Saturday, June 21, 2008

What is Leadership?


So what is wrong with Somali leadership? Is there a leadership problem in the country? Yes, Somalis have leadership problems and it is time we realize the enormity of this problem. Somalis are confused as to the type of leadership style befitting them. Perhaps, the best leadership styles Somalia experienced in the past are the examples set by the first President Aden Abdille Osman who left the political scene with dignity after the end of his presidential term and that of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed who mobilized and united eleven loose courts under one umbrella that led to the historical defeat of the hateful warlords in 2006.

Since gaining independence in 1960, Somalia has been through various stages and confusing types of political metamorphoses that led to its initial collapse. There were several attempted coups and guerilla incursions into Somali soil when Siyad Barre was in power. Abdirahman Tuur, Colonel Ahmed Omar Jess, General Mohamed Farah Aidid, and the current transitional President, Colonel Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed, have been recorded in history for opposing the regime of Siyad Barre through the use of force. None of these men can be credited with having the conceptual and human skills expected of a leader. The sad state inherited from them is with the Somali people to this day.

Successive Somali leadership styles carried no blessings except blame, blemishes, shame, and family/tribal divisions. Ali Mahdi Mohamed, despite beng elected President, did not last long; General Aidid stepped in as a replacement only to fail miserably; Abdikassim Salad Hassan left humiliated, and now it is Colonel Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed who has enemies on all fronts. What is wrong with Somali leadership?

Past leaders and the heinous warlords had been corrupt, shameless, and disgusting. And that is why Somalis remain divided, hateful, and warlike to this day. Take the case of the fallen junta of Siyad Barre. He was a soldier who understood nothing about leadership concepts. He ruled by force; by the barrel of the gun through a strong army commanded by ruthless, uneducated generals who were promoted on the grounds they please their boss-the President.

There're two tpes of leadership styles: supportive and directive. Both styles entail helping group members achieve a goal. Somali leadership styles direct and support only close relations beginning with family members who reap a bigger share in any gain and then leading to sub-clan, clan, and finally the rest of the tribal framework and close memebers who pledge loyalty or allegiance. Directive task behaviors of modern leadership styles is concerned with helping group members accomplish their goals by showing directions, achieving goals and ways of evaluation, setting timelines, defining roles, and showing how the goals are to be reached. As for supportive leadership style, it is intended to assist members feel assured about themselves, their co-workers, and the the general situation.

A leader must have general cognitive abilities and general processing skills; must be creative and divergent ; must display crystallized cognitive abilities, must be motivated about his leadership and must be socially willing to dominate his subordinates through developmental skills. Now tell me; do the colonels brandishing AK 47s and the vulturous warlords who possess no formal education have the above attributes? How can a man who has been in the bush for three decades, who seizes power through dubious means, display any of the styles and skills described above? How can a nation that has been through divisions and political prostitutions accept the leadership styles of inept colonels and warlords whose mode of leadership styles are contrary to modern styles of human governance?

A leader must have the brain to effectively solve problems in a logical, unique, and effective style or way that go beyond given information. The performance of a leader raises productivity and also elevates level of allegiance of those under his command. The ineffective performance of a leader has been shown to produce disastrous effects and lead to repurcussions that are detrimental to the overall management of any kind of organization. A leader is a role model who sets examples to be followed by those under him/her.

An effective leader must have human and conceptual skills. Leaders must be task motivated and relationship motivated so as to reach a goal by developing close interpersonal relationship. Leader-member relations create confidence, loyalty, and attraction between the leader and the follower. A leader must also set a task structure to be followed with clearly spelled out requirements for the sake of reward and punishment outlined in what is referred to as 'position power'.

Opportunism, for the purpose of personal advancement, has been an impediment to Somali social governing. The fallen junta imposed a totalitarian ideology on a naturally born egalitarian society. It used much of its budget on strengthening the military to deter dissent. Thus, other sectors including the infrastructure, social services, health and education, water and sanitation received less attention. This method of leadership that had roots in communism and applied by the military regime, was neither the right practical management nor the elegant theoritical leadership apparel acceptable to Somalia's yesteryear.

On the other hand, the warlords main concern was defending the fiefdoms that strengthened their illegal trading opportunities. To them, lawlessness meant self-elevation, individual popularity, honor and prestige, monetary gains and personal enrichment. Their general mode of comunication was one directed only at the master who supplied the arms shipments and the subordinates tasked with extermination operations. This form of leadership carried no credible traits and approach. It was cause for further Somali fragmentation and disintegraion.

In conclusion and to cut a whole story short, the Union of Islamic Courts, despite its pitfalls, created an atmosphere of peace for Southern Somalia for the six-months it was in power. It brought unity and coherence to a portion of the Somali nation that had suffered enormously for almost sixteen years by rehabilitating the sea ports and airport and opening the nation to the outside world; law and order returned; schools and businesses reopened; roadblocks disappeared-all as a result of leadership competency in problem-solvig skills, applicable knowledge, and social judgement.

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