What Quality Of Leadership Does Nigeria Need?

(By Mary Gloria C. Njoku)

 Many have identified that the nation is in distress and has been in the condition for many years. If the literature on the emergence of charismatic leader in time of crisis is effective in the Nigerian context, it would have been the case that the nation should have arisen from her crisis state if there has been a leader with charisma. But given that prosocial behaviour appears to carry minimal valence for the average Nigerian worker, it feels as though a combination of transactional and charismatic leadership may yield a better result for the nation or rather the use of varied types of leadership models for specific situations may be more appropriate for Nigeria.

ACCORDING to researchers, ethical leaders who exhibit empathy, trustworthiness, selfless attitude, and focus on collective mission tend to maintain optimal leader-follower relationships. One wonders whether these types of leaders exist in Nigeria and if they do, whether optimal leader-follower results will be obtained in this country, Nigeria. The attributes of an ethical leader suggest that the followers will be more likely to imbibe the vision of the organisation as interpreted by the leader and achieve the group goals as a result of intrinsic motivation.

Having worked in Nigerian for the past five years, I am challenged to believe that the cultural milieu or mindset of the average Nigerian in the workforce seems to be primarily centered on personal rather than group goals. It almost feels as though many followers perceive an empathetic, selfless and considerate attitude as weakness. Imagine working with a staffer who seeks permission for a three-day off-duty to take care of personal health. You grant the request and four hours or a day later, you get a report from other workers that the staff is busy selling goods, commuting people with motorbike, keke, taxi or bus. In the spirit of empathy, you call the staffer to order for engaging in such a dubious behaviour but the employee continues to seek and obtain extra work days off duty with fictitious or flimsy excuses. Health matters and death are very serious matters but many workers often do not reflect on the implication of misleading their leaders by lying about such matters in order to obtain some days off.

The most challenging type of work behaviour that takes advantage of the pro-social leader is that which I have observed among individuals who present themselves for employment. These individuals assure the manager that they know their work and are capable of contributing to the organisation’s goals but as soon as they are offered employment, they begin to demonstrate their incompetence. In some cases, some of the employees “just” sit around from beginning to end of work day doing nothing and yet, at the end of each month, they receive a salary.

Another insulting behaviour of some workers in Nigeria is the attitude of self-aggrandizement. You expect that an empathetic, selfless leader will engender selfless attitude among the followers. However, my experience of Nigeria has shown that regardless of the leader’s behaviour, many followers continue to seek ways to “fill their pockets,” instead of enriching their organisation. In fact, I perceive a situation where many people are struggling to get a share of the “national cake” using any available means such as inflating the prices of goods, selling organisational resources, using organisational resources for personal matters, and extorting money from the less privileged.

Reflecting on my experiences thus far, I feel a great concern for the future of Nigeria when I think about how leaders are supposed to exert social influence that should lead followers to embrace organisational or collective goals. I wonder how the types of followers described in the foregoing will move the nation’s development forward. I feel that a charismatic leader is needed in Nigeria. Many have identified that the nation is in distress and has been in the condition for many years. If the literature on the emergence of charismatic leader in time of crisis is effective in the Nigerian context, it would have been the case that the nation should have arisen from her crisis state if there has been a leader with charisma. But given that prosocial behaviour appears to carry minimal valence for the average Nigerian worker, it feels as though a combination of transactional and charismatic leadership may yield a better result for the nation or rather the use of varied types of leadership models for specific situations may be more appropriate for Nigeria.

It is important to note here that there have been stories of followers who maintain ethical business behaviour whether or not they have leaders who are ethical themselves in Nigeria. I have had the opportunity to experience individuals who are truly hardworking, accountable and responsible. These individuals attend to their work because they are intrinsically motivated to complete their job tasks well. Sometimes, I have heard people asking these types of workers why they have chosen to be exceptional in carrying out their tasks. These experiences I have had make me more convinced that one style of leadership may not be effective to get Nigeria out of distress. A leader guiding diverse followers, with some task-oriented, some responsible and some self-centered, must be prepared to manage each group with a style of leadership that will get them to deliver for their organisation. The ability of leaders to master the minds of followers and influence them appropriately would be necessary for the advancement of Nigeria.

