[Delivered at Young Christian Students (YCS) Congress in Kumasi, 1979/Updated in December, 2017]
There is a very popular paraphrase of a statement, with Biblical sources, that “…He who must lead should be prepared to serve…” Another critical idea emanates from the theme, i.e. the fact that, leaders should render services that are relevant to the needs of those they lead.
LEADERSHIP is a rather slippery terminology that has attracted several definitions. For our purpose, however, we shall consider it as the ability to influence others to achieve group objectives, at the same time as satisfying their individual self-set goals. Leadership is therefore a social phenomenon that emerges and develops in inter-personal relationships. For leadership to facilitate provision of service to one’s neighbour, it should be open, democratic or shared. Rendition of services has always been a natural sequence to awareness or consciousness of a situation whereby one finds him/herself vis-à-vis another person or group in obviously disadvantaged positions. Leadership, of necessity then, is a product of observation, analysis and understanding of the problem.
Three types of Leadership styles have been identified, namely,
- Democratic: Open, democratic or shared Leadership promotes service to the community, because it enables the members to develop their full potentials, with the least inhibitions and hindrance. It is said to be ‘democratic’ because there is the possibility for all members to participate in the decision-making process, right from the formulation or planning to the implementation of policies and projects. Authority is diffused, and not concentrated in only one person (as in “authoritarian” or “dictatorial” leadership). Rather, effective leadership is shared between all the sections of the group. Thus, there is a capacity to direct one’s behaviour toward organizational goals.
- Autocratic: Such leadership style does not consider the ideas and efforts of other members of the group. This is characterized by arbitrary decisions and ‘one-man shows’ and arrogant, inconsiderate attitudes. Autocratic leaders lord it on their followers.
- Laissez faire: Just as the meaning of the term, leaders hardly exert their influence. They follow every suggestion without adequate and critical assessment of situations.
Individuals demonstrate one dominant style, but sometimes, circumstances may demand that a leader must put his/her foot down and take decisions, or let things take their own course, in the interest of the group. A good, balanced leadership will be inclined to be flexible and on top of situations. Such leaders see themselves as ‘the first among equals’ (primus inter pares). They are not superior over the other members.
YOUTH LEADERSSHIP FOR SERVICE must have its roots in a process of awareness-creation, what Fr. Paolo Freire, a renowned Brazilian Catholic Priest, has termed Conscientization. Such a leadership role involves working through small groups, both in and out of school. The central concern is the process of discovery of self and others, in a way which enables people to proceed to action to implement their insights, or to improve upon the status quo. The concept may be simplified as “a synthesis of professionalism and goodwill and a sharing of knowledge rather than its imposition.”
To attain a desirable level of awareness and understanding of the problems of one’s milieu (beit a household, an institutional campus, a workplace, or an association), one needs to be involved in the operations of the group. Put differently, young people cannot be mobilized on empty foundations; there must be motivation, as well as some form of organization and opportunities for analysing problems, to facilitate finding appropriate solutions to them. Such essential structures and logistic arrangements include, for instance:
- Leadership Development: This is an important avenue for providing non-formal or informal educational opportunities. Various Youth Associations have sprouted in almost every nook and corner of the country, following the establishment of the National Youth Council (NYC), by NRCD 241, in 1974. The members should. The leadership need to take advantage of the existing facilities and structures of the now National Youth Authority (NYA) for Leadership Development. These include a number of Youth Leadership Training Institutes in some regions, and with plans to establish one in each administrative region in the country.
Youth groups should be able to identify members who exhibit traits of Leadership, for them to nurture and promote the development of such potentials. The youth, in turn, should respond positively to opportunities to channel their energies into creative and viable ventures. These include organizing and participating in in voluntary communal work programmes or projects, teaching in Vacation classes for local JHS and SHS pupils and students.
Relying on available Role Models in their communities as Adult Volunteers, Youth groups can also involve District Secretariats of the NYA should encourage and facilitate the organization of periodic Leadership Training Seminars and Workshops in their jurisdictions. They should be knowledgeable and abreast with the relevant subjects and issues that will enable youth leaders to run their Associations and projects effectively. Other Resource Person can be found from the staff of institutions located in the nearby Decentralized Departments of the Metropolitan/Municipal/District Assemblies.
In order for leadership to succeed in stimulating the support of the membership, the following attributes or qualities, or a combination thereof, are very essential:
- Dynamism/organizational abilities;
- Approachable/affable (ability to get along with almost everybody in the group);
- Confident/stable self-esteem;
- Well-informed and open-minded;
- Readiness to sacrifice (time, other resources)/Selfless;
- Innovative (able to generate new ideas and insights into problems on hand);
- Good communicator (ability to express ideas in ways that can convince the followers or others;
- Pragmatic/proactive (able to stretch his/her imagination);
- Fair and firm in judgement and decision-making;
- Tolerant/Respect for the opinions of others;
- Responsible and of proven integrity/trustworthiness.
Communication: For leadership to be effective and generate involvement, there should be a two-way communication channel. Through the ‘Bottom up’ approach, the leader must respect the opinion of every member of the group, irrespective of any considerations. The leadership should promote a climate of initiative and creativity and inclusiveness in the organization or group.
