opinionBy Richard Obeng Mensah
Sow a thought, and you reap an action; sow an action, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny - Charles Reade.
A person's thought is central to that person's actions, habits, character, and destiny. Consequently, a great or failed destiny flows from a person's thought. Thus the thought of a president or a potential president is a good basis for electorates to know the kind of a president that person would be. While admitting that good thoughts alone do not guarantee prudent and wise exercise of a political power; it can never be glossed over. In this article, we will review certain thoughts of Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Jimmy Carter of the USA to make out how their thoughts contributed to their great leadership exploits.
Firstly, great presidents acknowledge the truth that greatness is not in duration but in depth. This means that one's affective attitude (such as passion, courage, confidence and a commitment to principles) towards the achievement of that person's God-given purpose is more important than the amount of time it takes to accomplish that purpose. Studies have shown that many people select leaders who fight for what is right, often under very difficult circumstances and who also care for the needs of their people. This means that great leaders selflessly fight for right causes with the aim of securing the good welfare of their people. To such leaders, holding a political office is a means to ending the right causes they fought for. Ex-president Nelson Mandela's name is usually published alongside true greats like Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jnr. and others because of his good thoughts. He once said, "When my ultimate aim was achieved, it was time to move on to a higher calling. Ironically, the day I was inaugurated into office as president, I knew my job was already done and therefore began preparing to leave. In that regard, you may say that my very first day in office was also my last day. In my mind, I had already begun packing out". Unfortunately, this thought has eluded many so-called political leaders particularly in Africa. Consequently, they have believed the lie that spending many years in a political office is a guarantee that they will accomplish their purposes. On the contrary, they usually achieve the opposite!
Great presidential candidates on their part focus on their God-given visions, not criticisms. Although criticisms of all forms can be turned into political assets, a true potential president will primarily focus on her vision. This was so with candidate Jimmy Carter. Carter had good thoughts about criticisms when seeking the highest political office of USA. He acknowledged both the good and the bad twists of criticisms and determined to keep his eyes on his vision. At one breath, he saw some positivity in some criticisms marshaled against him: "I want to be tested in the most severe way. I want the American people to understand my character and weaknesses, the kind of person I am." He was however quick to deduce the real motives of his destructive critics in the following words: "My critics don't want to stop Carter. They want to stop the reforms I am committed to. They want to stop the people of this country from regaining control of their government. They want to preserve the status quo, to preserve politics as usual, to maintain at all costs their entrenched, unresponsive, bankrupt, irresponsible political power". Therefore, a real presidential candidate sees criticisms as a test of one's character and vision. Focusing on one's vision in the midst of intense criticisms is central to greatness.
Secondly, great presidents continue to keep in mind that they are still human beings no matter the feats they attain or the great heights they reach. This trait enables them to acknowledge their weaknesses and yet be committed to their visions. Besides, it enables them to accept the truth that they cannot take the place of God in human affairs. That God, like governments, is the only person who can do for the people what they cannot do for themselves. Thus real presidents concentrate on what is humanly possible and trust God for the impossible things. Unfortunately, some so-called leaders bestow upon themselves titles such as "Messiah", and "Saviour". Nelson Mandela is among the few exception: 'While it is nice to be appreciated, I shudder at the continuous reference to me as "living legend" or "Secular Saint" or any other such references and the near-worshipful adulation that invariably seems to creep in with it. That was one of the things that worried me - to be raised to the position of a semi-god - because then you are no longer a human being. I wanted to be known as Mandela, a man with weaknesses, some of which are fundamental, but a man who is committed'.
Great presidential candidates are not afraid of electoral 'defeat'. Common sense makes it obvious that only one person can be a president of any nation at a time. Regardless of their convictions and visions, real presidential candidates are more than willing to concede 'defeat' if they are not elected. They consider their "rejection" as a 'de-feat', never a defeat. 'De-feat' in the sense that they were not given the opportunity to attain some desired feats. In other words, electoral defeat only denotes a lost opportunity to magnify one's influence. "I am running for president," Carter said, "because I have a vision of a new America, a different America, a better America, and it is not shared by those who are trying so hard to stop my campaign...I see an America with a president who does not govern by vetoes and negativism, but with vigor and vision and positive, affirmative, aggressive leadership." Despite his good thoughts for America, candidate Jimmy Carter was willing to accept the 'de-feat' of his vision for America: "...I feel like I'm doing the best I can, and if I get elected president, I'll have a chance to magnify my own influence, maybe in a beneficial way. If I don't get elected president, I'll go back to Plains". Mitt Romney is commended for conceding 'defeat' in one of the most aggressive electoral contests in living memory. For Kofi Annan, the "willingness of a loser to accept defeat gracefully, and the victor to show respect for the losing side, is one of the hallmarks of a stable democracy".
A person's thought is a replica of that person. This is because the thoughts of any person denote that person's actions, habits, character and destiny! Messrs Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter are among the great presidents this world has ever witnessed. The secret to their great leadership heights is that they had good thoughts concerning the presidency of their respective nations. We must therefore scrutinize the thoughts of any person who is seeking to govern the affairs of Ghana. Remember, a person's thought is imbedded in his actions, character and habits.
Richard Obeng Mensah is author of 'If You Think of Your Opposition You Lose Your Position.'
E-mail: ricahrdobengmensah AT gmail.com