Further, the changing nature of the workplace, increased diversity, technological advancements, internet generation people, environmental challenges and global competition will require leaders to demonstrate emotional and cultural intelligence that will help them to be tolerant, empathetic and cooperative. Leaders must be capable of taking in varied information and solving complex problems effectively and efficiently. It is important to have a leader who can propound and implement solutions to Nigeria’s many challenges and break the vicious cycle of economic, social and moral distress.

Nigeria needs a leader who is capable of changing the structure and mindset of the people. Maybe someone with the characteristics of Jerry Rawlings of Ghana who was firm, consistent, earned the trust of Ghanaians and changed the landscape of his nation. The leader would also need to possess Gandhi’s personality such that he can pray, fast and suffer to bring the nation out of distress. It may also be important for this leader to be a Julius Nyerere to Nigeria and encourage the people to contribute to the welfare of the community rather than personal aggrandizement. The leader would also need to embody the characteristics of Nelson Mandela who refused to accept “an eye for an eye” ideal insisting on holding the country together through promotion of reconciliation between people of European and African descent. Mandela saw and experienced the evil of racism and refused to accept a system of ethnic divide. Nigeria needs this type of leader who will bring the people to a self-consciousness that promotes unity. Martin Luther King Jnr. during his lifetime strove to overcome hatred in all its ramifications and preferred the concept of working together for social justice. His activities and famous speech, “I Have a Dream” were instrumental to dismantling racial segregation and inspiring hope in the people of the United States of America. Nigeria needs a leader who will focus on stabilising the nation, unsettling ethnic divide and enthusing hope and unity among the people of Nigeria.

The stability of any nation usually passes through a gradual process. The whole history of the world is a history of colonisation, wars and dispossession. For example, Britain was conquered by the Celts who controlled the country for many years. The Romans in turn conquered Britain from the Celts, ruled for about 400 years and also integrated some elements of Celtic life into their lifestyle. In 450 AD, the Romans fell to the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (three Germanic races from Northern parts of Germany). The Anglo-Saxons during their reign also assimilated some elements of the culture of the people they conquered and introduced a language which is now known as Old English. After 300 years, another group of invaders from northern Germany, the Scandinavians, conquered many parts of Britain, having their influence in the so called Danelaw region of Britain. In 1066, the Normands conquered Britain, integrated some elements of British life into their own and brought the French language into the country.  After the 1066 conquest, the nation was never conquered again on its own soil. It became a self-conscious nation and stopped being merely “the conquered.” In the cause of time, towards the end of 14th century, the English Language was accepted again as the official language of their parliament.

So, nationhood is a gradual process of going through difficult experiences which will give the people a feeling that they belong together and share a common destiny. This must be the road for Nigeria. We are just 52 years. We don’t have enough experiences as a nation. We must allow the process of nationhood to run its course. We must be patient with ourselves. Trying to crush the baby, Nigeria, before it is old enough to take its place among the nations of the world will not be the right thing to do. It is only a charismatic leader who will understand that what are needed is the creation of stable structures and a redirection of the mindset of the people to focus on selflessness that will sustain the growth of the baby. We must pray for such a leader to emerge and lead us. “All hands must be on deck” for the changing of mindset. Each individual citizen must feel a sense of belonging and know that the peace and progress of the nation is dependent on individual and collective efforts.

If we want a better Nigeria, we must shun the short cuts to self-aggrandizement and embrace the long road to collective wellbeing. Hard work, integrity, accountability, responsibility and respect for human dignity must guide us. Those who already possess these qualities must continue to maintain them and touch the lives of our brothers and sisters who have forgotten that the progress of a nation is dependent on its citizen. I on my part have committed myself to the advancement of Nigeria. I hope you will join forces with me to bring Nigeria out of distress into the land of promise.

• Njoku is a reverend sister and a lecturer.

 “Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

RISE NETWORKS

"Nigeria's Leading Private Sector and Donor funded Social Enterprise with deliberate interest in Technology and its relevance to Youth and Education Development across Africa. Our Strategic focus is on vital human capital Development issues and their relationship to economic growth and democratic consolidation." Twitter: @risenetworks || Facebook - RISE GROUP || Google Plus - Rise Networks