Leadership is like making omelette: The heat that melts the oil hardens the egg

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I am Tabua Francis Butagira, better known by the byline Tabu Butagira. I am Chief Reporter for Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent and second highest-circulating national daily, and currently on sabbatical as a Humphrey fellow at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I am published internationally, including in The Times of London.

My understanding of leadership is the exercise of responsibility to accomplish a desired goal. It involves mustering resources, financial and in-kind, organizing people and giving clear direction to achieve shared vision. In a way, it is dispensing power or authority, which in its most polished form must be derived from or delegated by the people. Sacrifice for the greater good of all is a vital element of good leadership as is regular renewal of mandate.

The Guardian newspaper quoted former South African president Nelson Mandela to have said, “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”
Mandela led anti-apartheid struggle in his country, was incarcerated for 27 years, but led South Africa as president for only one term. His humility, lack of greed for power and selflessness exalted him into a globally revered figure and a towering example of a good leader.

Leadership can, and is, each day exercised in the homes, communities, organisations or corporate companies and by states through structured institutions.
Badly governed or collapsed states, most piled in the developing world, are unsettling examples of failed, failing or polluted leadership.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair, in text of his The Times Africa CEO March 2012 speech to African political and business leaders, declared: “There is one indispensable thing that cannot be imported: government.” He was underlying the power of software — in this context governance — over hardware such as technology and machinery that can be imported into a country for doing smarter business and or construction works. But not leadership.

There is a direct positive correlation, for the most part, between the character of leadership and its outcomes for those led.
Decades ago, my father Onesimus Okuyo, a former parish chief I credit for shaping my earliest views on leadership, told me that “trust by the people is an invaluable asset for a leader, requiring honest deeds and firmness.”

It is a mantra that the “heat that melts the oil hardens the egg”. So is good leadership tested by hardship.

5 Comments on “Leadership is like making omelette: The heat that melts the oil hardens the egg”

  1. Dear Tabu,

    I believe your father is right. An individual cannot be a strong leader if his or her supporters do not trust him or her. I also believe there is a balance between being firm and admired. People are less likely to feel comfortable supporting someone who leads only by authority and not inspiration.

    Great post!


    1. Dear Sepeedeh,

      Thanks for taking time to read and give a feedback. True, iron-hand method of leadership is dreadful and repulses. My dad’s argument, which I may inadvertently have not properly represented, is that a leader must not be indecisive. Inability to take decision, according to him, confuses those led and inhibits progress to intended goal.

  2. Tabu,

    I enjoyed the fact that you included examples of leadership, that are widely known and recognized, while still stating that leadership is expressed through homes, organizations etc. as well. It shows us that leadership is not unobtainable but that it certainly requires hard work. I look forward to seeing what other posts you produce.


  3. Tabu,
    Solid post here! I am with you on a number of your required qualities for successful leadership. If you don’t have the support of those you are trying to lead it may be something closer to coercion rather than leadership. The other aspect that really speaks to me is a sense of responsibility and an understanding of what that actually means. Lastly, I think you touched upon a facet of leadership or governance that may be often take for granted. That leadership alone is not enough, it must be done well with many considerations to be effective. While most people no doubt have witnessed good leadership on occasion in their lives, we have all seen a many poor examples of leadership as well. This just goes to show that good leadership is a rare commodity which we should appreciate and do our best to learn from.



  4. Tabu,

    I enjoyed reading your post! The quote from the late Nelson Mandela is quite powerful because sacrificing one’s self for another or many others is one of the greatest acts. Leaders are in a position of authority and I think when people see their leader make a vulnerable sacrifice it only strengthens the loyalty of the people. I think Nelson Mandela was one of the greatest leaders, and I am glad you included him in your post.

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