I am humbled to publish episode 3, the final in the three-part series about leadership, on my birthday. The journey to writing these reflections have taught me many things and I sum up all the learning in this episode.
Episode 1 was about how society became littered with leaders like Jeoffrey from Game of Thrones and how we may possess a correct understanding of leadership. The quest was to find out how the dark lords may find merit in collaboration and respect as business values necessary for good business, you may kindly want to read, if you haven’t, (Episode 1: Purple Squirrels and The Dark Lord | AfricaLearn).
In Episode 2, we explored leadership through the eyes of history with the view of restoring the idea that each human being is in the nature of God, deserving respect and dignity and any person who claims to be a leader without understanding the fundamental ideal of Universal Basic Respect lives only as a caveman frozen on an icy island, a Zeta of Angry Birds, perhaps. I highly recommend you read episode 2 as well (Episode 2: Human Dignity and the Gatemen | AfricaLearn).
In this final episode, we explore the highway to achieving more as leaders. We tell ourselves the story of Charites but first Hugh Masekela’s Stimela (The Coal Train) on his ‘I Am Not Afraid’ album. Hugh is not only a legend but one of my favourite artists. The poem that begins the song has an irresistible appeal for the message in today’s
Our culture has grown to define Grace in its religious context but before it took the form of God’s salvation to humanity, it was the Greek story of Charites. Charis was but one of the three Charites. Grace was therefore spoken of in terms of its plural, Graces. Graces were three goddesses of grace, beauty, adornment, joy, mirth, festivity, dance and song. The notion of Charity which has come to be known for love was therefore expressed in grace, beauty, joy and excitement. To have good Graces was therefore the core project of life. The pursuit of work and all endeavours was to enable the human experience tender towards good graces. It is particularly interesting that words such as charisma which is defining of leadership borrow from the same root word, Graces. Even more intriguing is ‘Gratitude’ which is the Roman adaptation of the Grace, ‘Gratia’.
I argue that every leader’s primary object is to be grateful and graceful with the view of making society more beautiful and meaningful. I also dare say, any leader who misses the point about why they lead, which is to make things more beautiful is not worth leading anyone, not even themselves. The question however is what is ‘beauty’ as the human being is intricately complex? My humble view, the human experience is enabled by three components: what is biological or physiological, what is societal or cultural and finally which is uniquely idiosyncratic to that individual and when these three components align, beauty, of a form almost magical, happens.
My reflection on how churches, which are ordinarily voluntary organizations, achieve what they do through the willingness of ‘followers’ makes me ponder on how building truly great things is possible. Yes Grace, but I wonder how Grace is operationalized. The inquest is to find how all forms of leaders can learn to be as influential, how we may all learn from the ‘Charismatic Movement.’
The answer seems to lay in “personal charm”. Charm, I believe, is the gateway to influence, particularly in a democratized world where others decide to yield to leaders. Legitimacy seems to be a function of an election; an election legal authority knows nothing of. We can all agree it takes elements such as sacrifice, volunteerism, passion, excitement and all the other elements of Graces to truly achieve anything great and yet these elements can never be summoned by only legal authority. My call to let love lead therefore is not only commonsensical to achieving more as a leader, it is the only guaranteed way to a meaningful human experience.
Let us now take a detour to entertain Poverty. Poverty. Poverty. The one thing that makes good graces almost impossible irrespective of how much grammar one speaks. Squid Games has become a thing not only because it is entertaining, but because its central message is globally identifiable. Wealth fascinates me, and in the article Knowing Wealth, Metis’ Son. | AfricaLearn, we sought to explain the way to increasing wealth. Today is however intended to cast the narrative of leadership as one that should organize society to create more wealth and to perpetuate good graces. Today is about an election that although “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender”, such things such are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, praiseworthy, virtuous and of a good report should be the leader’s preoccupation.
Everyone following the series may understand, it does not matter how horrible you think your boss is, you will suck up to him or her because poverty has worse fangs. It therefore appears to me that good graces may not be possible until we have dealt with the issues of ‘leaders’ impoverishing people as it almost guarantees dominance without regard to any other persons. The essential question for everyone is how we engineer a society of wealthy men and women who shall, in respect and dignity for each other, pursue an optimal harmony in society. The real question is, is wealth possible for all men and women?
For the avoidance of doubt, poverty is not the lack of character, but the lack of cash and cash is a social construct for exchanging value. A construct protected by a valuation methodology that says a minimum value of a Ghanaian worker is 12.53 Cedis a day, sitting in a more complex global valuation system which makes that earning of the Ghanaian barely US$2 for a full day when a similar value earns US$10 an hour.
