I find it difficult to discuss the concept of leadership without including the notion of power because the attainment of leadership presupposes the wielding of power. Power in this case can be actual or inapparent, depending on how one looks at it. Be that as it may, society mainly perceives leadership as virtuous and power as its villainous sibling. I find it necessary to point out the similarities between the two concepts because that informs the discussion at hand.
Political theorist Niccoló Machiavelli in his political treatise The Prince attempts to find a discrepancy between two groups of people which he terms as the “great” and the “people”. He explains that the “great” seek to exploit and oppress the “people” who in turn loathe the “great” and resist being exploited and oppressed. Machiavelli then states that a compromise is reached when the two groups assign a leader who can be popular to the people while the great benefit. This leader is called “the prince” throughout the exposition Machiavelli wrote this text some 486 years ago and yet its applicability and relevance to today’s society is astonishing. This text of the treatise highlights the key components of good leadership.
A good leader is a unifier who seeks to bring different factions and opposing ideologies under one umbrella for the good of the society that he or she leads. Leaders usually take the reins of power after hotly contested elections that threatens to spill over into full blown hatred. The immediate role of a leader after the polls is to bring the two sides of the divide together. This makes their work easier since they are leading one united front. From the analogy of the society with the prince, the two antagonistic sides cannot move forward until there is a compromise agreed. As Machiavelli states, this is in the form of someone who is agreeable to the “people” and also affable to the “great”. Therefore, a leader has to use this position to forge unity.
Next, a true leader is one who is able to find a compromise. The prince alluded to in Machiavelli’s masterpiece has to find a compromise between the differing interests and be able to broker a workable compromise. A leader who is able to do this is not only perceived as wise but visionary too. My experience with student leadership has taught me that society is composed of different schools of thought and as a leader it has been my mandate to harmonise the same.
Listening is a trait that is fast vanishing from our societies. In an era characterised by intolerance and inconsideration of people’s opinions, it is hardly surprising that leaders tend to shut down people who hold divergent views from their own. The danger with listening to only one side is that a leader only chooses from a narrow point of view, which may prove incurable to their leadership credentials. Instead, leaders should listen carefully to both sides in order to make informed decisions.
Leaders ought to be transparent and accountable to those that they lead. I like to think that transparency endears the leader to the people. Transparency is not about reporting achievements but stating the weaknesses and suggesting solutions on how to strengthen the weak areas. During my tenure as Makerere Law Society president, I introduced something known as the State of the Society address whereby I gave accounts of what my regime had done over the preceding twelve months. I was aware that my leadership did not fulfil some of the campaign promises we made but I was strengthened by the fact that I reported to the people with justifications as to why we were not able to achieve as promised. Leaders must make it a point to account and report back to the people they lead. They must place themselves before the court of public opinion in judgment.
Lastly, leaders have to be models and have to conduct themselves that way. Their conduct must be indicative of what they wish their society to look like. I always beam with pride when former students of Mbarara High School, where I was Head Prefect, tell me they are what they are because I inspired it. There is no greater honour for me, to be honest. Yet I also know that if I had conducted myself in a different way, these people would not tell me of how they think I impacted their lives. I have watched on in shock as leaders have demanded for better observance of time management when they are not punctual. The importance of a leader who conducts himself professionally in a bid to act as a model to the rest cannot be overstated.
I wish to ask all my youthful friends to interest themselves in leadership. There is a big leadership vacuum in the country which can only be taken up by the youth. Our quest to guide our nation in the direction we wish to see it starts now. I hope to share my leadership experience with MTN Pulsers with the hope that they shall be inspired to take on the leadership mantle. I joined Mbarara High School where I served as Information Prefect in my O’level and Head Prefect at HSc. During my O’level, I founded the Junior Debating Club to give the younger students a chance at debate. During my tenure I served in many other capacities including Deputy Editor of the school magazine and president of the Junior Debating Club. At University, I was elected president of the Makerere Law Society-the premier and most prominent students’ law society in Uganda. Despite all these portfolios, I have also exercised my leadership abilities when I did not wield positions of influence. Leadership is about causing meaningful impact whether or not you have a tag attached to your name.
I wish all of us the very best for the future.
Credit: Guest Article From Jordan Tumwesigye A renown Youth Leader.