With antecedents, a leader can master not only his absence but also his silence. This was the case when President Muhammadu Buharu was sworn in as the 15th Head of State of Nigeria. There was so much talk about his Body Language that abhors corruption and indiscipline. The memory of his War Against Indiscipline(WAI) during his military regime in the early 1980s made many, especially civil servants, rethink their ways.
This piece is motivated by Prof Prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe‘s Master Your Absence: how companies can become category kings. Writing from my personal experience on leadership, I share with you how a leader can master his absence and silence in becoming a category king in the art of leadership. The choice of subject matter is borne out of our major bane as a country and continent as a whole. Despite the black race starting well on leadership in the story of the Tower of Babel, we lost it.
“Man know thyself.”—Socrates
The simple meaning of this statement is that knowledge of oneself leads to a possible mastering of self and a development of self for the benefit of self, others, and the society at large. I have introspected and discovered that one of my gifts is leadership. Each person alive today has his own unique gifts and these gifts must be worked on to increase their value. Just like gold ore to pure gold. This makes me always lookout for opportunities to improve my leadership capacity knowing that there is a great demand for it in Nigeria.
My first experience of mastering my absence was during my National Youth Service year in 2014/2015 in Taraba State. The then LI (God rest his soul) , that is, Local Government Inspector (an NYSC official in charge of corps members in a local government) announced me as the next CLO, that is, Corps Liaison Officer (a corps member responsible for the welfare of his colleagues in the local government). I was surprised when one of my colleagues in my PPA (Place of Primary Assignment) told me that sometime ago a meeting was held to decide who the next Principal Corps Member, and CLO would be. In attendance were selected corps members, school principals, and the LI. They decided that ” ‘Corper Gani’ is bigger than a principal corps member, only the CLO is befitting for him.” A principal corps member is the person in charge of other corps members in the most populated school. I was humbled hearing his confession.
But how did this unanimous decision favoured me as the next CLO? My antecedents! You see, since I set my feet in Kurmi LGA, I hit the ground running. There were fundamental social dysfunctions especially with the youths. From changing the monthly CDS (Community Development Service) of monthly sanitation (an exercise with zero social impact) to weekly career guidance seminars for senior secondary school students from school to school, Ebola Seminar, free O Level tutorials anchored by corps members, provision of classroom amenities, in all classes in my PPA, proper selection and training of school prefects, etc. I built trust and demonstrated competence as a leader through influence and without my knowledge and in my absence, I was elevated as primus inter pares.
Here is another tale of how I mastered my silence and got an opportunity to serve. This happened in the Month of October, 2019. It was the third day of our training as new employees. We were twenty-three (23) trainees. One of the facilitators said it was time to choose the class governor. “If you have the ability and want to be the class governor, put up your hand”, he said. Immediately, a hand in the front seat was up and instead of herself she recommended me. The coordinator was surprised and asked, “Why didn’t you nominate yourself?” He has started it already, she answered. Then he asked the class who else is interested, but they all chorused, “We want Gani!”
That moment made goosebumps rupture all over my body. Yes, I wanted the role and was tempted to raise my hand but a voice within said, “If these folks appreciate what you have done, they will choose you.”
I planned to make this concise, I am sorry it’s long. I will conclude in the next two paragraphs. The diagram below depicts how a leader can become a category king in the art of leadership. The curve is positively sloped rising from left to right. The vertical axis measures a leader’s influence as he accumulates more capability on the horizontal axis. Leaders at the base of the curve, termed downstream, are title and privileges conscious while those at the upstream are people and solution conscious. To progress on this curve, a leader must nurture his abilities first by acquiring knowledge and skills and then seek or create the opportunities to influence others towards an altruistic goal.
To be a category king leader, one must start as a leader without titles before men will seek you and give you a title. A leader limits his potential when he seeks and holds on to titles. For example, Tony Elumelu as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the United Bank for Africa had a limited leadership influence. He only thrived in the banking sector. Thanks to Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the then Central Bank of Nigeria Governor who gave him wings by putting a limit to the tenure of commercial banks chiefs. Now Tony Elumelu through the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurial Fund, TEEP, is now adjudged a global leader.
Another category king leader worth mentioning is Prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe who recently proved this principle by being honored as one of the 20 Best Futurist Keynote Speakers 2019 by TAFFD USA.
Leadership is influence, practical love for the people, passion and competence in your field of endeavor. There are lots of problems in Nigeria that will make anyone a celebrity. So, do you want to be a senator, governor, or president? Start by solving your neighborhood problems and when the time comes, the people will choose you. However, you don’t become a practical leader on social media, you can get the know-how, knowledge and inspiration from, say, LinkedIn but you must go out and work.
Don’t seek titles, seek courage!