By Dr. Ignatius Odianosen Okosun (PhD).
Values are shorthand method of recounting our individual and collective motivations and what is imperative to us. They include the principles that governing our decision-making and initiative the behaviour we exhibit. Values can be positive or potentially limiting; positive values include trust, openness, honesty, and integrity. Potentially limiting values consist of blame, greed, jealousy, and hatred. Potentially limiting values originate from the fears of the ego and these promote separation while positive values originate from the Soul and promote connection.
Leadership is an unpretentious matter of power and influence, regardless of why or how that power and influence is used. From this perspective, a leader is someone who has a lot of followers. If a leader trudges those followers off a cliff or towards a more perfect and sustainable society is secondary and irrelevant. This view leads to what I coined the “Gandhi/Hitler problem” in leadership studies. Gandhi had many followers, but so did Hitler; if leadership is essentially a matter of power and influence, then both individuals must be deemed great, by virtue of the fact that they both changed history and influenced the lives of millions.
An individual with tremendous influence who offers flawed diagnoses of’ communal challenges, “solutions that fail to address real problems, and who operates with a fundamental disrespect for human dignity and interdependence is, actually, not a leader at all. In contrast, an individual whose influence extends no further than immediate family, friends, and local community may well be a leader, if he or she is devoted to improving the human condition – at any scale. In the human lifecycle, what does it exactly mean to “improve the human condition?” After all, Hitler had values and saw himself as working for a “better” Germany. Any attempt to assert that some values should be elevated over others is sure to generate controversy and debate. Surprisingly, we end up once again in a quagmire of moral relativism. Reasonable people may be inclined to throw up their hands and decide to walk away from the values questions altogether.
Despite the controversy and discuss around value, a strong case can be made that widely shared values – the kind that transcends differences and unite the vast majority of nations and cultures can be identified. “Do unto others as you would have them done unto you” is an example of a value that echoes across all the world’s major religions and informs civic values worldwide. Perhaps the most compelling example, though, of a widely held value is service. The importance and nobility of dedicating one’s time and energy to serving a community or cause greater than oneself shatters cultural, racial, religious, ideological, and geographical boundaries. The commitment to serve others unites individuals who would otherwise never connect, creating the type of bonds, understanding, and insight that can only come from working together side by side in pursuit of the greater good.
This is the understanding of leadership that informed Martin Luther King’s statement that “Anyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” Dr. King is making the case that leadership is not exercised by just a few “great men” with formal power and widespread influence; it can potentially be exercised by anyone, no matter how modest or elevated their station in life. That sentiment is echoed by Robert Kennedy in his assertion that “few will have the greatness to bend history. But each of us can work to change a small portion of events. This perspective brings some much-needed clarity to the issue of leadership and values. King and Kennedy place a widely shared value — service — at the heart of their understanding of leadership. Those who accumulate power and influence on their journey have enhanced their capacity to serve, but make no mistake: it is the commitment to service — not the access to power and influence that is the essential ingredient of leadership.
As global interdependence excavates in the decades ahead, the forces that compel humanity to work together to shape destiny will only grow stronger. Given this reality, leaders must be guided by and appeal to a set of values that unite, not divide. Even in this era of partnership and ideological conflict, we must remember that this quest for widely shared values is neither naïve nor quixotic. Some organizations have demonstrated that it is possible to unite citizens and elected officials, the public, private, and non-profit sectors, and adults and youth of diverse races, cultures, and creeds around a shared mission of service. And we have succeeded in this effort by insisting that leadership is most definitely all about values.
Taking extracts from the wisdom in Winston Churchill’s definition of democracy as the worst form of government, except for the rest. In developing countries, one of the great pointers to what is troubling about democracy is the kind of people who dominate it. Many political actors are hustlers and have no obvious other sources of livelihood than the rents they scavenge off being politically active, as well as the scams they perpetrate against the commonwealth, which is clearly debilitating of the process of delivering quality public service that advance the common good and improves the quality of life of citizens.
