The Failure of a Leader
"The 50-meter-high (328-foot-high) bronze statue dubbed the Monument of the African Renaissance in Dakar, Senegal. The statue is supposed to symbolize Africa’s rebirth, its liberation from what octogenarian President Abdoulaye Wade has called “centuries of ignorance, intolerance and racism.” Instead, the monument has fueled outrage among a poverty-stricken population struggling to survive in an expensive city slammed by electricity blackouts, flooding and water shortages."
We often associate leadership with success. It is probably due to the fact that our mental construct operates on the paradigm of successful leadership models which have greatly impacted the world and gifted us with a legendary legacy, transcending races, classes, and geographical barriers. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, just to name a few of them, stand out in our collective memory as the world's greatest leaders. History, however, also contains a record of a number of unsuccessful political leaders who miserably failed to lead their followers to the Promised Land. The most prominent of them are Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, Emperor Bokasassa, Mobutu, and Idi Amin Dada. The list is far from being exhaustive, for it also includes Abdoulaye Wade, the President of Senegal, who will be the subject of the following case study of a failed leadership in Senegal.
I will diagnose the ineffectiveness of Wade's leadership by first outlining the various contributing factors which account for his failure, then, I will bring to light the negative effects resulting from the President's inadequate adaptive leadership before putting finally into perspective an alternative leadership option.
Senegal is a country located in West Africa. As a former French Colony, it gained its independence in 1960 under the leadership of Leopold Cedar Senghor who ruled the country until 1980. Senghor manipulated the submissive legislative body to modify the constitution by enacting laws making his Prime Minister the acting President of the country in case of the President’s resignation. As the Prime Minister and a loyal and faithful subordinate, Abdou Diouf replaced Senghor in 1981 based on this new constitutional clause, and became the Acting Head of the Senegalese Nation. Mismanagement of the country’ scarce resources and limited public funds deepened the misery of the population and led to a regime change in 2000. The newly elected president, Abdoulaye Wade, raised the hope of the entire nation, but the great confidence placed in him was destroyed by his poor leadership and lack of vision.
The new political regime established by Wade to replace the previous socialist ideology does not reflect the culture of the Senegalese society; which is primarily based on communal living with a strong and active solidarity fostering social welfare to support the less privileges. Wade embraces the imported Western Ideology of the neo-classical liberalism which puts more emphasis on the individual than on the community; and on a free market-based economy forcing the State to privatize most of the public sectors in the benefit of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) carried out by multinational firms.
Wade’s inability to move from the "dance floor" up to the "balcony" for a broader overview of the various elements interacting within the political and social systems has led him to misdiagnose the real issues the Senegalese society is facing. As a result, he quickly starts implementing inappropriate remedies which consists of creating a new social class limited to the members of his political organization. He triples the salary of the territorial administration agents, the members of the parliament and the members of his government.
His attitude is best described by Ronald Heifetz who stated that “First, in most organizations, people feel pressure to solve problems quickly, to move to action. So they minimize the time spent in diagnosing, collecting data, exploring multiple possible interpretations of the situation and alternative potential interventions.” Diagnosing a problem is one of the most critical steps in problem solving. When it is not given enough consideration in the process, all proposed remedies to address the issue of adaptive leadership become obsolete.
Thinking politically and acting politically are important components of adaptive leadership; unfortunately, Wade’s self-interest stands on in his way to exercise true leadership. He is more concerned of with consolidating his power than with putting forward the program he was elected for. He suppresses all voices of dissent operating within his political administration by getting rid of the leaders who built a strong coalition around him to put him in power. He forges a new coalition with all the corrupt leaders of the previous, rejected regime by rewarding them with political offices. Heifetz gives a concise and clear meaning of acting politically in the following statement. “By acting politically, we mean using your awareness of the limits of your own authority, and stakeholders’ interests, as well as power and influence networks in your organization, to forge alliances with people who will support your efforts, to integrate and defuse opposition, and to give valuable dissenting voices a hearing as you adjust your perspective, interventions and mobilize adaptive work (p.133)." Wade weakens his relationship with the strong political opposition parties which gave him a majority in the second turn of the 2000 election while empowering the illegitimated leaders that were disgracefully sanctioned by the great majority of the Senegalese people. These unpopular and rejected political leaders, once in office, renew with old unethical practices with took place in the previous administration. The peaceful revolution carried out by the Senegalese in the 2000 election was clearly a strong determination to break with the ancient regime and bring a radical change in the way the country was administered. But the wishes of the masses are undermined by the willingness of the president to pursue a politics of continuation.
