Some Leadership Qualities Necessary to Bring Lasting Change

My recent article entitled Leadership Gap: The main reason why we keep failing to topple dictatorship was posted on some Ethiopian Diaspora websites. In that article, I recounted how, in the last couple of decades,  people around the world fought and toppled dictators. By using the case of a formidable coalition called Alliance For Change (AFC), which was established in 1995 to lead Ghanaians’ quest to make a smooth democratic transition,  I pointed out how the alliance gained a wider array of support. The leadership of AFC was composed of ten influential leaders. They  forced the government, its international donors, and finally succeeded to carryout a democratic transition. For instance, they put all donors and creditors on notice that any loan given to the dictatorial regime in Ghana will not be paid back. They also demanded that a free press and media be established in Ghana before the grant of any aid. These and many other strategic choices by the leadership finally brought democracy in Ghana.

I also compared another movement that failed to bring the intended change because of a leadership gap. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) could be considered as one of the latest unsuccessful revolutions. By all accounts, OWS met the most important criteria of a successful people based movement. It had millions of committed, and passionate (sometimes violent) followers. Sadly, it failed but why? There could be all kinds of other reasons why it was broken but there is no one single factor like leadership gap that contributed toward its demise. OWS left its indelible mark on human history as a futile movement that initially attracted millions to its cause. Because of lack of leadership, all the efforts, and sacrifices of those courageous young people ended up fruitless.

In that article, I recognized the four most important leadership qualities that contributed for the success of AFC. These qualities aren’t just important when it comes to leading democratic changes at national level. They are critical to bring any lasting change at community, organizational, and societal levels too. Whether someone is a leader of a community organization or corporation or government agency, s/he should consider developing these qualities. Let’s quickly review some of the characteristics of AFC leadership and learn some lessons (we don’t need to duplicate every thing) to address the leadership gap that may exist in your communities and/or organizations. AFC’s leadership was:

  • Visionary. AFC leadership showed a clear picture of the future Ghana. People were committed and stayed in the fight regardless of temporary setbacks because they saw the light at the end of the tunnel. That in turn caused them to withstand any challenge they faced before they entered into that bright future. Now, ask yourselves. Do you have a shared vision? Do you have visionary leadership? If not, what should you do to bridge this gap?
  • Trustworthy. The ten leaders of AFC renounced any political ambition from the onset. They came out in public and announced that they don’t run for political offices, and seek ministerial positions and/or any other rewards for their leadership involvement during the transition. And they kept their words. Their preoccupation was the future of their motherland. This decision generated the trust of all parties- oppositions and supporters of the ruling party alike.  By the way, Mandela didn’t have a political ambition. He refused to take the presidency. They literally begged him to become the president of South Africa. Since he was humble, he gave in, and agreed to lead just for one term. Is your leadership trustworthy? Is the future of your organization and community is the preoccupation of the leadership? Or do some members of the leadership just intend to exploit, manipulate, and trick the public for their own hidden ambition and agendas? Leadership that aims at making successful and enduring transformation should be trustworthy. Unfortunately, there is no short cut. The leadership should earn the people’s trust. Talking, promising, please trust me, and so on don’t cut it.
  • Inclusive. The leaders of AFC came from diverse backgrounds. You see in the group a lawyer, an educator, an activist, a journalist, a woman, etc. This allowed them to garner the backing of wide range of supporters. Not just in Ghana but around the world, the time we’re in require embracing diversity and becoming inclusive. Is your leadership could be able to garner a broader support? If not, what is missing? What can you do about it?
  • Charismatic and transformational. The leadership of AFC was filled with charismatic and transformational leaders. As charismatic leaders they inspired the populace and created a fierce urgency of NOW. As transformational leaders, they went beyond just motivating the people. They empowered the people and transformed them into leaders. They gave opportunities to their people to take leadership at all levels and play their share. Accordingly, they established some groups to coordinate the efforts between the main group back in Ghana and Ghanaians in the Diaspora, rally the youth, engage the media, and so on. Strategically employed diplomatic efforts to deprive the dictatorial regime any external support. Not just in the case of AFC, if you closely observe, you could be able to witness that charismatic and transformational leaders were at the center of other successful movements worldwide such as the resistance movement that liberated India (Gandhi), the African Americans civil right movement (Martin Luther King Jr.), and South Africans struggle against Apartheid (Mandela). Do you have capable leaders at the center? You may have but the question is are they both charismatic and transformational? Successful and lasting changes demand many charismatic and transformational leaders at all levels.

Which qualities do you already (your leaders) have? Which one (s) are you working on currently? Let me know your feedback and comments…

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