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Leadership: Assess performance with a mirror

By Helen Ovbiagele

The two things which those of us who have to watch our weight dislike intensely are,  the weighing scale and the mirror.  With the former, you may say that it is faulty, and that the figure it shows is not your actual weight, and you’re much lighter than that.

But, with the mirror there’s no hiding place; the bulk you see is your real size, even if you try to look at yourself from various ‘favourable’ angles.  So, you will just have to accept that you don’t have the perfect body and will need to go a serious diet/exercise regime to lose weight and trim down.

Governance is pretty much the same thing.  If you want to know how effective you are in what has been entrusted to you to do, look at the end results of the decisions you have made, objectively and  truthfully, as if you’re looking at the mirror.

Assess your work as if you’re assessing the work of another person, looking at it with an unbiased critical eye, and ask yourself if the desired goal was achieved.  Don’t rely fully on the aides, praise-singers and sycophants around you to assess your performance for you.

Most of them, afraid for their jobs,  or, wanting a favour from you, may rather go denounce you and your lack of competence behind your back than tell you the truth.  This is normal, so, you have to acknowledge that you will need to assess your effectiveness yourself.

Also, it is impossible for you to please everyone, for there would be people who have made up their mind never to see any good in your work.  Still, it is wise as a leader, to listen to those criticisms attentively and objectively, weigh every one of them carefully to find out if there could be some truth in them, instead of  declaring your critics your enemies and embarking on a vengeance crusade.

In any leadership position, (home, work, politics, governance, etc.) there won’t be any noticeable progress if the leaders refuse to listen to criticism of any sort.  A leader who really wants  to serve successfully and impact positively on the lives of the people he/she is leading, would weigh  criticisms objectively to find out if they’re justified, and resolve to make amends to reach his/her goals.

At the end of the tenure, there would be satisfaction all round that that rule has uplifted the standard of living of the ruled.

Acquiring power for self-serving purposes  is not restricted to the third world countries only, but in our case it’s tied up with an intense desire to enrich ourselves with public funds.  This is why progress is very slow, if any, and there’s this tendency to cling to power indefinitely, if possible.

The founder of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, Mr. Mo Ibrahim, a Sudan-born telecoms  tycoon was reported recently to have urged African leaders to be brutally honest in criticizing governments which are not performing.  He was speaking after his foundation announced that for the third time in four years, it would not award its Prize for Achievement in African Leadership – the world’s biggest individual prize – as no suitable candidates were found.

Part of his address said, ‘If you look in a mirror and see an ugly face, maybe you are really ugly.  It’s not the fault of the mirror.  We need to be a little bit more brutal in order to move forward.  We need more honesty to say the tough things.  We should be free to really say the truth wherever it is needed.’

Tribe, ethnic group

This is good advice, not only to leaders on our continent, but to leaders all over the world.  Still, we need it more in the third world, particularly in Africa, and especially in Nigeria, where we’re more concerned about the tribe/ethnic group a leader belongs, and also the political party, than his ability to perform well.

Whatever the level of governance, federal, state, local government, these are the determining factors here, and this has led to misfits being put in the saddle.  Maybe it’s time for us to consider independent candidates.  Who knows, people may then be elected purely on merit, rather than the tribe/ethnic group to which the person belongs.

We want law-makers and people in other decision-making positions to be people who really want to move the nation forward.  Like I’ve said in the past, Nigeria is huge in terms of human resources.  We have people who can help to accelerate the development of the  country.

Yes, we’re known to be a corrupt country, and no-one is protesting that strongly, but out there, are a few Nigerians who can lead well at every level.  But the problem is what happens when they get to the seat of power.  They start out well, but along the way, they get sucked into the system as they listen to the self-seeking persons around them.

Soon they are dancing to the tunes of these ones, and they lose focus of the goals they had lined up to achieve.  They are told that they’re performing, and they believe it without bothering to check themselves if what they’re being told is true.  Now, we don’t need people from other nations, states and local governments to tell us that things are not working in our areas of governance.

Leaders are not locked away from the rest of us;  they have eyes with which to assess their work.

They also have relatives and friends who can tell them the true state of things about – unemployment, sorry state of our hospitals and healthcare, deteriorating educational system which makes us turn out many  graduates who are unable to express themselves well and write application letters for employment; very bad roads; poor transport system; increased criminal activities and lack of security of lives and property.  We sign good purposes into law, but don’t bother to see their implementation.  We’re too busy struggling for power and money.  Surely our rulers cannot pretend that they don’t know the myriad problems we have.

What hope for good and effective governance?   One thing is sure.  Splitting the country will not solve the problem because even within a state or local government area,  there’s still the ethnic or family factor about who should rule or occupy what position.

Good governance can be achieved when as a nation we shed our greed, our selfish interests, get-rich quick attitude, and resolve to put the nation first.  It will be achieved when we resolve to tell the truth about performance, and when non-performers have the courage to resign from their positions.

In short, we need to raise a new crop of people who are devoid of the Nigerian factor in their make-up.


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