On political leadership: A review essay (2)

On political leadership: A review essay (2)

This is the concluding part of this piece. The first instalment, published yesterday, reviewed four categories of political leadership in Archie Brown’s new book

By Ladipo Adamolekun

Stalin succeeded Lenin as Soviet Union’s pre-eminent leader and by the early 1930s, he had become a one-person ruler with the Communist Politburo (executive) a mere rubber stamp.

He removed other prominent players in the 1917 revolution either through expulsion or execution after “show-trials” between 1936 and 1938. His totalitarian rule is noted for the compulsory collectivisation of agriculture that resulted in famine during which millions of Soviet peasants died.

Hitler became German chancellor in 1933 when his National Socialist (Nazi) party emerged as the largest single party in the parliament. And he became president the following year. His ideology of a racially pure and powerful greater Germany had anti-Semitism as its centrepiece.

From eliminating Jewish influence in Germany, he proceeded to eliminate Jews themselves. He led Germany’s economic recovery from the Depression of the 1930s and proceeded to develop the country’s military might. Then, he embarked on a territorial expansion that led to the Second World War which he lost. He shot himself in his Berlin bunker in 1945.

Mao Zedong ruled China from 1949 to 1976 and his totalitarian rule was marked by the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). The former was a plan of forced agricultural collectivisation and rural industrialisation that resulted in economic contraction, famine, and millions of deaths. And the latter, a violent socio-political purge that was intended to rid Chinese communism of remnants of capitalist and traditional elements only resulted in damaging the country’s economy and traditional culture and cost millions of lives.

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Conclusion: Three takeaways relevant to Nigeria: My three takeaways that are relevant to Nigeria are: (i) desirable leadership attributes; (ii) desirable leadership styles; and (iii) urgent need for a redefining political leadership at the centre.

Desirable leadership attributes: The fourteen leadership attributes provided by Brown are: integrity, intelligence, articulateness, collegiality, shrewd judgment, a questioning mind, willingness to seek disparate views, ability to absorb information, flexibility, good memory, courage, vision, empathy and boundless energy.

I consider the following four as the most crucial: integrity, intelligence, courage, and vision. And I strongly commend them to incumbent Nigerian political leaders at all levels, to aspiring political leaders, and to the Nigerian voter. I would dare to assert that any incumbent leader who does not possess at least three of these attributes is very likely to be adjudged a bad performer at the end of his/her tenure; any leader who possesses all four attributes is very likely to be adjudged a good performer, and an incumbent leader who possesses all four and two or more others from the fourteen is likely to emerge as a very good performer.

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The aspiring Nigerian political leader is invited to undertake a rigorous self-assessment and determine whether or not she/he is fit to contest for a political leadership position. And it would be desirable if, henceforth, Nigerian voters pay more attention to the leadership attributes of contestants for political leadership positions before casting their votes.

Desirable leadership styles: The leadership styles highlighted by Brown and listed in the Introductory paragraph are: dominating/domineering, collegial/collaborative, collective, inclusive, and dictatorial/authoritarian. In his concluding chapter, “What Kind of Leadership is Desirable?”, Brown strongly endorses a collegial leadership style. Since collaborative, collective and inclusive are, in varying degrees, variations of collegial leadership style, what he rejects are dominating/domineering and dictatorial/authoritarian leadership styles.

I share his preference and I commend it to both incumbent and aspiring political leaders in the country. Nigeria experienced a dictatorial/authoritarian leadership style during close to 30 years of military rule and it is no exaggeration to assert that the vast majority of Nigerians would not like a return to that era.

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Regarding dominating/domineering political leadership style, Brown’s position is that while a political leader can use it to achieve some good results for the society, it is possible to achieve the same good results through collegial leadership. I share and recommend this viewpoint to both incumbent and aspiring political leaders in the country.

Urgent need for a redefining political leadership at the centre: My final takeaway is a clear choice among the four categories of political leadership summarised in this review essay. It is my considered opinion that what Nigeria needs at this juncture in her national development is a redefining political leadership at the centre. None of our four post-military rule leaders qualifies to be included in this category.

President Obasanjo (1999-2007) and President Buhari (incumbent since 2015) are neo-military rulers, an unsurprising consequence of their strong military culture that has trumped any desire to respect democratic norms. And while Yar’Adua’s rule (2007-2010) was undermined and cut short by ill-health and death, Jonathan (2010-2015) lacked the leadership attributes needed to provide redefining political leadership.

The redefinition that Nigerian politics needs today – devolution/restructuring to re-establish a true federation – is awaiting a redefining political leadership to champion and accomplish it.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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