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The followers’ CODE

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Many years ago, I had the unique opportunity to sit behind rows of top Government and business leaders with the President (Olusegun Obasanjo) and his vice, and many captains of industry and Government while popular American Leadership trainer, John C Maxwell spoke at the International Conference Center. The opener: What is Nigeria’s biggest problem; the answer he received from a female Minister: “Our leadership”. The room went into a frenzy with murmuring and chattering all in support of her response. Dr Maxwell sighed and chuckled and then reminded the audience that they were Nigeria’s leaders and therefore by their own admission were the biggest problem with Nigeria.

He was right, but in the many years that have passed since then, I have been pondering over this and the role that leaders must play in transforming any society and organization. In those years I have interacted with the leaders and the led, and one of the many conclusions I have reached, which I will like to expand upon today is that 1) leaders do not drop down from heaven, they emerge from the people; therefore 2) If the ordinary people do not understand the role they play in creating future leaders then they too must be blamed for the pervasive rot that our society faces; and 3) We should be concerned about the attitude and mindset of the ‘led” or what others will describe as the “followers’ even more than we are concerned about the leaders – since it is the led that create the leaders that we have.

My take therefore is that we have to be deliberate in nurturing the right attitude, skills and behaviours among the led. If the positional leaders who have a natural role in providing this deliberate focus have failed to do so, then we the led must ACT and quickly to address this problem, lest we deliver from amongst ourselves another band of ineffective leaders when the opportunity comes again. So, how can we be deliberate? We can codify what it takes to create the right followership, and by so doing we can apply one of the first elements of the CODE courageously to transform our country. Since all Nigerians including those who have held positional leadership in the faith community (I almost wrote industry), private sector and in Government at all levels and across all tiers and arms agree that our leaders have failed us, then shouldn’t we the people begin to act to save us?

By focusing on these four elements of leadership, which has been aptly coined as the CODE, I am hoping that Nigerians can create better leaders across all facets of life. You see, too many people spend their time, energy and writing fluid complaining, this effort and the CODE I offer will move us from whiners to people who actually take ownership and do something.

The C in the CODE stands for Courage. Courage to be brutally honest about the difference between right and wrong, and to choose what is RIGHT. Not just for ourselves, but to INSIST on doing things right all the time. Our people lack courage to stand-up to vision-less leaders and official corruption. Instead they sit back, complain, and still collect salaries at the end of each month and partake in the fruits of the corruption so much so that they become corruption kingpins, Courage to be entrepreneurial, to be innovative, to challenge the political class, to speak against the rot that has taken over our sacred religious institutions, to fight for the poor, to step out of their comfort zones and DO SOMETHING.

The next key element starts with an O, representing oneness. Even in our faith communities the evil of categorization, sectionalism and ethnicity is pervasive. Inept and wicked leaders use ethnic bigotry to continue to destroy us. Even office politics is played along ethnic lines, and high standards of performance are only expected from the people from the other tribe, religion, or social class. Our leaders have used these categorizations to create stereotypes, breed prejudice and end up with the same “divide and rule tactics” that colonial masters used. When people can stand united against the common enemy – evil leaders regardless of our tribe or creed, then we can create a better society.

The big D word is DISCIPLINE – undoubtedly lacking in a country where people urinate on walls, litter the streets with paper, beat traffic lights and have the worst work ethic. If we the PEOPLE are like this, then we must expect that the leaders that emerge must be even worse – after all aren’t they the BEST amongst us the undisciplined lot!

Finally, the E for Empathy. As we strive to make progress, we will get better jobs, expand our businesses and achieve more material success. When we do, do we forget the countless others that we have left behind, or do we continue to show empathy, so that when we do get the chance to achieve some important positional leadership, we will continue to be effective leaders.

Nigerians at all levels are unanimous about the fact that our leaders have failed us, I am adamant and resolute that we too have failed ourselves and unless we summon the Courage, Oneness, Discipline and Empathy to follow, we will continue to have the bad leadership we deserve.

Omagbitse Barrow is an Educator at Teacher of Values-based Leadership. @gbitsebarrow



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