The love of leadership

  • Nigeria today faces an acute leadership crisis that has manifested in the unenviable state of the nation and our collective shame before the whole world. I always remember the aptness of the headline of an interview in the Daily Sun newspaper about a decade ago in which someone was reported to have said, “Nigeria has three problems: leadership! Leadership!! Leadership!!!”

leadershipWe are in the era of choosing new leaders and Nigerians are divided between seeking continuity and change. The essential thing in the choice is that values should not be compromised for valuables. Values are eternal, valuables are fleeting.

It is lack of good education that makes people seek valuables at the expense of values. A BBC World Service report recently focused on how “Less is more – why getting rid of possessions can make you happier” and many educated people in the United States, according to the report, are shedding off their material possessions.

Though everyone is a leader, actually or potentially, it beats one’s imagination that leaders of tomorrow do not make appropriate plans for leadership while decrying the despicable situation of today. It is easy to say that the old ones are not leaving the scene, as many students are wont to say, the question is: what values do the young ones have to add?

It is those values that I want to address in the next few weeks as Nigeria seeks leaders into the various political offices. In doing this, I use the morphological approach and I consider leadership as an embodiment of ten qualities represented by the letters of the word, taken as an acronym. This means that leadership to me is the ability to combine love, excellence, action, discipline, example, responsibility, sacrifice, honesty, integrity and planning in influencing others.

If you have these qualities, you are a leader; if any of them is missing, you are a dealer in deceit and you cannot be a leader!

The first requirement of a leader of today and tomorrow is love. I think loving is leading as a leader pre-occupies himself with the welfare of the led. A callous, wicked and unfeeling leader has failed the fundamental test of leadership. To be a leader, therefore, it is required that one loves others, regardless of their skin pigmentation, religious affiliation, ethnic background, social status and other sentiments. If you don’t love them, don’t aspire to lead them.

Leo Buscaglia said, “Love is life and if you miss love, you miss life.” Leaders also enjoy life when they show love. The same Buscaglia also said, “The life and love we create is the life and love we live”. What life have our leaders created for themselves and Nigerians? A life of hatred and hostility!

A leader must love his followers, promote, advance and protect their interests. It is the love of the people and the desire to make their lives more abundant that drive a leader. In this respect, to lead is to love and to love is to serve.

In concluding his recent essay, “The Challenge of Change- A Burden of Choice”, Prof. Wole Soyinka gives us a poser that borders on love as the driving force of leadership in relation to our national experience: “If you had received news of your daughter’s kidnapping, how long would it take you to spring to action? Instantly? One day? Two? Three? A week? Or maybe TEN days?”

What this means is that the mettle of leadership is tested by the love demonstrated for the led. A leader is to his followers what a father is to his children. This is why love and leadership are synonymous, so to say. The least the followers expect from their leader is love as well as its related components of kindness, care and compassion. If you do not love people sufficiently, do not put yourself forward to lead them because you are a disaster waiting to happen.

In essence, Sri Sri RaviShanker once noted, “Leadership and love go hand-in-hand. Only a leader who loves his people naturally, selflessly and unconditionally will reap success”. Whoever does not love people, sets them against one another, fans the ember of mutual hatred and destruction is not a leader.

When leadership is right, every other thing will be right. The first right step is to love!