Over the last few weeks, the issue of leadership has occupied my thoughts quite a lot. This is partly because I lead an organization and so I am constantly aware about how I lead. It’s also partly because, in the last several weeks, I have received invitations from three very different organizations, to speak about the issue of women in leadership, and so this has caused me to reflect on the matter. Lastly, Uganda is in a pre-election year and that means we have the opportunity to observe our political leaders up close and personal as they jostle for political survival in order to ensure a come back in the 2016 general elections.
I think leadership is one of the mountains we face as a country, and one we have to confront in terms of celebrating good leadership and addressing the deficits. Leadership is a question we cannot avoid. Leadership matters!
And there are all kinds of leaders, leading in all kinds of ways. Just from this week – Monday started with a stark headline in The East African Newspaper, about how Major Ronald Kakooza Mutale, of the Kalangala Action Plan infamy, is training young men to ‘deal with the opposition’ in the 2016 elections. Going by his past record, we know what he means by ‘dealing with’ political opponents. He goes physical, his dealing involves violence against those who are perceived to be against the current government. That is how he has chosen to lead. That is how he has chosen to use his influence.
The media has been awash with reports about the current judicial probe into corruption and mismanagement at the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA). Each day we watch as different people are subjected to interrogation as the Commission of Inquiry delves into the depth of the magnitude of theft of resources in the roads sector. UNRA is the way it is because of leadership. Leadership creates culture. The culture created at UNRA is one where rules are flaunted and deals to defraud the country are cut, where contractors get away with doing shoddy work, where ghost construction firms are created and paid.
Just this week, several presidential aspirants picked up nomination forms. Going by press reports, 14 gentlemen ranging from the well-known to the non-descript, picked up forms. They all think they have what it takes to lead Uganda. They all think they have a solution to Uganda’s ills. But do they? I guess we will only know as they hit the campaign trail.
This week we watched as a Ugandan legislator threatened suicide if his home area was not granted district status. Districts have become a hot election issue. Every pre-election year, the President dishes out a few districts here and there. At the start of his leadership, Uganda had 39 districts, now we have 112 districts and there are about 25 others in the offing. The justification for every new district that services will be closer to the people. This is despite the fact that districts hardly generate their own resources, they suffer huge human resource gaps, which affect service delivery, and more than 80% of the money that districts receive from the central government goes into administration costs and not into actual service delivery. Watching the MP in Parliament, tug at his tie and attempt to put it around his neck, as he dramatized his suicide threat, I thought to myself – this is how he has chosen to lead.
Every day we are being led or we are leading and so leadership affects and impacts us all. But even if we don’t want to bother about leadership, even if we don’t think we lead anyone, at the very basic level, we lead ourselves. We manage our actions, reactions and interactions with others and with ourselves, and so we should be concerned about the question of leadership.
Who are you as a leader? Are you self aware? How do you lead? What values underpin and drive your leadership? What is the purpose and direction of your leadership? Is your leadership adding value or not? Are you leading towards a positive end or a destructive one? What areas are you good at as you lead? What are your leadership blind spots? Where do you need to improve? Are you growing as a leader? Are you growing and grooming other leaders?