvuzelas. I stopped and I asked some few questions to be abreast of events, and to my admiration, the man had been appointed as the MCE of the municipality. I came out of my car to wish him well.
Driving back home, I felt a bit topsy-turvy in my mind. My question: If you are appointed a Municipal Chief Executive in the area where I come from, you should be thinking if not worried. But hey! We dance and sing and plan a month long celebrations to usher ourselves into the role instead of putting strategic plans together and scheduling its execution. We need a mind-shift to create new mindsets as a people.
Oh! I almost forgot one thing that is senseless to me right now. How did we get here as a people, anyway? I mean ‘funny’ people clothed in gowns with interesting names and titles calling themselves prophets, doctors and some, ritualists etc. Be discerning!
In fact, the youth have come to understand that the leaders don’t have a clue of where the world is going. The world is going digital. Demographics and the youth thinking patterns are changing too. Digital natives want convenience and they want to start something on their own. Are we building ‘leaderpreneurs’ as a country? Are we ready to shape the future for the next generation? We need to wake up!
If leadership involves the actions that focus resources to create desirable opportunities, then we have lost it as a people. However, if we still believe that leadership involves the process of influencing an organized group to accomplish set goals then I will say that many leaders are just stooges. If we also say that leadership is about fixing problems, then I don’t know where we are as a people.
Probably, as a country we need to admit that we need more; and just to chip in, we need credible leaders and not rickety ones. If we define our journey well enough, we have to build a leadership pool. There should be deliberate strategies to grow authentic leaders. If we fail in this area the country will struggle.
Governments, institutions and people should yearn to lead with good motives. Of course, there is no guarantee for leader success if you do everything right but there is guarantee for leader failure if you do everything wrong. There is no recipe for effective leadership but at least if we are aware of where we stand we shall be better placed to assess our gaps.
I have witnessed situations where followers follow out of curiosity and not because they believe in the final leadership destination. I have experienced workplaces where followers are leading leaders. Sad! Leadership is a skill. Leaders need to develop both emotional and rational skills because leadership is fundamentally art and science and the 21st century leader must be intelligent to remain adaptable and agile to withstand the ever-changing transformative forces.
I once had an opportunity to facilitate a knowledge sharing session at Aburi in the Eastern Region of Ghana. 70 percent of participants were fed up with leadership in their corporate institutions. 82 percent felt their leaders were just warming their seats and 75 percent said that their output would have been better without their Line Managers (this is sad). 82 percent of the participants would want to work with their Line Managers as partners (and not as a boss-subordinate or master-slave relationship). 76 percent did not trust their Line Managers. Interesting, isn’t it?
As I went through the team’s feedback sheet, I gathered their views. I asked the team why 76 percent do not trust their Line Managers and yet would want to work with them as partners.
As a country, we need leaders who are willing and ready to sacrifice. We need leaders who can be trusted. Collin Powell subtly jabs that Leadership is all about trust. When followers trust a Leader and the Leader have same for the followers, Leadership becomes transparent and leaders obtain all the support to win.
A nation with people who are not willing to sacrifice for anything or for anybody is a society without hope. It has also been argued that when institutions fail to reward performance, everything tarries including hope. A society that rewards mediocrity, will always glorify averageness. I’m not too good with history.
I can only ask that Ghana as a country would look forward with pride, optimism, courage and the willingness to create a dreamland for the next generation. I won’t be talking about the leadership style of Kwame Nkrumah, Joseph Ankrah, Lt. Gen. Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, Kofi Abrefa Busia, Edward Akufo-Addo, Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, Flt Lt. (rtd) Jerry John Rawlings, Hilla Limann, John Agyekum Kufuor, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, John Mahama or Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
I prefer to look forward with optimism than to look back glorifying the past. As a country, we need to focus on the future because that is what we can change. We need to focus on values, respect, ethics and leadership designed to change situations for the good of humankind. Norman Schwarzkorpf described leadership as a potent combination of strategy and character and he said if he has to settle for one, he will choose the latter. Let’s develop the right character for the future.
There are excellent examples of sleeping leaders in many public and private institutions. It’s time to wake them up to smell the coffee. Leadership is a service. Oh yes, it is! We’ve come a long way and we still have a long way to go.
We’ve really come thus far as a people, but what did we come with? My question!
>>>The writer is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana and an Honorary Fellow at the Chartered Institute of Credit Management, Ghana. He participated in the 2018 Harvard Business School’s Global Executive Programme on Driving Corporate Performance in Boston Massachusetts, USA. Richard holds an MBA from the Australian Institute of Business in Australia, MA in Communications Studies from Leeds University in UK, PGDM from CIM- UK, PGDBA from KNUST in Ghana, B.A in Art also from KNUST Ghana and a Diploma in Advertising & Public Relations from the British College of Professional Management-UK. Richard has a knack for change, Leadership, People Development and developing workplace structures.