All these add to the image of politics and politicians as something unwholesome, causing many capable people to flee the public space. The result is that policy choice is significantly iatrogenic, that is to say very of many times, the policy choices we make do more damage to the patient, than the disease we are trying to cure. This is understandable, as many who dominate the arena of policy making have neither the training, leadership capacity, nor the discipline to apply themselves, responsibly, to solving society’s problems.
As human cannot give what they do not have, the lacuna left by poor capacity is quickly filled by process of goal displacement is as aptly described in the book; Complex Organizations, by Charles Perrow, resulting in an obsession with corrupt enrichment of self at the expense of public purpose. Goal displacement can be the bane of the bureaucratic order. In typical analysis this is seen as greed and a manifestation of the narcissism of the bureaucratic age, whereas the problem is a feeling of a void, created by the lack of capacity and purpose, with other goals more personal than organizational or public, filling the void. This underlies the problem of local governments with “tout” councilors.
A general recourse in truly to solve this problem is to call for radical change in citizenship conduct such that the better prepared for public life instead of fleeing the public space not to be contaminated by the violence, blackmail and the mischievous scandalizing of those who enter by those who live off politics and often have nothing to lose by way of pedigree and reputation but everything to gain by the power, and material benefit that come from political position. So we urge forward quality people, who are able, to enter political life. But what do they encounter? Their businesses are quickly stigmatized. They cannot access financial instruments because they are tagged politically exposed persons. With the pep stigma, they are likely to suffer in economic life and be tempted, like the professional politicians who lives off the system, to think of ways of surviving while serving sacrificially, for the good of all.
I know a few good men who have tried politics, motivated by the noble ideal of service, got so much poorer, without being appreciated for the sacrifice they made, that they swore never again to approach the arena of political life. Which capable and competent professional would really want so seemingly a tainted tag as, politically exposed person? It’s easier for such people to cynically refer to the arena as the territory of “Dem all crazy” and retreat into striving to construct his comfort zone, a bubbled based on an economistic sense of self-love.
The truth, in the end, is that like all bubbles, it is not sustainable. Worse still all of the society is poorer for that orientation. So how do we install a regime in which the professional politician is pushed back, and the citizen politician, equipped in the Aristotlean philosopher King mode steps forward, burdened by the need to advance shared prosperity and social harmony, to offer light. My alarm on this subject has been heightened by the amazing number of people with and without capacity, who in my recent experience I found desperate to be appointed into positions of any kind in government. For the first time, I came to a full understanding of why we have the bloated government.
In my thinking, one of the ways to tackle this choking of the system, with carrying the unproductive load, is to create more centres of prestige in society and reduce the material attraction of political life. Where the businessman who makes a success of enterprise, a bureaucrat who builds a reputation for attaining execution premium, and the soldiers who reach to the top with distinction is celebrated and recognized as much as the political success there will a lower incentive for crowding out the arena of politics for those with the passion to serve. When a very strict culture of accountability, compensation systems different from what the legislative assembly has managed to institute, are put in place, to ensure that political pay comes into line with the civil service compensation and requires sacrifice on the part of those in government.
People have to learn to sneer at politicians with no evidence of job creating, wealth creation enterprise, behind him or her. At the same time we should learn to celebrate the simple life in public life. The status conferral function of the media needs to be developed to raise the profile to politicians who move around without a coterie of aides and security people and who live very simple lives , do society the world of good. At the same time the abusive interpretation of the idea of pep should be reworked so that the entrepreneurially oriented who have the capacity to advance the common good in public life with transparent systems to ensure accountability, and the blockage of possibilities of abuse of public position for self-interest, should not be disadvantaged by what the pep idea insinuates. With this in mind, we can consciously look at the paradoxes of the democratic culture in practice and evolution so that society profits from democracy as desired
Dr. Ignatius Okosun is a researcher, prolific writer on various national/global issues and social commentator
. From: Toronto-Canada. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org