One Good Quality Does Not Make One An Exceptional Leader


This writer, wrote a book nearly fifteen (15) years ago (precisely in 2002), titled: “Qualities of a Good Leader: A Compendium of Thoughts”. The compendium part of it is a collection of numerous points made by egg-heads on qualities a (good) leader should have. He added this important part of the book because he believed that two or more heads are better than one. As a well researched book (even though concise and easily readable by anyone), he took up the challenge to write the book because of the outcry of late Professor Chinua Achebe in his seminal book titled: “The Trouble with Nigeria”. In totality, he (Achebe) cried-out in 1983 (or thereabout), in his small but inspiring book that the main problem of Nigeria is leadership, and therein posited vehemently that if this all-important aspect of our society is rectified, Nigeria will definitely develop and prosper. Therefore, this writer took up the challenge from that said book by Achebe (and his most loud outcry), to highlight and emphasis on good leadership qualities—indeed, on qualities leaders should have before they aspire for or are in leadership positions (i.e. before and as they lead us). Yes, this writer's contribution was theoretical then, he expects others to also do theirs in many different aspects of that all important topic, called leadership.

After a detailed highlight of collected points (remembering the book is inclusive of a compendium of thoughts of others on leadership too), he (this writer) thereafter selected about thirteen (13) key points and deeply-emphasized on them as qualities a good leader should possess. What he expects every other person to do (especially leaders and aspiring leaders), is do the same thing which he did—collect and collate a whole lot of points on qualities a good leader should have, and thereafter emphasis on, and imbibe about ten (10) key qualities that especially appeals to him/her as the best qualities a leader should have. The person can also use them to assess leaders—whether they possess good leadership qualities and their performance in office too.

In essence, why did this writer write the above lines? It was written, because, as the topic of this essay encapsulates, only one good leadership quality, cannot make one an exceptional leader (or a leadership). About ten (10) of them can at best make an exceptional leader for country like Nigeria. Our leaders in the past have shown that they have some good leadership qualities, but that did not make them exceptional leaders when compared to great leaders of the world. Examples abound: Sir Abubakar Tafewa Balewa (the first Prime Minister of Nigeria), was a man filled with humility and love for others—but these qualities did not make him one of the most classed leaders in the world. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (the first President of Nigeria), was charismatic, intelligent and intellectual (cerebral), but he missed the upper-marks in the hall of fame of world greatest leaders (at best he attained the African trophy). General Yakubu Gowon was a humble-hearted personality and a unifier, but the question is: Did he attain world-best classification? In Africa? Yes! General Murtala Muhammed and General Olusegun Obasanjo were examples of courage, and personalities having the political will to do, but Nigeria missed the mark of world-best leaders during their time in and after power. Alhaji Shehu Shagari was also a humble-hearted and nation-loving individual, but can he be classified as among the world-best? General Muhammadu Buhari (then as a military leader and now as a democratic leader) is a man of austere and firm dispositions, but these qualities are still to single him out as one of the world best leaders of all time. General Ibrahim Babangida, was a man, while in the leadership position of our land (Nigeria), displayed great charisma and ability to take decisions (after consultations), but these good qualities needed to be further enhanced by at least eight (8) others, before the world will classify him as one of its best. General Adusalami Abubakar was a man of his words—keeping his promise to hand-over power when he promised to do so, but that did not insert his name amongst the world-best leaders. Alhaji Umaru Yar'dua was a good hearted fellow who believed and emphasized on the rule of law, but death denied the nation and the world from further assessing him if he could have belonged to the world best classified leaders. Dr Goodluck Jonathan (was Nigeria lucky during his tenure?) was a jolly-good-fellow, who desired not to hurt anyone from any part of the country, but alas, his lieutenants and assistants while in office betrayed him in many ways—most of it all, expending and emptying the national coffers without his express approval (?), and therefore, he is today still struggling to be classified as a good leader—nationally and internationally.

Presently (as we write in March, 2016), the nation contends with Muhammadu Buhari and his leadership qualities as a democratic-civilian leader: Are they good or not? It is indeed hard to give a right answer while he is still in his one year mark in office. But his earlier shown leadership qualities (as a military head of state), still out-shines others (which are seemingly hidden). The austere and firm (ascetic and strict if you like to call it so) leadership qualities in him still manifests more than others (which he needs to also allow to be shining in order to help his performance while in office). That is why he thinks he can fight corruption (financial misappropriation—to be right on choice of words on his efforts on it), and subdue it. He has shown he has not misappropriated the monies entrusted on him while holding high offices in our land; then he uses that exemplary principles, precepts and conduct, to bring others to book, who have belittled themselves (and the nation) while holding high offices—by dipping their hands into the commonwealth purse and stole (the appropriate word). He means well for the nation but all us are still watching and waiting to see whether he will attain the world classification: as one of the world's best Historical leaders (indeed Nigeria deserves one now).

