Upon close observation of a few of the vast problems bedeviling Nigeria as a Nation State, one of the many things that become apparent is that these problems are attributable to a common denominator; the lack of effective leadership across diverse sectors. This article therefore seeks to expose in seriatim, the inherent leadership failures in Nigeria due to the absence of a significant ingredient, social intelligence.
Leadership in any society is quite dynamic in essence and operates in different spheres, it begins with self-leadership and then transcends to leadership in spheres of influence and then leadership within government structures.
Herein lays the foundation of an effective leader. It simply refers to the ability of individuals to rule themselves. Good leaders possess the discipline and ability to transcend passions, addictions and limiting distractions in the pursuit of their clearly identified goals. It therefore follows that to exercise self-leadership, one must have genuine clarity of purpose and self-discipline. Clarity of purpose on the one hand refers to the awareness of the individual, of who they are as a person, what purpose they are there for, what level of accountability they have earmarked for themselves, and how they interact with their immediate environment in order to create an identity. Discipline on the other hand, refers to the ability to exhibit self-governance by creating a structure or pattern for your affairs and being deliberate about adhering to same.
Leadership Failure in Nigeria
The litmus test for the failure or success of leadership in Nigeria is democracy because Nigeria practices democracy as a system of government. In a democracy, the leaders are elected by the people to stand as their representatives and to act in all things, as in, the affairs of state, in their best interest. This election therefore creates a sort of contract of service between the people (who are in fact the bosses) and the leaders (who are in fact the employees). The commonsensical approach to this theory therefore, is that employees are fully accountable to the bosses on every issue, and that the employees are transparent in how they go about their work.
Therefore the following questions must be answered in the affirmative in order to determine that leadership is successful, viz:
Are the leaders accountable to the people?
Are the affairs of state conducted in a fairly transparent manner?
Is there apparatus or blueprint for sustainable development?
Is there adequate welfare and security provided for the people?
However the Nigerian reality over the past few years has been characterized by the ENDSARS protests, the Boko Haram insurgency, northern banditry, kidnapping, multi-institutional collapse, institutionalized corruption, inflation, looting, to mention a few. This actually answers the above questions in the negative.
Characteristics of an Effective Leader
An effective leader is expected to exhibit the following fundamental characteristics:
The ability to provide direction and inspiration. This involves the ability to edify and inspire their immediate environment (or sphere of influence) by firmly exhibiting their value system and true charisma.
The ability to inspire confidence that surmounts the diverse pressures people around them face. It should be noted in every sphere of life, persons build up goals and objectives which create hopes and expectations from people around them, which in turn, creates diverse pressures said individuals, it is thus expedient for a leader to be able to inspire confidence in the sphere of leadership in spite of the pressures.
The ability to showcase doggedness in holding true to set targets, goals, and value systems.
The ability to nurture the strengths and talents of individuals in light of the diversity in human nature, in order to build teams geared towards a desired end or goal. This is the hallmark effective leadership as it relates to social intelligence. This was best summarized by Daniel Goleman in his interview by the Harvard Business Review in August 2008 where he said thus:
“A leader’s success does not depend on their individual efforts and abilities. It depends on effective leadership; social intelligence which entails their ability to make people around them effective, their ability to influence, to persuade, develop, and inspire others.”
From the foregoing, it has become apparent that the qualities that herald effective leadership revolve around social intelligence and emotional intelligence because no matter how fantastic the personality of a leader is, he/she cannot function alone. Every leader needs and effective team to achieve maximum efficiency.
The indicators in socially intelligent leaders are therefore their ability to influence persons around them, empathy for the realities of persons around them, transparency in their administration, ability to act decisively, ability to encourage innovation, and above all, an effective leader is result oriented.
Social Intelligence and Effective Leadership
This is the ability of a leader to know himself, his strength and weaknesses and channeling same to achieve a desired goal and also to know and understand the thoughts, behaviors, weaknesses and strengths of the people around him in order to maximize their productivity, efficiency and ultimately, standard of living. Social intelligence also involves the ability of the leader to listen to feedback from the persons under his governance, understand what and how they think and put all of it together for greater integration.
Therefore a socially intelligent leader must have the following:
Active listening: This involves indulging the persons under your leadership to relay their feedback on their level of satisfaction towards existing policies or regulations within the organization/nation, and in turn, rendering a listening ear towards their feedback.
Empathy: A socially intelligent leader possesses the supreme ability to understand and share the feelings of individuals under them. This in turn creates a trust relationship between the leader and the follower, and increases the charisma level of the leader vis-à-vis the individuals under his sphere of influence.
Skill interaction: Many institutions and organizations on different levels tend to fail when skill sets are not set towards the right purpose or specification. It therefore takes a socially intelligent leader, to realize the different personalities and skill sets at his disposal through interaction and understanding, and then make the right placement of individuals across various levels to ensure greater performance and productivity.
Other characteristics of socially intelligent leaders are proactive decision making, and the ability to inspire and develop individuals under their sphere of influence.
Enhancing Effective Leadership through Social Intelligence
The entire discourse on social intelligence is necessitated by the academic consensus, which as highlighted above, submits that social intelligence is the bedrock of effective leadership. By employing the hallmarks of social intelligence discussed above, a leader must therefore strive to meet certain goals which accentuate the yardsticks of effective leadership thus:
Motivating himself as well as others, towards achieving desired goals.
Engage active listening to gather feedback from the public.
Show considerable empathy towards concerns of the public.
Make concerted efforts, or a resolution to do things in a better way.
We will be guaranteed effective leadership within Africa, Nigeria especially, if every individual comes to an understanding of the role of a leader in the social construct. This understanding will then expose the necessity to apply social intelligence in the step-by-step process of leadership and therefore enhance collective leadership and responsibility.