I have seen 4 different presidents in Ghana. These people have their signature leadership style with different personas. Although, all these presidents had the ultimate objective to bring development to the people of Ghana and to manage the nation called Ghana, their approach to solving the same problem was dominated by their unique personality. I wonder, if young leaders are taking critical notes about the various lessons these leaders bring to bear on leadership or people have been blinded by the stiff political competition that only allows them to see the good in a particular president because he is a member of one particular political party.
My review of the characters of these Presidents is by observations. The only President I actually came very close to was H.E. John A. Kufour and it was just a handshake. Yes, I shook hands with him as he hosted some diplomats and other states men at the States House in Accra in commemoration of Ghana’s republic day celebration in 2007. Even though I was duly invited, I remember how the security men at the entrance of the parliament house scrutinised my invitation. I am sure, they had their doubts considering my “boy” looks at that time.
Now let us look at my observations and the leadership implications.
H.E. Jerry John Rawlings
J.J, as we affectionately called the 1st President of the first republic was visibly a courageous person. He spoke his mind and said things as they were. I read about how he owned up after he and other people were arrested for a coup attempt. As documented in the book; The Rawlings Factor, J.J. stated he was responsible for the coup decision and that the other accusers should be given their freedom. Leadership is about being responsible. It is not about making excuses and passing on blames. Every leader must be able to speak his mind and defend what he or she believes. Hypocritical leaders always look for several ways to say the truth and in the end truth is lost from their words.
Rawlings was the peoples man. This was not only about his looks. He even as the President knew how to connect with the ordinary people. He did it in so many ways. I heard him as he tried to speak the local languages of the people he was interacting with. He at times joined the people to clean gutters and their communities. Whether it was a populist or socialist action or not, this part of him got him connected with the people. At least, most people felt he understood them and their conditions better. I Don’t know in recent times, but in the early days of our democratic process, J.J. was the man of the moment.
The truth is that every leader must find his point of connection to his people. How or what your people perceive you to be to them is very important. They can know if you sincerely are sincere with who you are to them or not. J.J. Rawlings was able to let the masses feel he was for them and their welfare. Every leader must make his leadership meaningful to the people he is leading.
The other observation about J.J. was that he was an “ in-charge leader”. His passion to be in- charge saw a lot of things pivoting around him. I watched him always in the news attending to government functions without much being told of his ministers. This trait has it own positive and negative sides. Too much “in-chargeness” does not create continuity when you are gone. When you rule like this, you will get things going when you are around but nothing happens when you are away. As an “I am in-charge leader”, you can get people working for you while you call the shots but when your power comes to an end, most of the people will also end their allegiance to you. It is important as a leader to let others feel you can depend on them to deliver. Share your powers with responsible leaders within your team and mentor others to go on leading even when you are away.
H.E. John Agyekum Kufour
President Kufour exhibited great focus and purposefulness. He seems to have had a well thought out dream about becoming a president one day. He was sure of the kind of legacy he wanted to. He was able to sell a different kind of Ghana to Ghanaians and the outside world. He clearly outlined his vision and somehow, was able to get citizens to buy-in. He introduced the golden age of business and tried to project the private sector as the engine of growth for the economy. President John Kufour was a leader with a laudable vision. From day one, he demonstrated he knew what he was about as a Leader.
Leaders must have clearly defined vision and must be able to communicate this vision to their people for their buy-in. People can only understand your vision if you communicate it effectively. Don’t just have a vision as a leader but learn how to get your people to believe in that vision and create the necessary desire to make them want to peruse that vision.
A good leader just doesn’t drop from the skies. You must subject yourself to situations that will prepare you to take up leadership positions in the future. A leader must be focused and have a dream. A visionless leader is as dangerous as the effect of a people without a leader. Whatever, you wish to become, there is the need to start working on yourself while you wait for the great moment. This was the mark of character demonstrated by Kufour because his dream of becoming a President one day was birthed when he was just a school boy. Subsequently, he worked in various governments and in different positions before finally becoming the President of Ghana.
H.E Prof John Evans Attah Mills
Prof Mills lived his conviction even when it was not politically correct. He clearly lived his anti-corruption slogan making him as a President who lived his talks. He showed concerned by connecting with the people who worked closely with him. Something that lead to the popular “makyaawu anaa” statement, meaning have I greeted you? I cannot confirm this, but he was noted to be a leader who showed interest in the lives of his workers or team members. He, therefore, found time to greet his workers and inquire about them and their families
Leaders should not think they are too busy not to care about the little but most important things about people close to them. It makes much difference for a leader to show the people that he cares for them beyond just the work. Remember, people can work or follow you but they would not value your leadership if you don’t also value theirs.
President Mills as a President demonstrated that no matter how powerful and or influential you are, being humble and peace loving does not take anything from the leader. He was crowned as the Kind of peace or” asomdwehene”. Every good leader must seek peace. This will give the leader and team the opportunity to use their energies to create solutions not to fire fight situations because of misunderstanding and mistrust.
There are several school of thoughts trying justifying that leaders are born or made. Whichever, school you belong to as a leader, there is one thing that is very fundamental and that is, your character or nature can make or unmake you as a successful leader. To improve on your leadership skills, you must start working on your own uniqueness as a person. If you don’t allow the views of others while growing up, you will definitely will have to try harder to listen to others when you become a leader. Clearly, from the account above, the characters of the 3 ex-presidents was what set them apart from each other. They all had the same nation to lead with the same objective but their individual personas, all things being equal, can be traced to their successes or failures as Presidents.
As we critically participate in our national elections, it is important for young leaders or would be leaders to learn some good leadership skills from each of the leaders and not get over indulged in the politics that blinds our eyes from the good that is exhibited in others who may not necessary be our preferred candidate.
Author: Roderick Ayeh
HEAD,REMITTANCE UNIT at ARB APEX BANK