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.