Tanzania, like many other African countries, still suffers from bad leadership nearly fifty years after independence. From boardrooms to political podiums, we are still managed by bad leaders who got leadership through either corruption or by sheer accident.
Whether you look at the way government business is managed or how corporate affairs are managed, what you see is poor leadership. Let’s hasten to point out, however, that poor leadership doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is not educated or civilised.
First of all there is no special university or college which trains presidents, ministers, chief executive officers, board chairpersons or managers.
Writing about leadership in June 2008, Anver Versi, the executive editor of African Business magazine, put it this way, “When there’s a gap between the position of leadership and the qualities of the person holding that position, you better start looking for the exit sign. When the gap becomes so large that monkeys end up wearing the crown, it’s definitely time to move on.”
He went on, “Good leaders take you from here to a better place…bad leaders plunge you into darkness, and the difficulty is that once someone is sitting in a position of power, like the captain of a ship, the vessel will continue on the course he or she has decided on, even if it’s headed straight to the rock.”In Tanzania we are confusing popularity and capability; charisma and performance; loyalty and discipline.
Sometimes we believe that when people fear you most, then you are a good leader. But, in reality, fear is the opposite of faith. We also confuse family, friendship and leadership. We believe that our children can manage our political parties, businesses or anything we did or initiated.
That’s why when we quit power, we leave our children behind as our successors or we create a system by which our friends inherit us political positions, and ditto in business.
Sometimes we also think that a first class graduate can be a good manager, minister, chief executive officer or head of state. What we don’t understand is that academic success is one thing and being a good leader is another thing entirely, though education will still play a vital role in any credible leadership.
At one point in Zanzibar, a politician who happened to be a polygamist, wondered why he garnered just a single vote in an election in which his four wives also took part. He had counted on getting at least five votes from his household alone! But, alas, it wasn’t to be, for his wives ended up voting for his opponent, who won the election.
When he furiously demanded explanation why the wives didn’t vote for him, they replied by saying, “For bedroom matters you are the best, but for managing people you are poorer compared to your opponent.”
If you look at the immense resources we have in this country, you wonder why we are still beggars, begging mosquito nets to end malaria in our homes.
Our leaders enjoy begging for condoms to prevent HIV/Aids from the developed world. The most challenging task is that even the corporate world in Tanzania is also in a pathetic situation when it comes to leadership. Managers are appointed based on nepotism, loyalty, ethnicity, sex and many other factors which have little to do with able leadership.
This goes to explain why Tanzania’s private sector is still limping compared to some East African countries such as Kenya. If our voters had the courage of the four Zanzibari wives, Tanzania would not be the same. Bad leaders would be fired or rejected, even if in so doing you would risk losing your position as a citizen or a manager in a public or private sector.
But if we continue to retain bad leaders in both politics and business, hoping that they will change in future, we are totally wrong because, in the end, these types of managers will only plunge us into doom.
When monkeys adorn the crown, it’s time to leave town. Our challenge therefore is to ensure that not a single monkey even comes close to the crown, let alone wearing it. In politics that’s possible by rejecting ‘monkeys’ through the ballots box, while in business the best option is to tell the truth, even if it will cost you your job.