As human beings, we are endowed with the special gift of intellect for reasoning and for discernment. This is one way we are different from animals. It is clearly important also to understand that with this intellect of ours comes the intrinsic value of leadership, which makes us all accountable. Developed nations of the world have in place good, experienced, responsible, and accountable leaders. Sadly, this has not been the case for most African nations – call them Third World countries. This article shall use Nigeria as a case study in a quest to understand her underdevelopment as a nation. The article shall conclude with the hope of a solution, but not before defining certain terms, and stating the problems of leadership in the country.
What is Leadership?
Etymologically, the word “leader” has an older pedigree – from the Old Englishlædere, meaning “one who leads,” agent noun from lædan,” to guide, bring-forth.” The closest word in antiquity relating to leadership is the Latin wordducere “to lead, consider, regard.” Interestingly in modern Romanian language, the word for leading and leadership is conducere. An understanding of the ancient relativeDucere (Latin), one can begin to appreciate why there is so much complexity and variance in our modern understanding of what leaders do and what leadership is all about.
It is quite unfortunate that when we talk about “accountability” some people think it is a synonym for finance. Accountability, according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, is simply the quality or state of being accountable; it is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or account for one’s actions. This article will nonetheless focus on the accountability-problem, but with a connection to leadership in Nigeria.
Accountability in Leadership:
“The Buck Stops Here” is a slogan, which informally simplifies that the responsibility for something cannot, or should not, be passed to someone else. “In the past you could spread the blame, but now the buck stops here.” Historically, “The buck stops here” is a phrase popularized by the U.S. President, Harry S. Truman, who kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office. The phrase refers to the notion that the President has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions. (https://www.trumanlibrary.
Without accountability, even the most brilliant, hardworking, well-intentioned leader fails; they fail to meet their performance goals; they fail to develop their countries and teams; they fail to see and hire top talents; they fail to effect their manifestoes; they fail to coach their employees; they fail to communicate clearly; not only that they fail to optimize performance, but they also fail, and jeopardize the entire system. Effective leadership requires real accountability.
Therefore, accountability in leadership entails that a leader should take personal responsibility and be willing to answer for the outcomes of their choices, their behaviors and their actions in all situations in which they are involved.
Leadership in Nigeria has survived on the saying “if you can’t beat them, you join them.” or what Sen. Dino Melaye called “Government of the greedy, by the greedy, and for the greedy. Let us assess these sayings as problems for leadership.
1. The Blame methodology: Accountable leaders do not blame others or their predecessors when things go topsy-turvy. Rather, they make things right –they become ‘fixers’ instead of blamers and complainants. Accountable leaders should build an accurate understanding of their organization- where it excels and where it has opportunities. They step up standards to champion opportunities to succeed. They ask questions and find best answers.
2. Individualism: this is all about taking care of you; it’s the belief and practice that every person is unique and self-reliant. Individualism also implies that you believe that the government should stay out of your individual affairs. Yet, accountability in leadership goes beyond individual actions and decisions. Accountable leaders assume ownership of the performance of their team and the society. Remember, “the buck stops here!”
3. Lack of Honesty in Leadership:accountability in leadership starts with being honest. Often, accountability in leadership requires setting aside personal pride, admitting faults and mistakes, and completely being honest with the self. Honest leaders become accountable by viewing their role in the situation and devising reasonable solutions to resolve issues, conflict, and challenges in an authentic and genuine fashion. Sadly, dishonesty in leadership has cost Nigeria and Nigerians their development.
4. Lack of Continuity: This simply means the unbroken and consistent existence or the operation of something over time. (That is, the partial projects, and the abandoning of ongoing projects just because one is not the person that started it.) This method of operation by successors alone could bring a country back to zero in terms of development – and it is quite noticeable in the leadership of Nigeria.
5. Avoidance of Responsibilities: are you the type of leader who always runs away from responsibilities? Remember that “the buck stops here” only works exceedingly well by personalizing it. In accountable leadership, leaders do not avoid responsibility, and they do not procrastinate. An accountable leader does not hold firm to corrupt godfathers. They review their schedules and know whether they have enough time required to complete their projects qualitatively. If unsure, they simply say no to the task and yes to the person asking for the commitment. It is in this manner that accountable leaders provide an assurance that their projects will go undone.
This article has defined some terms, and explained the subject matter of leadership and accountability (in Nigeria). The articles also outline some of the problems that could be evident in any leadership that lacks accountability, not only in Nigeria but other countries of the world. Refreshingly, accountability is a sino qua non when it comes to good leadership even in organizations and institutions. Although, developing accountability could be challenging to some leaders, it doesn’t still negate the fact that accountability in leadership builds trust within countries and teams, and creates respect between leaders and their subjects. Accountability is all about a leader’s overall commitment to excellence toward the development of her/his country, organization, or association.
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