Every organization, be it a family, village or nation must have a leader. A leaderless society cannot hope to survive for long. Even animals and poultry have leaders. You can have a good or a bad leader. I will talk about the qualities of a good leader.
1. A leader must be a servant and not master of the people. The leader must have a vision or ideas about how to lead the people to greater heights in economic development, health and happiness. In crafting ideas, the leader should carefully look at the past because it impacts the present. In doing so the leader must ensure that the past is still relevant to the present. If not the past or old ideas should be repackaged to incorporate new developments.
In Uganda we have seen what happens when leaders lack flexibility. For example, the 1979 Moshi conference formed the National Consultative Council (UCC) the policy making body and the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF). The late Yusuf Lule was elected chairman of the UNLF and became president when Amin was toppled. It was understood that the president would exercise his powers in consultation or with the agreement of the NCC. However, Lule was accused of making unilateral decisions. Lule insisted he was ruling by the 1967 constitution. This conflict contributed to Lule’s removal from power. Binaisa became the next president and decided that the elections would be organized under the UNLF umbrella organization. Those who wanted party politics objected and this conflict contributed to Binaisa’s fall from power. The point being made is that a leader must be flexible and understand the forces at work.
2. A leader must have good communication skills to sell his ideas and win over support of the people. The leader should use solid information. The media should be used to ensure that all aspects of the idea are explored fairly, transparently and in a participatory manner. Undemocratic means of communication must not be used to achieve preconceived outcomes.
3. A leader must cultivate a culture of cooperation. Going it alone carries the potential of conflict with the people sooner or later. To resolve internal or external conflicts requires a cooperative spirit with other players.
4. A leader must have caring qualities towards the people. Mother Theresa was not a strong woman physically. She was a minute woman and very fragile. She cared for vulnerable people that were picked from the streets of Calcutta and many other places. For this work, she was admired as an outstanding leader and won the Nobel Peace Prize. Therefore virtue and goodness are qualities that must be embedded in a leader.
5. A leader must have credibility. The idea of credibility is that allies and adversaries alike must believe what the leader means what he/she says and will finish the job. In other words a leader must be consistent. Credibility instills a sense of trust. A credible leader seeks power not for his or her aggrandizement but to serve others. In short a true leader is not self-serving. Suffering is part of a good leader. There are people around the world that gave up their good life to struggle for the sake of others even when they knew of the risks they were taking including the possibility of imprisonment, exile or even losing their lives.
6. A leader must be a team player, not intimidated by accomplishments or gifts of others and must consider the views of others. Team player leaders inspire rather than frustrate people. Leaders must be flexible, compromise and make concessions as appropriate. This is a sigh of strength, not of weakness. Leaders must have the sense of determining when to lose the battle in order to win the war.
7. Leaders must have the intuition of when, where, how and with whom progress can be made. Here leadership involves the ability to identify, organize and lead coalitions of like-minded friends and allies in the service of shared interests. The hallmark of leadership is engagement. Intuition requires that a leader should understand that everything counts. No issue is too small or remote to be neglected.
8. A leader must have courage because not everything can be resolved by compromise or cooperation. To convert vision into reality, one sometimes needs to gather courage and remove road blocks to peace, human rights and development. Courage also carries the potential of failure. If you are afraid of failure, chances are that you are not a good leader.
In conclusion today as in the past leadership remains an essential component at all levels of human endeavor. As Ugandans attempt to transition from NRM dictatorship and failed state status to democracy and development for all Ugandans we need true leaders with a compelling vision of Uganda society, the ability to communicate that vision convincingly to Ugandans and the international community and to facilitate the implementation of the vision through cooperation and compromise with other stake holders. If Ugandans pick the leaders they deserve chances are that they will overcome the current economic, social and human rights traps and transition to a period of democracy, rule of law, human rights and prosperity for present and future generations.