18 April 2016

Liberia: Leadership Deficit Plagues Liberia

Monrovia — Liberia has a checkered political history replete with power struggle and the clamor for national attention. This heated contest for political power is often mistaken by some as a desire on the part of the contesters to make Liberia better. But concurrently, most political contestations in the country produce in the end despots and tyrants and kleptocrats who put pecuniary interests over service to the people that they are supposed to lead. According to longtime human rights advocate, himself serving as Minister in Government, the Liberian people's yearnings for humble and productive leaders remain elusive as demigods often emerge in the stead of servants of the people. Speaking to a group of female lawyers last weekend, Samuel Kofi Woods says this pervasive leadership deficit is not limited to the Presidency of Liberia but cuts across every spectrum of the Liberian society. The Analyst reports.

Despite countless epithets on various private and public leaders believed to have left admirable legacies for service to the country and humanity, Former Labor Minister and Public Works Minister in the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration says Liberia continues to suffer "Leadership Deficit".

"We have seen how power and authority have been defined; how those we lead are treated with disdain, the arrogance of power, the disregard for those we represent, our urge to personalize rather than institutionalize ideas and processes," said Samuel Kofi Woods last Friday while delivering the keynote address at the induction of a new leadership of the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL).

He said Liberia suffers leadership deficit and this is noted limited to the Presidency.

"This is more than the Presidency," he added. "It includes all institutions, organizations and social structures of our society, be it religious, social, political, cultural, etc."

Wood said leadership deficit is a virus is eating the very fabric of country and wrecking national institutions.

"Our leaders want to be idolized and adored. We see ourselves as gods to be worshipped. They want to be served rather than serve. They don't have a humble heart. Rather than practice self-denial, they demand entitlements."

He exclaimed: "Oh God! We need leaders that will think about leaving a legacy of honest service to their people, leaving the people better off than you met them.

"I recall few years ago when many of us served in government, there were justifications that we had come home to sacrifice and left lucrative and high paying jobs abroad. While this was debatable without evidence to weigh our claims, we took high salaries and lived in opulence. We argued that we had the better capacity than many of those at home. Liberia gave us salary disparities.

"Well! Our coffers are bleeding and these are difficult times for our country and some of us are fleeing. We are at the perils of your bad decisions. We are broke. True leaders must remain and endure the difficult times just as we lavished in the good times. We must remain here and share in the agony and pains of ordinary people. This is the kind of leadership we demand! While our coffers bleed and some of us flee."

Woods said good leaders must summon the courage to change policies, laws and procedures deemed draconian rather than use them against perceived enemies, adding: "Your leadership must not succumb to the trappings of nepotism, patronage, revenge and exclusion. It must seek to include all female lawyers in spite of age, background, religion, etc. You must reach out to all."

He called on the new AFELL leadership to show gratitude to confer recognition based on merit, being a true, honest and sincere leadership and to lead by example.

The former Catholic Justice and Peace Commission Director reminded the female lawyers that a good leader is like a mother who has several children under her roof, some hers, some not but they are her children.

"She must strike the delicate balance of love, care and best wishes for all her children," he stressed, stating further that "Our leaders today hate some, love some, abuse some and misuse and abuse some.

"They divide the country into different layers and discriminate against others. Leaders today strives on internal discord rather than promote harmony, influence internal discontent rather than a spirit of cooperation. No leader can succeed by despising others and praising some. All of our citizens have talents and something to contribute to our national development and progress. We must identify their talents and celebrate them when necessary. We must equally scold and chastise them. Equality before the law must be promoted."

"You must be a unifier," he admonished the new AFELL leadership. "Do not look for your enemies. Identify your friends. In identifying your friends you will convert your enemies. The progress of your organization must be seen as collective rather than individual. The "I syndrome" must be discouraged."

Woods said the new Corps of Officer of AFELL must first seek to unite all female lawyers wherever they are and then develop programs that will attract them, show them that their membership will be of value to you and to them.

"Your first challenge will be to embrace and ensure that AFELL will be for all female lawyers at home and abroad, and that its programs and initiatives must respond to the needs of all women and men not some," he emphasized. "All lawyers, young and old, ordinary or elite alike."

He admonished the AFELL leadership to be different by embracing all female lawyers.

He added: "You will succeed when you build an all-inclusive leadership not an elite club. You must find a place for ordinary women and give them hope. You must be humble and forgive. You must have a place for your critics. Develop a comprehensive program that impacts the lives of all women and everyone alike. Simplify laws and work with communities to appreciate them and create awareness about how they can seek redress for grievances. You must accompany them."

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