Author ~ Esu Ukpongote
At 18 years of age, Nigeria’s democracy is expected to be mature enough to produce sustainable leadership. Interestingly, some weeks ago, young Nigerians around the country went around the social cyberspace, posting placards and throwing hashtags in support of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill. The nation in recent times has seen a number of people climb on the political train, especially through social media. We have actors, actresses and musicians vying for public office; and truthfully, we all want to try a new set of leaders. But leadership should not and cannot be a trial and error affair. There should be a systemic approach to ensure competence and continuity.
Nigeria’s democracy is 18 years old. This age is generally accepted as the point of inflection that signals maturity and responsibility. It is characterised by tensions that border on acceptance, growth, personal direction and identity. With this in mind, Nigeria has a lot to put in place to ensure that we build on gains that we have accumulated so far and avoid factors that inhibit national growth and sustainable development. Most importantly, we need to create a system that can produce the right leaders to take charge of the nation and lead us to greater heights. We have produced great leaders in the past but there has been no conscientious plan to ensure we have a steady supply of these great minds. Simply put, we are in dire need of Sustainable Leadership.
Leadership is sustainable when it considers the connection between human life and the environment in it decisions and actions. It is leadership that protects the interest of posterity and nature by infusing innovative and responsible practices in its drive for development.
The topic of sustainability has been overtaken by corporate bodies and is skewed towards non-strategic environmental initiatives. There is also a strong case for social responsibility that largely focuses on aid and sponsorship, but which is not really a strategic and long-term approach towards the development of human capacity and, specifically, sustainable leadership. This leadership gap affects us at various levels, in business and in government. It behoves on today’s leader, in business and government, to provide a structure for sustainable leadership.
One of the greatest gifts a good leader can give his people is a good, and preferably better, successor. It aids seamless transition and preserves the vision and purpose of the organisation or country as the case may be. A great example is the case of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. The impact and performance of the CEO of Apple shows the importance of finding a successor that can carry the vision of his/her predecessor. In August 2011, the world watched in anticipation as Tim Cook took over the reins at Apple. It was difficult to see what improvements could be made after the iconic and innovative performance of the founder, Steve Jobs. Apple’s share price on the 25th of August 2011, was $53.39. A year later it had risen to $94.75 and as at 25th August, 2017, the share price was $159.27 (198% increase in share price!). The numbers may not reflect the all-round effect but it goes a long way to show the effect of a good leadership succession.
As a country, Nigeria needs inspired and innovative leaders to efficiently utilise her vast resources to take the nation forward. Power, health and education are areas where we need ingenious and creative leaders to catalyse sustainable development. Recently, we all celebrated the Not Too Young To Run bill. It is an avenue which young, creative, innovative and forward-thinking Nigerians can use to drive positive change in society. Are the youth ready to give those who have the competence the opportunity to justify this move? Will young Nigerians abuse this opportunity? It is a beautiful opportunity but measures should be put in place to ensure that only capable and efficient young Nigerians can take advantage of this opportunity. A system to ensure that we have a pool of credible and competent young people to actualise the dream behind the bill. You can only have a sustainable economy when the decision-makers are fully aware of the goal and all that it entails. We need to teach sustainability till it is engrained in our DNA and embedded in our culture. The effect of all our decisions and actions as leaders should be linked to indigenous welfare effect, the global effect and implications on posterity.
These are key areas to focus on as we look forward to raising sustainability-aware leaders. These areas would direct our focus for development and training for leaders in business and government. We will share extensively on these in the second part of this article.
Thought for the road…What measures have you put in place to ensure your office or business, as the case may be, continues to provide RELEVANT solutions in the next 10 years?