Monday, June 16, 2008

What is leadership?

Is there a leadership problem in the Horn of African nations of Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti? Does good leadership call for meddling, dismembering, killing, displacing, and looting? I don't think so. Then, what is leadership in the real sense? Peter G. Northouse (ph.D., University of Denver) who is professor of communication in the School of Communication at Western Michigan University best describes the meaning of leadership. Here is how he describes it: "Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal". Again, he tells us that "leadership involves influence; leadership occurs in groups; leadership includes attention to goals".

Poor leaders don't do things right and are hardly adored by their subjects. Good leaders do things perfectly and are loved by their subordinates. I prefer not to mention the dead men of the Horn of Africa who left behind bad legacies. Instead, let's carefully divulge into the leadership traits of the living. It doesn't matter to me if a leader is a cripple, mono-eyed, ugly or short. Tell me, what is wrong with Meles Zenawi, Abdullahi Yussuf, Issaias Afewerki and Ismail Omar Gelle? Why have they turned the Horn of Africa into a bleeding mess? Eritrea and Djibouti are at war; Ethiopia and Eritrea have border problems; Somalia is in a mess because of the three meddling in its affairs; millions of the Horn of African peoples are either internally displaced, refugees, or hungry. The problem we have, my dear reader, is poor leadership. The four countries have natural resources that have not been tapped; yet poverty is biting hard to an extent all these countries are dependent on foreign handouts.

Anyone who has not seen the beauty of Ethiopia and the nature of desperation on the faces of its people needs to do a little reasearch or buy a ticket so as to see the mighty Nile that has been a source of inspiration to the pharaohs of Egypt and past Abyssinian empires. Also, trek through the Ethiopian highlands and thereafter canoe on Lake Tana then reflect the hunger on the faces of those who inhabit this blessed region of antiquity. Go see the beauty of Eritrea with its lush green vegetation; swin in the Red Sea and then tell me the colony of fish species you have seen. Endeavor to conquer Somali territory when there is peace so you can take a voyage along the longest coastline in Africa. Take a closer look at the marine species off the coasts of Somalia. You will obviously see the much-loved lobsters, mackerel, tuna, and what have you. Djibouti's semi desert areas should not deceive your eyes. It could be small but harbors a wealth of resources.

Leadership and power are inter-related because both are part of the what is called 'influence process' and both have the potential to influence. Doctors, miniters, coaches, and teachers have the potential to influence people. How do the leaders of the Horn of Africa influence those they lead? Do killings, displacements, division, starving or bickering over petty issues have the potential to influence people who are hungry, sick and homeless in any way?

There're two types of major powers in organizations: position power and personal power. The capacity of a leader having higher status or rank than his/her followers is described as position power. Vice Presidents and heads of organizations or departments have more power than their staff, which, if used legitimately, elevates them to position power . Thus, this type of power includes legitimate, reward, and coercive power. Leadership and management deal with people. These four Less Developed Countries (LDC) have leadership and management problems. Their offices are riddled with corruption of the greatest magnitude. Furthermore, they have come to lead not by the will of the people but through forceful illegitimate means. We know their political history.

Personal power is the process by which a leader influences his subjects because he is likable and knowledgeable. He is knowledgeable, highly competent, and considerate. He treats his staff equally without regard to race, creed, color, religion, national origin and age. He does not dominate others but leads them, guides them, and is observant of his weaknessess. Power power leads us to two faces: referent and expert power.

Let's look at "The Bases of Social Power".

Referent power: A school teacher who is adored by her students has referent power.

Expert power: A tour guide who is knowledgeable about a foreign country has expert power.

Legitimate power: A judge who administers sentences in the courtroom exhibits legitimate power.

Reward power: A supervisor who gives rewards to employees who work hard is using reward power.

Coercive power: A coach who sits players on the bench for being late to practice is using coercive power.(J.R. French Jr. and B. Raven, 1962).

From what we have read above, we see that these leaders who hold the power to Africa's most strategic location do not exercise any form of the above-mentioned powers. Giving a higher position to your relative is not reward power; punishing those wo do not belong to your clan/tribe is not legitimate power; starving those who disagree with your mode of administration is far from being coercive power; practising misleading ideology is not expert power, and finally, to be adored only by your henchmen and 'bootlickers' is not referent power.

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