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The Issue of Leadership Pt 1

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  • The Issue of Leadership Pt 1

    It is an undisputed fact that every leader needs followers and every follower needs a leader. If leaders and followers need each other and we have so many of both, why is it that we cannot find leaders who can represent our interests? Why are the majority of us disappointed and disillusioned with the ones we have? Do we expect too much of these people? What makes a leader? How does leadership relate to Self-determination? (see definitions) .

    What makes anyone want to be a follower? Some leaders are called teacher by their followers but what is the distinction between a teacher and a leader? These are some of the questions which we will be exploring in this updated article, which is based on a series of interviews / discussions with various prominent African people, most of whom are considered leaders in their fields o f endeavour and in our community.

    Crisis of Leadership

    The discussions ranged around this question of a crisis of leadership in the Global African (Black) community. A crisis which we all agreed, cannot be ignored any longer. We found it impossible however, to agree on a definition of the word leadership. Nor could we find a mutually acceptable term or phrase to describe the functions and responsibilities of a leader.

    For example, Dr. Mwalimu I. Mwadilifu (Curtis Alexander, Watoto World: ECA Associates ) says: "The duty of the leader is defined by the people they represent. And the duty of a leader first and foremost is to represent the aims, aspirations and needs of African people." A statement which is supported by the dynamic Dr. Patricia Newton who says: "... any leadership that is going to be effective in the next millennium for African people is a leadership style and quality that needs to not embrace the Eurocentric approach of being the HNIC (Head-******-In-Charge). In other words, a leader simply becomes an expression of the will of the masses, not a dominating director of the will of the masses. When you step forward as a leader then, you must step forward as the person that simply represents the views of the masses."


    The problem with such a statement is a problem of representation. How does one person represent the views and aspirations of a disparate mass of people whose leaders, academics and intellectuals themselves do not have a common view of what a leader is or should be. No entity can represent the interests of another better than that other entity itself. If it were possible, would a person with her or his own views, aspirations, needs, and aims, be able and willing to represent accurately and earnestly those of any other person which may well be in contradiction to their own views, etc.? Would that representative be able to make decisions in the interests of those whom he or she represents, where such decisions may be against her or his own interest? Either way, should such a person be called a leader - or a delegate?

    For example, if you instruct someone in what you want them to do on your behalf, they cannot possibly be your leader. They may, at best, be your delegate but by no means would they be your leader - at least not in the modern day literal sense.

    No entity can represent the interests of another better than that other entity itself.
    On the other hand, if he or she represents their own interests, i.e. views, aspirations, needs, and aims, which may incidentally just happen to coincide with the needs of the majority of the people, would they be seen as representing the people? And when inevitably, the representative's circumstances in relation to the rest of the group change and hence their views, aspirations, needs and aims change, would he or she still be seen as a leader? Or would representation of the people's views, aspirations, needs and aims no longer be a criteria for he or she to wear the mantle of leadership?

    As Tony Browder observes: "Many of our political leaders, many of our church leaders, are self-serving individuals who do not represent the interests of the masses. One sign of an effective leader is their ability to lift up the masses of those who are following her or him, such that it is no longer necessary for them to serve as a leader."

    But that does not happen, it will not happen because leaders do not equip themselves with built in obsolescence. They are not famous for committing leader suicide. Not even their followers would expect a leader, one who is placed at the head and privileged by the title and position, to do anything to hasten her or his departure. Only a teacher, who gains nothing by teaching, except perhaps the satisfaction of seeing their seeds bear fruit, can afford to nurture their own replacement.

    The reason why we cannot find leaders who can represent our interests is that on the issue of Self-determination (see definition ) , the interests of the "leader" are essentially incompatible with the interests of the people, especially those who are not her or his followers.

    As part of an entity seeking self-determination, each individual's interests lies in the achievement of that objective, not only for the group but equally important for its component parts where each individual part. At which point each individual would then choose for its own sake to be or not be an integral part of the group.

    However, as the leader of a group seeking self-determination, that individual's interests will lie in securing her or his position which will be threatened not only by other aspiring leaders but by the very idea of self-determination for all other individuals within the group.


    So what is a leader? A leader is all the things my interviewees have said and more. There are obviously good leaders and bad leaders, but regardless whether they are good or bad they are usually apart from rather than a part of those whom they are leaders of.

    What makes a person want to be a leader? And why would anyone want to be a follower? Power. Yes, the answer is power, pure and simple. It is the same natural urge, the desire for Power Over Self (POS) which creates both the leader and the follower. Every one of us have an instinctive desire for control of our lives, a natural thirst for freedom or power over self. In other words, we need self-determination.

    In the past couple of millennia, culminating in today's Eurocentric society, this power instinct, the desire to control our destiny, has been misinterpreted and misdirected into a drive for Power Over Others (POO).

    It is the same natural urge, the desire for Power Over Self which creates both the leader and the follower.

    The person who actively seeks to be the leader is always someone with a seemingly unquenchable and unfathomable thirst for power. He or she is a person who has a sometimes uncontrollable desire to control others. This is just one of the manifestations of the non-fulfilment of the POS instinct which we just spoke of. This person somehow recognises the difficulties inherent in the pursuit of self-determination in a society which is built on the POO principle of subjugation, exploitation and oppression. He or she at some stage in their development eventually abandons the POS idea of freedom for themselves and all others and seeks to exercise POO instead because, not only is power over others easier to achieve, it has material and social benefits in this society which are more tangible than power over self.

    How "leaders" recruit "followers"

    The leader type knows about the power instinct . He or she knows also, that society places greater value on external, rather than internal control. They know that whether it is an individual, a disenfranchised, dispossessed group of people, an oppressed minority or majority, or even members of an oppressor group, we all have this same innate need for power - and again I stress, it is power over self (POS). So the leader says: "I will make you powerful - if you follow me. Follow me and I'll set you free".

    They convince you that they have the secrets to economic, ideological, material, political, religious, social or spiritual power. They say, you can acquire the power you need if you follow them. They may even say they represent a God who, in its unquestionable wisdom, chose them as its sole representative here on Earth.

    Usually, they do have the knowledge, the information which you need to utilise your own power for your own benefit, to set yourself free. But they use this information to tie you to them in subordination. So, in the process of being a follower you catch yourself following a path which takes you away from self-determination and following a leader who has a vested interest in making sure you never find yourself. Because once you find the path to self-determination you would have no need to follow anyone.

    The direction of travel on the road to self-determination is the opposite direction to every ideology, religious doctrine, political philosophy, and social theory which compels or requires you to defer to any external power in determining your destiny.