J J Rawlings : The Leadership Factor
Saturday, 20 August 2011 09:33
In analyzing leadership competence, Decrane (1996) said that there are four fundamental qualities that have remained constant over time: character, vision, behavior and confidence. He observes "leaders who can spark the imagination with a compelling vision of a worthwhile end that puts us beyond what is known today, and who can translate that into clear objectives, are the ones we follow."48
The difference between the success and failure of the dual transition programs, embarked upon simultaneously by Ghana and Nigeria in the early 1980s, lies not so much in the modernization or dependency theories or the bureaucratic-authoritarian model, but rather in the vision and competence of the leaders at the helm of affairs in the respective countries. While this argument might seem naïve or superficial to some, there is ample evidence to show that the role of leaders has a lot to do with the type of public policies they initiate and those they eventually implement.
Wilheim (1996) states "effective leaders have the vision required to see things differently from others. They collect and arrange the same data we all see in ways that allow them to conceive of new and unseen phenomena... A core characteristic of all effective leaders," he concludes "is the ability to have a vision of where they are trying to go and to articulate it clearly to potential followers so that they know their personal role in achieving that vision."49
In Nigeria, Gen. I.B. Babangida, who came to power in a coup in 1985, was woefully corrupt, repressive and inept in presiding over a government that was severely criticized for the manner in which it attempted to implement the transition program that often vacillated between liberalization and repression.50
Ghana, under Rawlings, was able to weather the storm despite many severe economic and political conditions. He was able to focus his efforts and make choices based on the goals, values, and ideals that he felt ought to be advanced on behalf of Ghana. He also had uncanny foresight. Greenleaf (1977) says "… foresight is the 'lead' that the leader has and once leaders lose this lead and events start to force their hand, they are leaders in name only."51
Between 1981 and 1983, Rawlings endured a lot of hostility from many Western governments because of Ghana's close links with Cuba and Libya and his fearless anti-imperialist rhetoric, which made Rawlings one of a select group of targets of the Reagan administration's foreign policy. From the historic low of 1983, when the ERP was introduced, conditions in Ghana could only improve. Much of the credit for the country's economic recovery in the years that followed must be given to the Ghanaian people, whose courage, faith, determination, acceptance and cooperation made the economic revival possible.
Harman (1998) says, "Leadership requires a values orientation that should be accepted, adopted and then translated into a vitalizing vision." The leader, he concludes, is then responsible for articulating the kind of vision that the community validates based on the leader's perception.52
Despite many failings, Rawlings espoused a vision of what Ghana ought to be to sustain Ghana's economic growth and political stability, a rare phenomenon for leaders in developing sub-Saharan states.
Rawlings' military training in the Air Force Academy gave him the opportunity to acquire a regimented, structured and disciplined disposition about life, and he was ready to lead after being in the military for a number of years. Furthermore, his compassion and concern has been focused on the exploited and poor in Ghana, and his revolutionary "power to the people" was his way of scanning for the forces of change, a rare trait in developing economies. In order to create this vision, Rawlings was well aware that he had to communicate his passion about change so others could share in it and then get them to work as a unit, contributing their best towards the achievement of that vision.
To share the vision adequately, Bennis (1989), in his work entitled On Becoming a Leader
, says "leaders are people who are able to express themselves fully, know what they want, why they want it, and how to communicate what they to others in order to gain their cooperation and support."53
Lastly, to marshal action, Kouzes and Posner (1996), observe "a leader must have a sense of direction and a vision for the future, and it is the capacity to paint an uplifting and ennobling picture of the future that assures people of the possibilities and images of great potential."54
From his training days in the Air Force academy, leading the first coup in 1979 and head of the AFRC, handing over power to an elected president, working behind the scenes to ensure the success of democracy, and coming back to lead the 31 December revolution, Rawlings was able to marshal actions to create and sustain the vision of a better society for the Ghanaian people. Many Ghanaians equally believe that Rawlings is a man of strong emotions, convictions and driven by a passion for moral justice, intellect and integrity. On the intellectual front, they maintain that he is the first leader of charisma and stature since Nkrumah (in his early days). Many in Ghana believe that Rawlings' achievements in the political and economic realm were possible only because of his tenacity, honesty, clear objectives and sense of direction.
During the 1990s, Ghana was transformed from a country saddled with economic depression and political instability into a politically aware and economically prudent nation-state, but there was still a lot to be done. According to Herbst (1993), Ghana needed to adhere to the ERP, sustain the development challenges and entrench the political system. After a decade of adhering to the economic reforms, as prescribed by the IMF and the World Bank, in which Ghana was used as a test case for structural adjustment in Africa, he observes, there was the potential for economic renewal under the guidance and vision of Rawlings and his ruling party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).55
While others disagreed with this conclusion, events in Ghana have shown that the opposition that could have challenged Rawlings was weak at best.
On balance, during the 1990s, Rawlings focused on the political essentials underlying effective growth and de-emphasized redistributive issues and neo-imperialism stressed by the critics of structural adjustment. Governing problems, observe Vinzant and Crothers (1995), represent the most pressing dilemmas facing most societies because the governance system is beset with problems of paralysis, public mistrust, and "wicked" public policy issues.56
The Ghanaian government, at the time, had to seek reasons for the striking difference between Ghana and the Asian Tiger countries of South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The Asian Tigers' success story, states Chibber (1991), lies partly in the interaction between the public and private sectors; the liberalization of trade and barriers (including removal of tariffs, administered prices, etc.); and the existence of real exchange rates. The Ghanaian government saw the need to have clear roles in its dealings with the private sector, concludes Chibber, and that the relationship was expected to transcend any suspicions by the public and private sectors, especially on the part of government technocrats who harbored acrimonious feelings against their "money-grabbing" counterparts in the private sector.57
Rawlings also learnt from the fiscal prudence of the Asian Tigers, enough to prompt him to propose spending programs toward promoting and not competing with the private sector. According to Hussain (1994), the revolutionary environment for the private sector was enhanced through a low corporate tax structure, import duty exemptions on capital equipment, and liberalization of trade and foreign payment arrangements to help sustain the Ghanaian economy.58