The third letter of the word leadership, for our purpose, signifies action. There is no doubt that leadership is all about action. It is the core responsibility of a leader to be active, not dormant or passive. As an actual or potential leader, if you are not active, probably sleeping, playing, chatting and drinking your days away, you are just deceiving yourself, you are not a leader and you won’t truly be!
A person like former President Olusegun Obasanjo divides public opinion but you cannot take action away from him. Millions of people admire him for being active and that is a good quality of leadership. Obasanjo is mentally and physically restless. By his own admission, he is perpetually struggling to achieve one thing or another. Leadership is struggle; leadership is action.
However, there is no doubt that sound action is based on good theory. You cannot perform without a good theoretical background informed by education or academic excellence. This is why it is said that theory without practice is lame and practice without theory is blind.
Educational excellence provides a foundation upon which good action can be erected. Yet, knowledge is not an end itself; it is a means to an end. According to Jim Rohn, “Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge; let your learning lead to action”.
In Nigeria, the problem is that there is much knowledge with little or no action. We have the “most knowledgeable” people around with truck-loads of degrees and diplomas. But what is the end-result? We are the laughing stock of the world because we know but we don’t act purposively and positively.
The problem with many of us is that we often substitute words for action. People waste a lot of precious time in talks and meetings. Discussions and deliberations are passionately made but at the end of the day, they are pure wind without follow-up actions. Talk is cheap and as the Yoruba say, “words do not a fill a basket”. Napoleon Hill wrote that happiness is found in doing, not merely possessing.
If leadership function can be bifurcated, it will involve planning and action. It is said that to fail to plan is to plan to fail. If a student wants to graduate with a good grade, the first requirement is planning. This will involve sequential and deliberate process of having a time table, commitment to attending lectures and tutorials as well as determination to avoid distractors: false friends and many social engagements. Then, the time table is followed judiciously and the determination and commitment are followed through in practical dimensions.
Hisham Altalib said something memorable that he called the pentagon of success. He suggested rightly that there is always a problem or a series of problems for a leader to solve. Solving the problem often is a function of a five-stage process. “The first four stages are theoretical and help us reach the right decisions, but until we implement them we have not moved ahead,” he wrote.
The pentagon of success begins with 1) feel the problem, then 2) diagnose it 3) prescribe the solution 4) plan implementation and ends with 5) follow up/follow through. The last stage is the action stage and if it is missing, the whole essence is ultimately a waste of time.
One of the most memorable quotes I got from the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, an action man par excellence, Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede, OFR, is that “hard work doesn’t kill”. Rather, it is indulgence and complacence that kill. So, I have grown to love more action than speech though I know that good speech stimulates action.
There are three types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder how things happen. Action men are leaders who make things happen while others only watch while the thoughtful ones just wonder.
In choosing leaders whether within the micro level of the University campus or at the macro level of the larger society, activeness is a quality that should be looked for. It is amusing to see some of our so-called honourable legislators warming the bench of the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly doing nothing. They see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
If you are a president, act presidential; if you are a Governor, act as one, not as a stooge of someone else! If you cannot be your own man, you have no business in the Government House and you are a disgrace to leadership.
True leaders act; pseudo-leaders complain.