Wade's unorthodox management style encourages an unprecedented mismanagement of the financial resources. The elementary rules and principles of finance are continuously violated by those who are supposed to safeguard them. Large sums of public funds are embezzled and deposit into personal accounts. Practices of this nature are considered by these corrupt leaders as a new ethical norm. Financial scandals involving millions of dollars paralyze the entire economy.
But one of Abdoulaye Wade's greatest flaws which goes far to account for his failure as a leader is rooted into his limited emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence as opposed to cognitive intelligence is considered as one of the most important components of effective leadership. Without it, a leader can be charismatic, endowed with a great vision, but his likelihood to fail in whatever enterprise he undertakes to bring about change is high. What exactly is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligent is the ability to be in tune with your own self and understand how your behavior affects others around you. Abdoulaye Wade’s limited emotional intelligent leads him to dismiss the impact of his disastrous public policies on the great majority of his constituencies. His deficiency in emotional intelligence disconnected him from the realities of the Senegalese masses and turns him into an "unrealistic dreamer." Among his grandiose dreams are equipping the Senegalese transportation system with “TGVs”, high speed trains, and making Senegal an energy exporter country while the country is facing a chronic shortage of electricity. But one of his most reckless and unimaginable dreams is to import the sand from the Mauritanian desert and dump it into the flooded areas of Saint Louis, a city locate in the northern part of Senegal. President Wade, being highly infatuated with himself, perfectly fits what Sigmund Freud described as a typical "narcissist personality." While elaborating on the subject of emotional intelligence, the psychoanalyst Michael Maccoby states that "The danger is that narcissism can turn unproductive when lacking self- knowledge and restraining anchors, narcissists become unrealistic dreamers. They nurture grand schemes and harbor the illusion that only circumstances or enemies block their success. This tendency toward grandiosity and distrust is the Achilles' heel of narcissists; because of it even brilliant narcissists can come under suspicion for self involvement, unpredictability, and-in extreme cases-paranoia.” Wade exhibits an extreme paranoia as a sign of his pathological disorder. Like "Chronos" in the classical Greek mythology, he eats his own children to preserve his throne. He put in jail his spiritual son Idrissa Seck, forced to resignation his former prime Minister, Macky Sall who is now running his own opposition political party.. In 9 years, Wade has changed prime Ministers 6 times and appointed more than 250 cabinet members putting the country in a permanent institutional instability. This truly demonstrated Wade’s lack of vision and inability to meet the Senegalese expectations.
Considering Senegal as a monarchy and himself as an absolute monarchy, Abdoulaye Wade has a burning obsession to hand the power to his incompetent son whose only merit is to prove to the entire nation that he is unfit to carry out the simple mission of organizing the Islamic Conference. Senegalese tax money close to 205 billion was wasted into the 2008 Islamic Conference while the great majority of the Senegalese are unable to sustain two meals a day. The management of the funds allocated to the national agency of Islamic Conference has been the biggest scandals Senegal has ever known.. The equipment of the president son’s office cost 750 million; the communication expenses alone coast 500 millions. The Prince, his Excellency, the biological son of the President, Karim Wade considered himself as being above the law; that is why Abdoulaye Wade demoted the president of the General assembly whose only crime was to hold accountable Abdoulaye wade’son by asking him to be audited by the Legislative Body. The lack of transparency in the conduct of government’s affairs and bad-governance best described Abdoulaye Wade leadership. The inadequate adaptive leadership implemented by the president engenders unpleasant and unbearable effects in all sectors of life in Senegal. The first and most visible consequence is the collapse of the ethical and moral fabric of the Senegalese society. The social welfare which was the major support of the poor communities is replaced by an individualistic moral behavior based on the following principle: “Everybody for himself and God for everybody.”
Money and wealth, now shape behaviors and determine social relations in Senegal. The origin of the suspicious wealth is not questioned, thus making the corrupt political leaders the new role models. Politics become a highly rewarding profession. It is the fastest venue to become rich and gain great social standing in the community. The vast majority of the Senegalese faced an unprecedented poverty. The unemployment rate increases and is now estimated at 43,6% followed by a high rate of inflation. The youth are severely hit. They turn to emigration as the only salvation. They risked their live by embarking in what is known as death boats. Many of them lose their lives in the swell of the Atlantic Ocean while taking this perilous journey to Europe. The education system is paralyzed by ongoing strikes of either teachers or sometimes students, very often demanding the improvement of their material and social conditions. The labor unions as well are demonstrating in the streets and asking for salary raises. The head of household are no longer able to make ends meet. They witness a shortage of electricity, gasoline, cooking gas, food, water, and so on. Irrelevant and unproductive institutions are created to satisfy a political clientele. The educational system fails to deliver an education of quality. It is no longer viable due to its incapacity to promote excellence.
