By Faruk Kirunda
“Conventional wisdom is that great leadership is in short supply today” according to Alan Stoga of the Tällberg Foundation.
The Tällberg Foundation is a forum for constant debate and the exchange of ideas and experiences on critical global issues. Among other programmes, the organisation runs the Tälberg Foundation Leadership Award through which it identifies emerging leaders in the world. Each year, it places calls for nominees who go to win awards and get mentored to become responsible leaders in their countries of origin.
Programmes such as the one run by Tallberg are much needed in Africa and Uganda, in particular. I belong in the school of thought which believes that leaders emerge by themselves. However, as they emerge, they require mentors to help them realise their full potential faster. Without mentorship, a leader, even a talented one soon or later hits a rock. Most of them end up badly because they think that they are who they are of their own making.
Exceptional cases exist but those are hard to come by.
At last year’s elections, we had many young people taking up top positions for the first time. They were just lucky. However, the reality of the demands of true leadership when accorded lofty positions was always going to be a big challenge that would test them to the limit. If some don’t end up in a bad, irreparable mess, they won’t survive the next round of elections.
It is of great national importance that all political parties activate leadership mentorship activities starting from the grassroots. It starts with the ordinary member, then on to those who aim to participate in leadership at a higher level. In leadership, many are called but few are chosen. Uganda has 42million people but only the few chosen ones, with the right attitude and mindset will emerge as rightful favourites to lead.
When you observe conduct of some of our leaders, how they fight over nonissues and generally miss beat of Uganda’s drum, then consider the loss of experienced, well calibrated leaders like the deceased Speaker of Parliament, Rt, Hon. Jacob Oulanyah, you realise how critically short of talent to take the country forward we are unless the fresh generation rises to the occasion and seeks to be guided by those who have been there, seen things and built notable profiles in leadership.
Uganda’s democratic environment permits one to rise from a “nobody” to “someone” almost out of the blue. We have many examples of people who have suddenly found themselves in the thick of things. By the time they realise that they are on a weighing scale, it is too late. They are overwhelmed and that becomes their waterloo.
The liberation generation of leaders, those who struggled through the hardships of yesteryears and those who fought through the jaws of lions to emerge on the national scene were nurtured by difficult circumstances.
We are now in modern times where nothing should be left to chance. As we aspire to push Uganda to achieve milestones in transformation, young leaders must pull up their socks. First, they should best understand the national agenda and aims. It doesn’t matter what politics they subscribe to; all minds must resonate, all tongues should speak the same language.
When it comes to conceptualising policy and development programmes, they must all move together. Unity of purpose is a basic tenet of leadership. That means being perceptive enough to know when to build bridges, when to talk and how, when to keep mum or to keep a distance.
When leaders have been sharpened, it becomes easier to interest their masses in issues that matter.
It’s unfortunate that Uganda is still short of leadership potential despite the fertile environment created over time. But all that is part of nation building processes. It takes time. And that is why we need senior and experienced figures to remain in charge and impart their knowledge in the young generation. Those who are willing to learn from the best will grow, while those who feel that they have reached their limit will stunt and drop off.
The latter include leaders who are failing to fit in their shoes and, as a result, risk ruining their careers. A basic trait that a leader should have is emotional intelligence, the skill of knowing how to behave in given circumstances.
There are things many of us would want to do or say but because of how we are brought up, our values derived from culture, faith in God and the spirit of Ubuntu, we rein ourselves in. Other moderating factors are the human relationships we are in and how the future will judge us when we have grown to a ripe age of our revered seniors like President Museveni.
Even a seemingly small thing like what we post on social media counts. Some users social media do not realise that whatever one posts on the internet leaves a digital trail. In the future, someone can dig up whatever has been posted and use it against them. People are losing opportunities because of what they posted on social media in the past. Recruiters, suitors, immigration, among others, are using what they discover on social media accounts to vet candidates.
Leaders should be an example on how to be people and how to speak using whatever platform they are privileged to access. These platforms should be used to advocate causes that will stand the test of time and those that contribute to delivering the grand transformation agenda. They should be used to deliver mentorship beyond the cream of Kampala to reach everyone all the way to Napak and Bundibugyo.
Everybody needs mentorship on how to become better citizens, how to emerge into the opportunities available and how to manage relations with other people. The overall goal is to progress together. Despite the differences in backgrounds and persuasions, there are always those things that unite us or connect us or that affect us equally. Let us all aspire to be leaders in identifying those things and embracing or overcoming them, depending on their form.
Failure of the new generation to seek and pick lessons from those who know better means that the transition so much agitated for would be a recipe for disaster and regret.
Rest in peace, Rt. Hon. Jacob Oulanyah!
The author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary– State House