Two notions of leadership come to mind as I reflect on the letter ‘J’ in my leadership alphabet. Some pursue leadership as a competition to the top of a social ladder. Leaders who employ this technique ruthlessly trample on others in total disregard as long as it offers an advantage in the race to the top.
On May 27, 2017, I was among thousands of British Airways passengers at London Heathrow airport whose flights were canceled due to system failures. Travelers looked relaxed as airport and British Airways officials managed the situation in the first couple of hours.
Crisis and scarcity of leaders abound as one scandal after another scar young talented individuals away from their ambitions to contribute in significant ways to society. The rise of ‘popularism’ is feeding the gullible with false hopes and eroding public trust in leadership.
Trustworthy and nontrustworthy leaders are magnified reflections of who they are in their private lives. Some leaders like to brag about their families, children and areas of life that colleagues often know little about.
It was January 1997 in Osijek in Croatia. I had left Accra (Ghana) as the Regional Director of Youth for Christ and Senior Pastor to study and serve in Croatia. The ceasefire agreement of the war between Croats and Serbs had taken effect, but the area remained volatile. It was cold and snowy.
Leadership often begins with a manageable portfolio and resources along with laudable traits that need no significant adjustment to flourish over time. Thriving leaders birth growth; growth comes with size, and size has a tendency to come along with the gift of anxiety.
Leadership must not be confused with a job title or wealth. ‘I manage a multimillion dollar budget!’ ‘I am the head of a big company with a large number of employees.’ These may be true, but are they the result of real leadership or merely a promotion?
Success or failure of any enterprise rests on who is at the top. Leaders lead, make decisions and know that decisions have consequences. Leadership should not be reduced to a self-serving enterprise and neither should one be an obsessive people pleaser.
Africa is perhaps the richest with natural resources yet the poorest of all continents. The evidence its great potentials is found in the likes of Kofi Anang, Nelson Mandela, the doctors, professors, nurses, bankers, entrepreneurs or athletes we find in Western countries.
Our farmers work hard but yield less. Our fathers have several wives and give us many siblings for good companionship but to fend for ourselves. Our mothers do not give up on us. Our uncles are mentors, surrogate dads, and disciplinarians.