To The Point
Vision, Values and Courage,
Necessary Ingredients in Political Leadership
There are a number of view points on these important factors in evaluating quality of leadership and constituent skills and viability of an organization namely 'vision, values and courage'. Mostly, experts and texts dwell on these points in regard to the business world. However, some say that these qualitative measuring tools can be associated with the concepts of assessing political leadership qualities and style. Don't get us wrong, we are not claiming to be ignorant of the general similarities between political and business leaderships and the general applicability of the concepts to both political and business worlds. However, the crisis within ELF-RC and the stalement in the Alliance in the past year encouraged us to use these tools and attempt to evaluate the leadership and leaders in general terms. Looking at the ingredients, one can see that those qualities are needed in the political leadership now more than ever, in our country more than any where else, in the opposition more so than in the general public.
Experts and authorities on this subject matter often make bold statements like "Leadership has the power to make or break an organization". They further articulate that those three ingredients (vision, values and courage) are the defining factors that separate organizations that succeed and those that just survive.
Snyder, Dowd and Houghton in their book titled Vision, Values and Courage state the following:
"Leaders are people who understand that without vision, there is no leadership; without honesty, there is no communication; without communication and shared values, there is no performance; and without the confidence to reach out and try new things, there is no risk taking or long-term success."
Of course any concept is easier said than done. The difficulty of putting an idea into practice is much more difficult in political atmosphere such as ours than in the business world. The difficulty is multiplied exponentially in an atmosphere like the opposition camp of the Eritrean arena. It is further complicated by the diversity of our society. It is also compounded by the fear of change as this is the first time the Eritrean people are breathing the air of independence and the fear of losing it is strong as PFDJ hammers it home day and night. Besides, it is not easy to convince the people to follow the opposition when it has not gotten its own house in order.
The more difficult and complicated the atmosphere under which a leadership has to lead the more courage, vision and values become more important for them to have. It is very important not to confuse the ingredients with some other negative attitudes and behaviors. It is easy to get carried away and mistake arrogance for courage; confuse values with rigidity. Being tactful should not be mistaken for not having any values and clear stands on important and crucial issues. There are times to be flexible and there are times to stand one's ground and pay the necessary sacrifices. Leaders have to take input from the public and constituents due consideration, else they are elected or appointed to lead not to follow.
Getting rid of old habits is one of the most difficult phenomena an organization and its constituents go through. It is painful and at times highly controversial. However change in habits, change in leadership, change in approach and change in attitude are important pre-requisites to development or progress.
If we look at most of the traditional opposition organizations, they seem to be doing the same thing again and again in the same manner for ever. Change for sake of change is not being advocated here. However, when the current methods and practices are not working or are not as effective as they should be, new ones need to be tried. Personalities/leaders need to change. Different approaches need to be tried. The bumps that can make the path to change rough and painful need to be jumped over and the pain endured.
The road to democracy is long, ardent and full of zigzags that have sharp turns and twists. The vision of implementing a democratic system in a third world country is not the easiest thing to do. That is where the two ingredients, values and courage come into play. Without courage, leaders, constituents and organizations live in the status quo. With out values, the sacrifices that have to be made to achieve the democratic goals get side lined for temporary gratifications, titles and prestige.
In our opinion, ELF-RC is the one that has gone through the pains of achieving of implementing democratic processes into practice. Even it hit a big bump that caused a painful split this year. However, as long as its leaders, members and its supports do not waver and stay in course maintaining our attained democratic values and face obstacles head on with courage, they are destined to eventually win the hearts and minds of the people and therefore achieve the goals via the visionary path.
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