However, as we earlier emphasized in this essay, one or two good qualities cannot make one an exceptional leader when analyzed amongst known great world leaders (which Nigeria deserves and ought to produce at least one). Furthermore, it can only be appropriately said that it takes one to say who a good leader is or not. No crowd has stood in a place and pronounced and chorused on one as a good or bad leader. The best that has come-out of a public in this respect is the way they generally love and cherish the life and living of their so-called good leaders. For instance, note how Americans generally cried when their President J F. Kennedy and FDR died. See how Singaporeans cried when Lee Kuan Yew died. Chinese did same when their Chairman Mao was silenced by natural death and not through the barrel of the gun. See also how South Africans cried when Nelson Mandela crossed to the land of his ancestors. And many other classical examples of other world leaders that were cherished and greatly loved by their people. The nearest Nigeria has gotten to massively mourning their dead leader, was when Murtala Muhammed died after being in office (i.e. power) for only six months and showcasing exemplary leadership qualities.

Indeed, what it takes for a leader to be seen and cherished by the generality of their people (and other parts of the world) is for them to positively touch the life and hearts of all their people by making what is concerning them (the citizens) their concerns; therein alleviating their problems. President Mandela said it all; when he emphasized that the power of the people should not be toyed-with by any leader (i.e. while holding whatever leadership position). And for a good leader to be seen and felt as so by the generality of his/her people, his qualities of good leadership must be platinum-engraved and also be cast on at least ten (10) good qualities which will incontestably remain ever visible and shining examples for a great many to emulate and heartily-cherish too.

The thirteen (13) qualities (amongst the numerous others) which this writer highlighted and explained in- detail in his earlier mentioned book (which is actually derived from a compendium of thoughts on qualities good leaders should posses), are: 1. Unwavering courage, 2. Self-control and confidence, 3. Keen sense of Justice, honesty and integrity, 4. Definiteness of decisions and plans, 5. Enthusiasm, 6. A pleasing personality and ability to get along with people (charisma), 7. As a teacher with sympathy and understanding, 8. Mastery of details, 9. Willingness to assume responsibility, 10. Co-operation, 11. Faith, 12. Intelligence, 13. Transparent attitude and accountability. Summarily therein, it was also written that “It is pertinent to bear in mind always that good leadership qualities encourage participation by all and sundry in the affairs of their state (or organization)”. Written also, was that “a nation with the right leadership will and sense of direction can attain so much within a short time”.

In conclusion, leaders or aspiring leaders should have good qualities. One or two good qualities, cannot make one an exceptional leader while in leadership position. At least, about ten (10) good qualities can make one shine brightly as a good leader. Also, variously quoted in this writer's earlier mentioned book, is the fact that “quality is never an accident; it is always as a result of intelligent effort”. Secondly, “quality has no age” and cannot be hidden; meaning “quality does not hide, it shows”. Indeed, “in times of economic crisis people look up to leaders for solution”. In all therefore, “it takes courage, resilience and vision to be a true leader”.

In addition, without self-glorification in mind, this writer, since he wrote the said book, has personally given and sent copies (through registered mails) to all our past and present leaders (from 2002 till date), as his own little contribution towards enlightening the more, our leaders on this all important aspect of life: leadership, while they are still at or on it; but none of them has cared to acknowledge the receipt of his good-intentioned parcels and gifts (including other books of his). Too bad! On the other hand, he once, as a student, wrote Bill Clinton when he won to lead USA, imploring him to positively remember Africa in his programmes and projects while in power, and he (this writer) received a fresh-ink signed letter from him. He also wrote Barak Obama ( President of USA) advising him on why Mother Nature made him the President: so that he can help to uplift Africa in his programmes and projects, as he has his roots in Africa; and that led him (this writer) to be receiving email letters of President Obama to him from-time-to-time. What do our own leaders do when they receive mails from fellow citizens? In their covertly and overtly vain glorious nature, they read (if they actually do?) and throw the letters into the waste-bin (who knows: that may be the reason why their qualities and transient leadership attainments are also seemingly thrown into the trash-can of History many a time?). Too bad!! What is at stake here is the quality of leadership that is called: “Communication Ability”. While the American Presidents recounted here do not toy with the power of their people as the electorates as Nelson Mandela posited earlier in this essay, and responds to their sentiments, as common as in their writing and receiving replies of their letters from their leaders, our so-called leaders lack the basics in communication ability with their own citizens (to say of outsiders). A word is enough for the wise: one's attitude surely determines one's altitude. Good leadership qualities engrave a leader's name in the minds of the people from generation to generation and surely uplift a nation in times of doom (stress) and boom. That is the whole truth.

Written by Ejike Kingsley Osuji.
[email protected]

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