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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 change 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 4 most important leadership qualities that contributed for the success of AFC (Lacked from OWS). 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 also around the world, the times 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.
Leadership Lessons from Jesus:
- Jesus was visionary. Visionary leaders paint a clear picture of the future in the minds of their people. The picture is so captivating, convincing, and luring that people play it in their mind again and again until it feels real. Once they reach that point of no return, people do whatever it takes to make sure that that vision comes to fruition. Jesus was that kind of exceptional leader. His followers saw the end from the beginning, the kind of Kingdom they’ll inherit. He graphically showed His disciples their destiny: “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19: 28). Jesus also reassured the disciples when He said, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14: 2).
- Jesus was a trustworthy leader. His disciples trusted Him to the point of giving their own lives to propagate His message. Why did they trust Him? Trust is a two-way street. They had seen Him selflessly empowering, defending, and also putting in His heart their best interest. For instance, the Pharisees accused of the disciples and said to Him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12: 2). In defense of His disciples, Jesus said, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread…” (Matthew 12: 3 – 4). When they came to arrest Him, Jesus pleaded, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go” (John 18: 8). Since He demonstrated trustworthiness, He commanded following starting from the disciples, and then billions of people in the last more than 2 centuries.
- Jesus embraced diversity and inclusion. Even in that remote period in our history where women were excluded and undermined, Jesus involved women in His ministry. Besides, He selected his disciples from diverse professions. He also served the Roman soldiers, interacted with Samaritans, and also commanded His disciples to reach out to the marginalized gentiles: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16: 15).
- Jesus was a very Charismatic leader who inspired His followers to believe in so many bold things that were unthinkable back then. In a community where God was feared like a disciplinarian, Jesus showed them that God is their Father. When He was ready to leave earth, He said, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20: 17). He used parables and great stories to inspire His followers. Thousands walked hundreds of miles, went hungry and sleepless for so many nights to spend time with Jesus because he was charismatic with fresh and original ideas. These people were desperate to hear promising and motivating messages, and they found Jesus the right source of hope and inspiration. He was also a transformer. When Jesus called His disciples, He promised to make them fishers of men, and He did (Matthew 4: 19). Jesus also, on purpose, let them gain practical experiences. For instance, He had let them first wrestle with the storm before he rebuked and calmed it (Mark 4: 39). He also teamed them up, and sent them to exercise their authority. “Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits” (Mark 6: 7). When they came back, Jesus listened to their report and further mentored them based on it. He continued to mentor them, even after He resurrected from the dead. He stayed behind for forty days to dispel their doubts, answer their questions, and further instruct them of their mission. Through His public, group, and one-on-one mentoring, Jesus transformed the disciples from being followers into leaders, and then change agents. And their final stories proved that they were great change agents who turned the world upside down.
Which qualities do you already (your leaders) have? Which one (s) are you working on currently? Let me know your feedback and comments…
Some Churches’ and Ministries’ values maybe there just for formality, just because others have done it. They’re there for public consumption.
You can easily check yourself whether the values of your church/ministry are consequential. Ask the following simple questions:
- How often you bring up the values during one-on-one’s?
- Do values are part of the agenda of some of the group (departmental and ministry) discussions?
- Is the church/ministry talk about its values during some of the church wide meetings?
- When was the last time, you fired a leader or a staff for disrespecting one or more of your values?
- When was the last time a leader or manager was demoted for the lack of demonstrating loyalty your values?
Jesus’ intentionally imparted His values to His Disciples and followers. He didn’t allow anyone to violate nor undermine them. That means, His values were not toothless. He constantly brought up His values during His teachings, and during private times with His Disciples.
Just one example, James and John asked permission to bring down fire and burn those who didn’t receive Him well: “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” He did overlook this values misalignment. He rebuked them, and used the opportunity to align them with His values, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9: 55 – 56)