In practical terms, the young intellectuals of this country have a special part to play in helping the ordinary people to regain their personality, and faith in their own abilities, through self-discovery. The youth can do this better if they are convinced that they have been able to discover themselves, with the help of their education. The curriculum should not be confined only to classroom or theoretical knowledge. The young people of Ghana must continue to be given every facility to integrate themselves profoundly in the life of the people, since an effective way of learning is by doing.
In the past, our educational institutions ran a kind of academic ‘obstacle race’ at the end of which their qualifications, in the form of degrees and titles, conferred definite prestige. Their products constituted a class or an élite group. Today, our institutions should become workshops where students increase their potentialities and sharpen their patriotic duty. Young people should arm themselves to play leading roles in fighting social injustice in Ghana in the near future.
SERVICE: The National Service Scheme is a typical example of out-of-school institutions through which our youth are enabled to render relevant and vital direct service to the Nation. The Scheme should be sustained to spearhead the attempts in bridging the gap of rural poverty and urban affluence. By the involvement of students from our higher institutions, life shall be gradually made more bearable for the rural folk.
This concern for the plight of the ordinary man exemplifies a fruitful service that the leadership of the educated youth can help to bring about. Students should act as the spokesmen/women of their peoples by vocalizing their afflictions and sufferings. The silent majority of rural people should not be quite simply sacrificed by and for the minority made up of urbanized youth. Among the expected positive output should include an exposure of the young people to the world of work.
Again, LEADERSHIP FOR FRUITFUL SERVICE implies a ‘commitment.’ The young intellectual or student commits him/herself to a pattern of ethical behaviour, a way of life which leads out of moral choices. Such commitment is directed towards Humanity and is pre-supposed in the things the individual does, and in the manner in which they are done.
The implications for young opinion leaders are that the kind of Community Improvement Projects (CIPs) they decide to undertake, for example, should satisfy the immediate or real felt-needs of the people. Top priority must be given to programmes and projects which will contribute to combat unemployment, promote socio-political emancipation or empowerment and, most importantly, enhance spiritual upliftment of the community concerned. Those in leadership positions should thereby deem themselves as challenged, and face the situation with honesty, devotion, zeal, courage and selflessness.
It has always been believed that given the necessary guidance, encouragement and example, the youth of this Nation can realize any such objectives through which the overall National goals and aspirations can be achieved. This calls for relevant Policies, Legislation and programmes which are derived from the overall National Principles and objectives. Herein lies the rationale and justification for the existence of a Ministry of Youth Affairs. The youth can be guided by such legal and official framework to take advantage of any opportunities that have been offered them. Such progressive instruments will prepare the young people for their future tasks in Society.
Institutions of higher learning are hereby called upon to perform a third and equally important role, that of Extension, in addition to their traditional functions of Instruction and Research. These institutions are required to ‘come down’, to reach out to share, or to associate themselves the more with the people of the communities of which they are a part. It is a major function of such institutions to widen the options available in the solution of community problems and in the improvement of the quality of life of the people in their locations.
Our rural folks need enlightened and pragmatic leadership, encouragement, a change in attitude, with organization and effort to meet their own needs, and with the help of others in meeting some specific needs. The ideal situation in the development of a community is that development should start from within, devoid of any interference from outside. Unfortunately, this does not normally happen, unless there is some intervention from outside, as Technical Assistance or moral back-up.
Our youth, in their Associations and other groupings should, therefore, catalyse and encourage the initiation of Self-Help Programmes/Projects (SHPs) of community development in which the people are active participants. They should strengthen the people’s capability to solve their problems and to manage their own programmes and projects. This calls for planning and clear communication of job descriptions or unambiguous assignments. (Numbers 4:19 “…assign to each man his work and what he is to carry…”
The model for all time is the “Suffering Servant’ in Mt. 23:11-12 “…he who is greatest among you shall be your servant” The kind of Leadership Jesus approves for adoption by leaders of God’s people. Paul sums up, in 1Thes.2:7-9, for leaders to live unassumingly…work with unsparing energy, slaving day and night…so as not to be a burden on any one…” He advises further, in Rm.12:5-16, on the use of the different gifts and talents, that we should devote ourselves to practical service and work (for the Lord) “not half-heartedly, but with conscientiousness and an eager spirit …”
Leadership teams should therefore serve with a single heart and eye to the glory of the Lord. Such faithful service and whatever we do should be carried out “with all (our) hearts, as working for the Lord…” (Col.3:23). Peter corroborates this statement by saying that, “if anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ…” (1Pt.4:11). The positive attitude of a faithful servant towards the tasks that are assigned is a measure of the way we honour God. We should appreciate the importance of any responsibilities given to us and do them well.
The Christian youth, in a challenging world, must be comforted by the fact that “all goes well for one who is honest in all his dealings…” (Ps.112:8). Thus, in my opinion, the essence of YOUTH LEADERSHIP FOR FRUITFUL SERVICE should be a preparation for adult life, in Religious Affairs, Politics, Traditional Rule, Business and general Social relationships.