It is unfortunate we say poverty is a state of the mind when indeed that purported state of mind is usually the result of poverty. When a child is born to a father who must feed a family with no sustainable source of income and the child is constrained to a farm or to fishing without education, that child has a limited frame of knowledge and can only be occupied with how to survive everyday by going to farm or to the sea. The idea of need and scarcity has the potential to deprive any person of good graces. Survival has no decorum and so when leaders institutionalize survival, they invariably legislate a time bomb ticking to disaster. So moral of the story: Leaders should pay their people valuable consideration for work well done. It is the idea of fair and just from which Charisma is born.
The curse of poverty is in three folds; its inability to allow for a long-term orientation, its ability to entrench mistrust because of years of exclusion and finally, poverty’s limiting effect to access resources as the gatemen only share with families and cronies. Leadership thus must primarily focus on building such things as purpose and vision, trust and cohesion, and integrity to fight corruption in order to enable any chance of helping people enjoy good graces.
A leader is almost condemned to fail unless he or she has a mind to serve, to serve first and to enable people to become more, collectively. This is the core and central message if a leader wishes to help people enjoy good graces. A leader, like a director of a theatre, must seek a story of the whole ensemble that is greater than the sum of the individual parts, a narrative of achieving more together than what is possible individually.
In my humble opinion, the one measure we should hold leaders to is the growth achieved among the community they lead – do the people they lead become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous and more likely themselves to become servants? If you are a leader in any form and you cannot answer yes to this question, then you may want to reconsider your usefulness to the people.
The real leader is attuned to group performance, of course, but equally minded about followers’ satisfaction, and overall effectiveness. To balance these expectations, every leader must in all honesty truly care about seeing the people he or she leads tender towards good graces. To attempt the complex, interactive human sport of leadership without passion for good graces is an expedition in futility.
For corporate leaders who must deliver financial results quarterly in a traditionally shareholders-framed idea of corporate governance where the shareholder is the only important stakeholder and profit is the only drive, you need to understand that slavery was the parent model for this thinking. Real as this notion of profiteering is, the sad reality was borne from the vestiges of the master-servant notion of work inherited directly from slavery.
Slaves were instruments of work, working in plantations without regard to their well-being, dehumanized in the interest of producing sugar for the elite palate. It may surprise readers to know that slavery was a construct for productivity, a model to get more done. Sugar was a luxury product, difficult to produce. One had to cultivate heavy, unwieldly cane, cut and ground to release juice, boil the juice and reduce to molasses and crystals in a time when industrialization was still distant reality.
Sugar was called, ‘White Gold’. Sugar Slavery was the key component of the trade triangle. Slaves were sent to work on New World plantations; the product of their labour sent to and sold in Europe and proceeds sent to Africa to buy more slaves. Powerful men like Humphry Morice, the Governor of Bank of England, Member of Parliament, and owner of Whydah Gally slave ship set the tone for businesses to construct the enterprise of economics in pure master-servant terms.
Fortunately, we have grown past the 1st and 2nd industrial revolutions which entrenched these ideas of leadership as master-servant. With the turn of the 3rd industrial revolution, it became obvious the goal to solely increase shareholders’ wealth was not sustainable because corporations depended on the environment as well as the health and safety of employees and the community at large. The conversation was therefore not limited to the economics of returns but also the health and safety of society and the environment. Leaders in the modern framework for businesses must therefore of necessity not only construct their business model in the interest of financial capital but also must have due regard to social capital, human capital, intellectual capital, and relational capital.
In conclusion, a leader in this modern society must appreciate that businesses were set out originally to promote good graces and although slavery distorted that idea by promoting tasking for productivity, slavery has no place among civilized men. Modern slavery and all forms of slavery is directly proscribed by law, dignity is enshrined in constitutions and sustainability is mainstream. All these efforts as attempt to redeem the original core project of work, to promote good graces. The least anyone aspiring to influence can do having understood the modern context is to be passionate about empowering individuals to self-organise, inspiring people to create prosperous and safer spaces, engendering connection and belonging among the tribes they lead, remaining open-minded, holding on very lightly to their titles as they remain committed to intellectual growth.
These seeming ideological prescriptives are essential dosages for ‘TRUST’. Trust is the tenuous currency by which leaders trade and on which the whole valuation methodology hinges. Building trust is not an option because the era of 1730s when the consolidated slave codes made it ‘unlawful for above 3 slaves to meet on their own’ is long gone. We the youth of Africa are gathering, we are gathering in our numbers for good graces, questioning the very foundation of all valuations, and for change. The message is direct, if you call yourself a leader, please pray you are trusted!
Let me end with yet one of my favourite songs as I celebrate my birthday. Let all of us believe and work for the good of humanity, for everything must indeed change. Wisdom and wealth are indeed possible for all of humanity. My name is Yaw Sompa, I believe like Sam Cooke, A Change Is Gonna Come. May the Lord bless us with good graces #Uhuru.