In regards to these social and economical ills, there is still hope to overturn the crisis the Senegalese are subjected to. An alternative leadership however, is a sine-qua- non condition to alleviate the misery of the population. But the change of leadership alone is not sufficient enough to bring peace, stability and long lasting prosperity. Otherwise it would be simply a replacement of the person at the head of the State making it a personnel issue for such a leader would equally be administering the inappropriate solution to the same problem and expecting different outcomes.
The existing regime, as well, should and must be replaced by a new political system deeply rooted and in sync with the Senegalese realities. The new leader must have a systemic approach in order to clearly understand the dynamic complexities of the various elements of the whole system. The new leader should put their efforts in reforming the constitution in order to safeguard the independence of the judicial and legislative bodies, thus creating a system of checks and balances. The solitary control of power by the executive branch should be banished in the republic. The president should be subjected to impeachment by the legislative body in the case of misconduct and wrongdoings. The new leaders ought to be driven by the common interest and the social welfare of the population regardless of their political stands. It is only on this condition that adaptive leadership can be perfected. Daniel Goleman invites us to the following inquiry: “Ask any group of businesspeople the question “What do effective leaders do?” and you’ll hear a sweep of answers. Leaders set strategy; they motivate, they create a mission; they build a culture. Then ask “What should leaders do?” if the group is seasoned, you’ll likely hear one response: the leaders’ singular job is to get response. But how? The mystery of what leaders can and ought to do in order to spark the best performance from their people is age-old. In recent years, that mystery has spawned an entire cottage industry: literally thousands of leadership experts have made careers of testing and coaching executives, all in pursuit of creating businesspeople who can turn bold objectives-be they strategic, financial, organizational, or all three-into reality.” A great leader needs direction and a vision. He needs to be in tune with himself and his followers in order to inspire not only great expectation but also great achievements. Leadership is transformational and a radical change can only take place when the followers are enlightened, when they fully understand what is at stake and how instrumental they are in the process. Empowering the masses will enhance political awareness and a greater political participation. Expanding on the idea of social capital in his “Social Capital Theories”, Stephen Macedo argues that, “The frame of “social capital” helps us to see the world afresh. Social capital is not only a resource, but it is also a lens for evaluating institutions, programs, and individual behavior. Looking through a social capital lens, for example, we see front porches not as an architectural frill, but as an effective strategy for building strong, safe, friendly neighborhoods. Consistent use of the social capital lens can both prevent civically harmful decisions and guide us toward civically beneficial choices…The “social capital impact” becomes a standard part of institutional and individual decision-making…Research has begun to show how powerfully social capital, or its absence, affects the well being of individuals, organizations, and nations. Economics studies demonstrate that social capital makes workers more productive, firms more competitive, and nations more prosperous.”
A great leader should not therefore ignore the social capital principle and adopt the Herculean attitude by going solo. The masses have to be involved by exercising their civic duties and fully participating in the process of building a democratic nation.
Making Senegal an emergent nation requires the leaders to understand that a country which cannot feed itself is condemned to a cycle of failure. Sound agricultural policies aims to make Senegal self-sufficient in food production The only way it could be achieved is to modernize the agricultural system by encouraging a massive return to the land and providing the farmers with highly mechanized agricultural equipment. The agricultural revolution will solve the issues of unemployment, poverty and food shortage.
A great leader should understand that education is the key to any success. Therefore reforming the education system in a way it is adapted to the needs of the Senegalese people is a must. The curriculum should put a great emphasis on the promotion of local languages by introducing them in the elementary and secondary systems. Money should be invested in scientific researches and technical school should be highly encouraged. A highly performing education system will serve the nation by equipping the future leaders with the necessary intellectual and technical baggage which will enable them to compete not just locally but globally because the challenge of the new century is a global challenge. A belief and steadfast adherence to the best of human values, flexibly administered to achieve a right fit in each and every situation.
Resources should be mobilized and wisely invested in sectors which will generate great returns and the profits should be equally redistributed in society. This calls for a more effective judicial system holding political leaders accountable and making transparency the guiding principle of good governance. Impunities and injustice will then no longer be the rule of law for criminal and economic offenses.
It appears in final analysis that effective leaders are endowed with great vision, a burning passion for the task to which they are called and a high level of emotional intelligence. Leaders who lack these characteristics such as Abdoulaye Wade are doomed to fail to effectively exercise their leadership. Wade's selfishness drove him to sacrifice the common goals in to the benefit of his own interest and so he set the country 50 years back, right where we started when Senegal gained its independence from the French. The call for a new leadership with a different vision and a systemic approach is absolutely a historical necessity in order to bring fundamental changes to the existing alternative neo-liberal regime. It is then and until then than Senegal can restore the broken hope and its role in the concert of emerging nations.
773 931 7754