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“This is a country blessed with dynamic people, abundant natural resources and a good spread of rainfall… All that Nigeria needs to realize its dream of a rich and powerful nation is good and purposeful leadership to lead us to the future that surely awaits us”

Every nation needs a combination of factors in order to develop and grow. These include, but not limited to, an educated and healthy workforce, a culture of saving and innovation, viable and developing public service institutions, a national culture and a governing system that is enriching. But the place of visionary and purposeful leadership to help put it all together to achieve national goals and development objectives cannot be overemphasised.

Unfortunately, Nigeria has continually been governed by men who arrive fortuitously and are unprepared for the enormous challenges of leadership. For this, the country has continued to drift in the muddle waters of national confusion, lacking focus and clear direction on the way forward.

The unacceptable state of Nigeria’s economy is most galling given Nigeria’s enormous endowments of natural and human resources. Ours is a nation of lack in the midst of plenty. It is unfortunate that countries like Singapore and Malaysia that have similar colonial heritage and similar natural resource endowments, have recorded significant successes in the development of their economies since 1965 when they were at par or even behind Nigeria. Singapore, some 30 years later had a per capita income of some US $10,000; whilst that of Nigeria was US $300.

Nigeria’s economic decline, especially during the last 20 years is illustrated by the fact that per capita income, which was US $1000 in 1965 had declined to US $300 by 1998. Within some 18 years, Nigeria had declined from being a low middle income country and amongst the fifty richest countries in the world to one of the 30 poorest. The difference between Nigeria and these Asian countries is simply the absence of honest and purposeful leadership.

The obvious dearth of managerial competence in many spheres of our national life shows through in the inefficient way that resources have been harnessed and allocated. The country urgently needs to reduce waste in governance. The cost of governance in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world. The pervasive state of our security system, weak socio-political fabric, widespread corruption, dwindling fortunes of the economy and the erosion of our national values vividly depicts the story of a nation at a crossroad.

Nigeria today continues to vacillate, without clear-cut policy focus and the management of our national economy is not backed up by a sustained long- term strategy. There has never been a commitment to the pursuit of a long term vision, and therefore no clear development path or consistent policy over an extended period. In the 50’s and 60’s, there used to be a number of developmental plans and later rolling plans, now we only have yearly budgets – this is myopic, short time and does not sufficiently look into the future.

All around the world today, evidence abound of abundant economic and social benefits to be reaped from public investment in education, research and proper manpower development. The disposition of our leaders makes any logical thinker conclude that she is actually not ready for growth. Growth can only come through invention and invention can only come through science. Lasting national development must not be seen only in terms of physical and infrastructural development but more in terms of human capital development; the country therefore needs a good manpower development programme. In Canada for instance, human capital development was and remains a prominent issue of public policy as the country expends a lot on manpower development to get the best out of their citizen.

If we must move forward, then it is important for the nation to draw upon international benchmarks towards achieving sustainable growth and real development. The Government must provide indulgences to stimulate creativity and enterprise in the economy and also stabilise exchange and interest rates, eliminate wasteful spending and completely deregulate the economy.

We need leaders who will place country above self, braze up to the true responsibility of leadership and galvanise the energy of the Nigerian people into one common endeavour to build a nation we all can be proud of.

Strategic Trajectory

In difficult trading times we are advised to track both the tangible and intangible aspects of our businesses. In tangible terms, a real understanding of money flows is essential. In intangible terms, we follow sentiment. What is the quality of our relationships along our value chains? Are we delivering value to all our stakeholders? Do they want to travel further with us?

Sentiment is viral. It spreads quickly across boundaries. Sentiment impacts our reputation and bottom line. Sentiment is often driven by interest not logic. Sentiment is not static. How much time is your business devoting to tracking and analysing the impact of stakeholder sentiment on the formulation and delivery of your strategy?

Situationally Intelligent Leaders

Organisational culture is largely formed by the behaviour of current leaders, which is emulated by their followers. What messages are you sending? Are you a catalyst for confidence? The recent impact of Richard Branson visiting the expanding Virgin Money empire in Newcastle and Thierry Henry returning and taking Arsenal FC to the 4th round of the FA Cup, showed the magic which can be created by catalysts for confidence.

Playing to strengths increases performance and fulfilment. Being a catalyst, having a sense of adventure, being persistent and resilient, bouncing back from adversity are all situationally relevant for many leaders. If these are not your natural strengths, then who provides you with the relevant support to be brave?

Board Effectiveness

While each Board has a different annual rhythm, strategic timeframes generally continue to decrease. The first quarter of any year is often spent verifying strategies and budgets developed through the preceding quarter. My recent business coaching assignments with C Suite leaders highlights some key questions which appear to be universally relevant:

  • What is on the agenda for your first quarter meetings?
  • How much time is devoted to strategic vs tactical issues?
  • Who is bringing insights on stakeholder sentiment for debate in the boardroom?
  • Are the messages being filtered or distorted?
  • How robust is your strategic decision making process?
  • How do you track results and modify intentions to reflect the changing context in which your strategy must be implemented?