Nigerians are good at picking bad leaders because we focus on all the wrong things, like a candidate’s contrived narrative – lack of shoes, charm, exaggerated meekness, superfluous religiosity, their stellar pedigree or their deep pockets. None of these has any bearing on a candidate’s leadership potential. Attributes of good leaders transcends politics, it applies to leadership in general. Contrary to what is often bandied about, a candidate’s good past results does not guaranteed future good results. This is because new roles often come with new challenges. In Nigeria, a leader in a new position, faces new obstacles, deals with a unimaginable ethnology-religious pressure, competing and sabotaging domestic and foreign interests, endemic corruption and staggering mediocrity. Regardless of the challenges we face as a nation, we expect our leader(s) to manage our diversity, monstrosity and challenges with a clear road map. Is there a road map for Nigeria?
What qualifies a leader! Before we get it all wrong again in 2015 as we have always done, what qualities should you focus on before handing out your vote? There are seven fundamental leadership qualities that a leader MUST have to be effective. If any one of these qualities is missing; sooner or later, the newly elected leader will fail – spectacularly. It is worse if more than one of the attributes is missing. At the end of this article, you will be able to judge for yourself, why we are in a hole with the kind of people we have elevated into positions of authority in this country.
It all starts with integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and moral uprightness. Is Nigeria as you know it on sinking sand or solid rock as far as integrity goes? A house built on quicksand cannot stand. Integrity is the foundation for effective leadership. Integrity is an amalgam of consistency, honesty and ethical behaviour. No leader can succeed once his followers are able to establish he has no integrity. When a leader’s integrity is in doubt, it is very hard for the leader to regain the trust of his people. No Commander-in-chief can rally the troops without integrity. The low Integrity Quotient in Nigeria plays itself out in the various state houses across the nation and in Aso Rock. The President, the ranks of state governors, head of ministries and agencies are populated by people of questionable integrity. How exactly can one describe a President whose favourite people and list of friends includes alleged murderers, gun runners, drug barons, oil thieves and terrorists? A president who has refused to declare his assets; a man under whose authority $20billion went missing without a whimper.
What would have happened if Mr. Jonathan had flown to Chibok to address distraught parents after the girls abduction? What would have happened if electoral calculations were discarded in favour of decisive action by bringing federal might to bear on the abductors? This make-or-mar quality, is what a leader must have in surplus. Courage is the strength needed to make difficult decisions when facing conflict, pain, grief and adversity. Courage derives from a leader’s core values and commitment to a vision. Nigeria has a general lack of courageous men and women. What it has, are men of greed and men without vision. What it has in surplus are leaders who are galvanized by the ethos of money and power and nothing else. Oil theft is crippling Nigeria’s economy, but the President has no courage to confront his powerful friends who steal crude oil in barges. We have in authority those who lack the courage to take the bold painful steps to greatness that we need.
Almost everyone who has had the opportunity to lead Nigeria had been there accidentally. A leader must want to lead. A leader must have a compelling vision of why he wants to lead and where he wants to lead his people. This country has been making the same mistakes and repeating the same unworkable solutions. A leader must be able to persuade his people to do something new, chart a new course and change direction. Visionary leaders inspire their people to imagine a better future and motivates them to work hard towards a life of opportunities. We have had many vision documents like Vision 2020. The documents delineating the vision spent their lives as wraps in the kiosks of peanuts and popcorn sellers across Nigeria. These documents were no more than wholesale copies from other countries without any significant local understanding or buy in from Nigerians. Beyond the technocrats who got large estacodes from the many visits to study the implementation abroad, not much else was achieved.
Good judgement means making well-informed, wise decisions with an eye on desired outcomes. When a leader makes consistently good judgment calls, little else matters. In the same vein, nothing else will matter if he exercises poor judgment when it matters most. Boko Haram is a cancer today because it wasn’t exercised and cut off early. Good vision requires good judgement. Can a leader confront our national complexities and face new challenge and still be able to prioritize and quickly zero in on the most important issues of the day? A leader must quick witted and be able to focus while recognizing the possible unintended consequences of her decisions.
Without emotional intelligence, a leader is often pedantic, self-conceited and self-opinionated. Empathy is about feeling for others while emotional intelligence focuses on self and understanding of self and how it affects others. This internal focus helps an emotionally intelligent leader to take a hard, honest look at himself with a view to understanding his strengths, weaknesses and blind spots. A good leader with sound emotional intelligence puts personal pride aside and actively seeks the input of experts around him and incorporates their best ideas into the overall action plan. Lack of emotional intelligence was President Obasanjo’s albatross. Without it, he became overtaken with hubris. He began to overestimate his own ability, started getting drunk on power and he began biting more than he can chew in addition to alienating others. Diminishing emotional intelligence is the bane of previously successful leaders moving unto higher responsibilities and new roles.
In 2015 and beyond, Nigerians must move away from inducement and false predictors of success. Regardless of position, location and situation, the hallmarks of good leaders are – integrity, courage, empathy, passion, vision, judgment and emotional intelligence. It is about time we move away from corn eating politicians whose claim to any form of connection are token gestures and photo opportunities with the poor with no real emotional investment in their well-being. Good people, shine your eyes, you all know where the shoeless narrative you bought got you.
Bamidele Ademola-Olateju via Tweeter: @olufunmilayo