Ideas need leaders, leaders need followers

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The rush-hour situation in Harare just seems to keep getting worse and worse. The other day I was sitting in the customary jam on Rotten Row when lo and behold, a young man stepped right into the centre of the tangled traffic trouble and started directing traffic.

Looking sharp in his black suit with white tie, I imagined he was a young office worker on his way to work like the rest of us. What made him different from the rest of us was that he stood up, stood out and declared, “Here I am. Send me.”

There were many of us sitting in the early morning heat in our cars, impatient for the problem to be overcome, but not really doing anything about it.

We all had good ideas about how the traffic should flow. But only one of us had the courage to put his ideas into action. Ideas need leaders.

We hear over and over again how bright Zimbabweans are, how great their work ethic, how good their education. Sit around any dinner table with a group of locals and you will find no shortage of interesting opinions, exciting propositions and bright ideas.

The trouble is we are all waiting for someone else to implement all these bright ideas. We are waiting for someone to lead. Perhaps that someone is a manager, a president, an MP or even a mother, a father or an elder.

But leadership isn’t a label. Leadership is that something in you that makes you feel sufficiently motivated to act when you see a problem. When you hear that babies are dying weekly in incubators because of power cuts, what does that do to you? In incubators for goodness’s sake! That’s where we put them to be safe!

How can the women of Zimbabwe not be sufficiently outraged to tke to the streets and demand immediate action?

Well, perhaps it’s not outrageous. Not anymore. Perhaps we’ve heard so many terrible things for so long that we have become immune. Like a young man stampeded to death in a queue for sugar. Or a young woman nearly losing her life after being axed by her husband in an attempt to “discipline” her.

Are things really so bad that we can no longer be moved to action? I don’t believe they are.
We laugh with great gusto. We have much to give us joy. We look around us and see the problems and talk about them. But we do not act, because none of us wants to be “the one”.

Leadership means taking on that mantle and being “the one”; ready to face the consequences of tough decisions and always anticipating a positive result in the end. Leadership means knowing that silence is not necessarily golden and that sacrifice will not always pay great dividends. Leadership takes courage.

One of the great things about the festive season is family. Families getting together, families loving each other, families fighting. At this time of year we share so many stories of so many family dramas — yours, mine, ours.

As you listen to the stories and identify the villains, the victims, the heroes and heroines, you realise that what every family needs is leadership.

Where there is a crisis, where the family is dysfunctional (and isn’t every family on some level!), where we fail to identify priorities; you can follow the pointing finger and it will lead you without fail to a leadership deficit.

If leaders do not take responsibility, prosperity will elude us; as families, as communities, as regions and as a nation.

Of course, leaders also need followers. A leader without followers is only so much noise. Perhaps someone could ask Welshman Ncube to share some of his insights on this?

Leaders will tend to assume that it is all too easy to follow; that followers don’t take the same personal risks, that following doesn’t require the same levels of courage.

But this is not in fact true. In its own way following can be much harder than leading, more so when you are not fully convinced of the competence and indeed the agenda of the leader.

Every Zimbabwean will be familiar with this feeling, right? Following requires enormous levels of trust, strong self-restraint and large doses of maturity. Otherwise leaders would be consistently challenged.

Ah, but to be led by someone with a compelling vision, someone you respect and admire, someone you would trust with your life, with all your heart, someone you would die for, and more importantly live for. Now that is to live indeed.

It makes following a pleasure and inspires each follower to become a leader in his or her sphere of influence. We all have situations in which we are under authority and other in which we are in authority.

All around us Zimbabwe is littered with case studies of ideas without leaders, leaders without ideas, followers without leaders and leaders without followers.

It sounds a bit of a mess but like the tangled web of traffic, it can be fixed by one audacious person with the courage to raise one hand and say “Stop” while waving a hand in another direction to signal “Go”. Before you know it, traffic will be moving smoothly and there will be clarity and prosperity for all.

How do you find leadership? Where does it come from? Who creates it? Where can we get some? Who will lead our people – our families, our communities, our nation?

Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity.

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