IN THE CORRIDOR OF POWER
LESSONS OF HUMILITY: WHY LEADERS FAIL
Governance is regarded as one of the hardest of tasks. It involves the harnessing of resources, particularly human resources that is regarded as the most difficult aspect of management. In the corridor of power in both the public or private sectors, you will come across the proud. Conversely, you will encounter the humble. You will meet liars; and contrariwise, you will see the honest human being doing the work according to stipulated requirements, to the best of his or her ability. You will meet with sycophants, whose stock in trade is to manipulate the system to their advantage. You will meet the truthful human being, who is every so often unconcerned about the intrigues woven in the system to devour, but forges ahead with good conscience. Very noticeable are influence peddlers who are in the system to scheme and take advantage of situations, without due regard for the overall good of all. All abound in all segments of the society; even in places of worship.
It is to be noted that the theoretical aspect of conducting government and private business at all levels is enormously different from practical; hence the best cynic or critic might not be a good manager, or good corporate governor. A former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano once noted that ‘’Several people suddenly change their attitudes, while their human relations dip considerably upon attaining top leadership positions, and positions of influence. ‘’Such leaders do not readily admit that they have weaknesses and are infallible. ‘’Weaknesses of such leaders include arrogance and distancing themselves from their subordinates that they are supposed to lead by example, operating the autocratic style, that also breeds hypocrisy, sycophancy, and complacency, as a result of the ‘’know it all attitude, employment of wrong tactics in managing human resources, looking down on other people, and lack of emotional intelligence.’’ Chissano, a Year 2007 winner of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s inaugural $5 million Prize for Achievement in African Leadership ostensibly spoke from experience. I am also in a position to speak from experience having acquired some experiences in governance.
Leadership is an asset and an endowment that is freely given; but has to be developed to the best of the ability of the official concerned, in accordance with nature and nurture. Power could be intoxicating to the leader/head. From the foregoing, it could be deduced that the responsibility thrust on those engaged in this activity is enormous and is undoubtedly loaded with a considerable measure of high expectations. The responsibility of the government, or people engaged in corporate governance engaged to hold itself accountable to the public and their rights to know how they are governed in a democracy, have combined, to make transparency and accountability the key watchwords of the government and the governed, all over the world. Whoever goes into the arena unprepared would require a magic wand to succeed.
VIRTUES OF LEADERS
Literature is replete with postulations about leadership. Leadership failure, according to Forbes, an American business magazine edition of March 1, 2015, could be prompted by some very pertinent lapses. These include ‘’lack of intelligence, inability to accept responsibility and motivate the people, deficiency of trustworthiness, and decision making.’’ Other factors are ‘’lack of self-confidence, inability to be assertive and inflexibility’’ FORBES continues: ‘’Therefore, leaders must lead in the overall interest of the society. ‘’True leaders reprimand their people from a place of love and a genuine desire to help them improve. ‘’They reprimand without anger, and they relay feedback in a direct, yet kind and respectful way. Even when they see a bad behavior needing to be corrected, they don’t view the person doing the behavior as a bad person. They listen and attempt to understand what led to that person making the mistake or exhibiting the bad behavior in order to understand the underlying cause that needs correcting. True leaders understand that when a person feels valued and cared for by the leader, they will be far more willing to take the feedback and implement the needed changes. ‘’They understand that no value comes from the use of mockery, beating around the bush, or sugar coating things that need to be communicated. They understand that using those things breaks people’s trust and leaves them feeling uncertain or belittled, which ultimately lead to harbouring bad feelings toward their leader, none of which inspire a desire to change or improve their own behaviour. In several instances, one runs into leaders with ego problems occasioned by certain influences including occupation of positions of influence, feelings of pride, value and accomplishments. Professor Warren Benise, a notable thinker in the subject matter tried to differentiate leaders from managers thus: “leaders are people who do the right things, while managers are people who do things right.’’
THE COST OF ARROGANCE
It is to be noted that as much as human beings may abhor crises, the reality is that it is impossible to cohabit without crises. Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, in his Daily Devotional: ‘Open Heavens’ asserts that ‘’James 4:6 in the Holy Bible speaks of something quite frightening; it says: God resists the proud which confirms that God is always contending with the proud.’’ The Book of Proverbs records the Lord as warning that: ‘’Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. ‘’Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.’’ Pastor Adeboye notes that: ‘’A proud person can be identified from his/her looks, carriage, dressing, speech, behaviour, giving, prayer, Christian service, work, attitude etc. Unfortunately, it is the same reason that makes the proud person haughty, is the same reason that will make him/her fall. ‘’Every proud individual is headed for a fall and proud people end up being destroyed.’’ Alexander the Great attempted to situate strength within leadership, arguing that no matter the amount or volume of resources available to an institution, society, or nation, they would fail if the leadership is not right.
Adeboye continues: ‘’A proud person is always in contention, – fighting with those he thinks he is better than; and such fellow will try to do anything to show that he/she is better than others. The proud is always in competition with those who appear better off, just to prove a point that he/she is superior. In doing this, the proud will make derogatory statements about such people and cut them to size just to show that he/she knows it better or can do it better. ‘’The proud finds it difficult to acknowledge the sincere work or efforts of others because he/she thinks such will displace him/her from being on top. The proud see himself as being number one in all things. Apart from contending with people, the proud also contends with God. It is possible for pride to be visibly glaring in the life of someone that is full of it. People could be clothed in pride; just as they could be clothed in humility.’’ Similarly, Professor Warren Benise, a notable thinker in the subject matter under reference tried to differentiate leaders from managers thus: “leaders are people who do the right things, while managers are people who do things right.’’ Literature is replete with postulations about leadership.’’ I am sharing this only to educate, and NOT to boost my ego. In my long walk in the corridor of power, I never agreed or identified with people who were arrogant. No matter how good anyone thinks he or she is, it is certain that someone else already has succeeded in areas that make you proud.
So, why lock yourself up in the office like a small god and allow a position to get into your head as a public officer; a position that will outlast you? I experienced one or two of such situations in Abuja and was shocked! I sent my reaction to them that for the period God enabled me to function as a top functionary of government, directly responsible to a State governor, I left very stern instructions with my aides that nobody MUST complete visitors’ forms to see me; but all should be allowed to come in anytime, as I was being maintained by taxpayers. I always told my visitors that Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola that I was serving, was an embodiment of humility who never looked down on anybody. Those who could bear me witness and expressed surprise at my accessibility principle include Tom Iseghohi, former Managing Director of Transcorp who later became a friend; Sina Agboluaje, then Managing Director of Nigerian Exports Processing Zones Authority, who visited with Jacob Wood, Chairman, Nigeria-China Business Council; and Oba Adedeji Onagoruwa, (before ascending the throne) who was hugely surprised that I put him through what he wanted within 30 minutes. Friends like Bisi Aremu Opejin never had to look in the direction of my secretaries before barging into my office. I never knew those reports got back to the governor and some higher places to which these people were connected.
If you are haughty, treat your subordinates like slaves; or you disrespect and look down on members of the public that you must attend to, remember that one day, you will have to quit that office. Some big bosses, I am informed, were so proud that they have never be able to visit offices in which they behaved arrogantly because that could be an occasion for members of staff they treated shabbily to take their own pound of flesh. Remember, it was pride that sent Angel Lucifer out of Heaven, stripped of all stars, to become Satan, that everybody is cursing today. It is still possible for all proud people to embrace humility. It costs you nothing. God detests the proud.