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The Role Of Leadership In Fostering National Cohesion

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A country without national integration is often implied as a country deprived of social cohesion, a sense of nationalism and a failed socio-politico-economy. In bringing up these values, there lies a strong leadership role behind it. After sending away the military and birthing a new republic, debates started to rise against the distorted and corrupt political structures where there is no national cohesion in the country.

Hence, this opinion article will focus on the challenges and stratagems which the leaders of this country need to embrace in order to guarantee accountability and a sense of nationalism among the citizens of the country. The strategies and methodologies for the advancement of national integration include the legal framework, declaration of transparent political policies, and a resilient platform for the societal transformation of the country.

It was found out, in the research, that the sensitisation of the integrated societies of the country basically ensures the sense of uniformity and is known to be the foremost contributor to the cohesion of communities of the nation and its development.

If the leaders failed to do so, then this means that there are problems of polarisation, self-interest, lack of ideology, weak governing institutions, failure to address inequalities and injustices, substantial proliferation of militia power and lack of communication channels between the political leaders and citizens of the country. This article studies and applies a variety of approaches extant in the literature on political science to give an introspective basis for the study of leadership roles in regulating and reconciling the differences among citizens.

Before my extensive epistle, it is cogent to establish what national cohesion is.

National cohesion assumes the process and outcome of instilling and enabling all citizens in a country to have a sense (as well as a feeling) that they are members of the same country, community and institution. These members engage in a common enterprise and face shared challenges.

This is realisable through the regulation and reconciliation of differences, competing interests and demands in society. It is based on the fact that societies and individuals can only achieve their full potential when living and working together.

Tools and processes for achieving national cohesion include, but are not limited to, Good Governance. Instituting non-discriminatory practices. National cohesion is strongest when everyone in a country has the opportunity, the resources and the motivation to participate in society as fully as they wish and on an equal basis with others.

National values are beliefs of a nation guiding the actions and behaviour of its citizens while principles of good governance oblige the state to perform its functions in a manner that promotes the general well-being of its people.

Perhaps we should list out Indicators of a Cohesive Society: common vision and sense of belonging; peaceful coexistence among all members; appreciation and value for peoples’ diverse backgrounds and circumstances; similar life opportunities for those from different backgrounds; strong and positive relationships developed between people from different backgrounds.

To marauders and other anti- progress individuals or group(s), we should also remind them of challenges to cohesion: divisive ideologies; deteriorating morals and values; culture of greed and selfishness; community superiority/ inferiority; negative ethnicity/ negative cultural practices; weakening of the family unit.

At the risk of sounding like an armchair critic or theorist, there are approaches for fostering institutional cohesion: sharing and devolution of power; rule of law; democracy and participation of the people; human dignity; equity; inclusiveness and non-discrimination; good governance; integrity; transparency and accountability.

If these approaches are met and achieved, then we could reap the benefits of a cohesive nation, which are but are not limited to: enhanced national solidarity and harmony; a unified approach to confronting external threats; commitment to national ideals; improved economic performance and well-being; promotion of equity in the sharing of state resources; building of a strong national identity; enhanced credibility in regional/international; and peacemaking process.

A leader’s most important role is to provide clear and compelling direction. … Leaders ensure that all followers understand, embrace, and work toward achieving those objectives. And they provide momentum, sharing and celebrating progress toward achieving the country/company’s goals, setting new targets, and providing needed resources.

As we approach 2023, another year of electioneering, both the leaders and the led must understand what is leadership. It may sound rather simplistic, many a leader does not understand leadership. Nigerians do need to get it right this time. They must separate leaders from pretenders. Hence, our appreciation of what leadership entails. It’s been said that leaders are born, not made, but I disagree. George Washington, Winston Churchill, George Patton, and Margaret Thatcher were often named as natural-born leaders, but each struggled to become the leader they ultimately became.

Becoming and being a good leader is a lifelong journey. The principles and practices of leadership can be learned, but it requires a core sensibility about the nature and importance of leadership. Real leadership in business springs from a deep commitment to providing a workplace that meets people’s needs for belonging, contributing, doing meaningful work, and having the opportunity to grow. Political leadership does much more. 

A leader’s most important role is to provide clear and compelling direction. This begins with a statement of the leader’s values and principles, of their hopes and plans for the country’s future. Then they must consistently demonstrate those values and principles in all of their words and actions. They must also surround themselves with people who share those values.

Robert Greenleaf introduced us to the idea of “servant leadership,” in which the leader’s role is redefined as being accountable for removing the obstacles that prevent people from doing their best work. Instead of creating a “command and control” environment, great leaders learn from followers what’s needed to enable those followers to do superior work, and leaders then focus on supporting the teams that produce the country’s achievements.

Isn’t it appalling there are a good number of successful business people in the country making us proud the world over, and less successful political leaders? It goes without saying we must learn from business leaders. In order to achieve this, we would draw a parallel from the business community. The best leaders make it clear that they have confidence that their followers know what to do, how to do it, and that they will do their best work. Trust in skills and accountability. Leaders have an obligation to ensure that everyone in the company/country has the skills necessary to perform their work, understands how their work serves the country/ company’s objectives, and knows how the outcomes of their work are measured. Once those things are in place, leaders trust team members to be accountable for their performance. Because leaders can’t know or observe everything that everyone in an organisation does, trust is essential, and it is liberating for team members who are trusted to do great work. 

Just as important is that leaders recognise and act when it’s evident that some team members don’t share the country’s values or commitment. Too often this present administration endures the behaviours and performance of team members who aren’t on board, merely to avoid the inconvenience or discomfort of making a change. This is wrong! Effective leaders ensure that every member of the team is, to use Jim Collins’ metaphor from his book Good to Great, the right person on the bus, in the right seat.

 Governing Through Bureaucracy. History, like the economy, is the vast unfolding of millions of decisions and events. The idea that one person or group of people is in control of this process is misguided. No political leader can be aware of, let alone control, the myriad events that shape a nation from within and without. Even very powerful leaders could only govern through a political structure that underpins their authority. They give orders to their subordinates, who then give orders to their subordinates, who then work within the broader society to try to implement the orders.

Leaders govern through apparatuses that have their interests, and in a world of unintended consequences, where even if their directions are followed to the letter, the outcome can be unexpected. They cannot impose their will on society by force but must align with or create coalitions that allow them to rule. The leader is shaped by the vast undercurrent of minute processes and decisions, and resistance to this process can break them. While I am of the view that what a nation enjoys in time is provided by the leadership. What they however suffer in time is caused by leadership!

Pastor Olakunle Yusuf, Lead Consultant, Above Media. He can be reached via 08023423396 or abovemedia@yahoo.com.

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