Leadership: A Reflection Of Society, By Richard Odusanya | News Proof

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Leadership: A Reflection Of Society, By Richard Odusanya

By Richard Odusanya 

Let's begin with the golden words of Awdhesh Singh, an Indian author, and educator with a passion for writing. Dr Singh, posited: "Leaders are usually a reflection of the people they lead. How can a leader be moral if his people are immoral?" Conversely, what Singh is saying is simple: you cannot give what you don't have. Let me at this point align with the position of the Indian author; for me, life is like a mirror reflecting your feelings, your actions and your thoughts. The idea is that everything you experience in life is a reflection of yourself.

Specifically, zero-ing in, on Nigeria and other developing polities of Africa, with concrete examples, let me stress here that, blaming leaders alone overlooks a fundamental truth - the root cause lies within society’s values and aspirations. Leadership, akin to a contest, crowns those who best epitomize prevailing societal ideals. Just as beauty standards vary across cultures, so too do the traits revered in leaders. Whether it be a beauty pageant or a political race, the victor mirrors the collective ethos of their constituency.

From a historical and evolutionary perspective, leaders are typically entrusted with the responsibility of making decisions that benefit the greater good of their constituents. As such, they are often held accountable for the consequences of their actions or inactions. Leaders have the power to shape policies, allocate resources, and set the tone for the society they lead. When leaders make poor decisions, act in a corrupt manner, or fail to address pressing issues, they can contribute to problems within their society.

On the other hand, the people within a society also play a role in shaping the environment in which they live. Citizens have the power to hold their leaders accountable through mechanisms such as elections, protests, and advocacy. Active citizen engagement and participation are essential for ensuring that leaders are responsive to the needs of the population and that policies reflect the interests of the people. Let me, therefore, continue with an interesting narrative of an emperor from the ancient China:

In ancient China, the emperor was growing old but did not have a successor. He wanted to choose one of the many children in his kingdom so that he could start training them to take the throne when he passed away. So, he sent out an announcement to all the families to send their most capable child to the palace. On the morning he specified on the invitation, the palace walls contained over a thousand children and their parents, eager to earn the favor of the emperor. He came in front of them and spoke loudly and clearly:

“I will now give each of you a single seed. It is your job to take care of the seed as though your life depends upon it. Come back to the palace precisely 8 months from now, and the one with the best and most beautiful plant, as judged by myself, will become the successor to the throne.”

The children eagerly lined up and received a single seed from the emperor, all of varying sizes, shapes, and even colors. The last in line was one little boy, who clutched the precious seed in his fist and ran all the way home to bury it deep in a pot with soft soil.

As the months went on, each child carefully watered their seeds and watched them grow. Saplings sprouted leaves, flowers, and even branches. Some grew even taller than the child it belonged to but the little boy, try as he might, could not get his seed to sprout. He changed the soil, added all kinds of fertilizers, and even tried watering it with milk instead. But all to no avail. When the 8-month mark came, he was the only one in line with a barren pot, and no plant at all.

When the emperor finally came to him, he looked down in shame. “I couldn’t sprout the seed,” he whispered. But the emperor only smiled thinly and moved on.

When all the plants had been inspected, the emperor stood in front of the crowd and spread his arms. “I have a confession to make,” he said. “The seeds I gave all of you were burnt and covered up to make them look healthy. They were not meant to grow at all.”

The emperor smiled at the little boy while all the other children gasped in shock. “Because you were the only one who did not buy a plant instead of following my instructions exactly,” he said, “you are the only one with enough integrity to succeed on my throne.” Undoubtedly, what happened in the case of the children underscores the essence of integrity. How can a leader be morally upright if his people are immoral?

In conclusion, permit me to drive home the point that leadership is a reflection of society with the various actions of the following: 

a) Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned as head of the International Monetary Fund amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a maid in a luxury Manhattan hotel. 

b) James McDermott Jr, former chief executive and chairman of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, spent five months in prison and barred from the securities industry in 2000 after leaking stock tips to a porn star girlfriend Kathryn Gannon. 

c) Former US President Bill Clinton apologized to the country for his conduct in the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. 

d) Victor Emmanuel, who is the son of Italy's last king, was stripped of his title in 2006 after his arrest involving a sex scandal with prostitutes. 

The above actions and taking responsibility are the difference between a decent society and a profoundly sick society. Imagine if Africa, particularly Nigeria society in the same situation and circumstances of the actions of the personalities mentioned above saddled with decisions for taking responsibility.

Finally, permit me to concur with the position that ethics are the actions that we take based on what is deemed proper behavior within society. Morals guide our decisions in society as well as in the workplace. Responsibility is someone's duty to perform in some way. Morality is someone's measure of understanding of what is right and wrong. Etiquette is socially expected behavior in terms of manners.

Richard Odusanya

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