Honourable Folks, transformational leadership is a mantra for the 2014 presidential election. Virtually, all candidates in the presidential election talk about it.
It’s a thinking that attests to the fact that there’s little to show for the past 50 years we’ve been an independent sovereign State and a realisation that the success or failure of a country hinges on the quality of leadership.
The contestants in this year’s presidential race want to make us believe that the past is the past and with them at the helm, we’re on to a good start of the next 50 years.
Paul Kagame is a pacesetter for them. In 1994, Rwanda was rated as poor, landlocked and war-torn. With him at the helm, Rwandans have been motivated to beat their weapons of civil strife into hoes, rakes and other weapons for development. They’ve embraced peaceful coexistence and they generally abhor corruption.
As a result, Rwandans under Kagame have an economy that’s growing steadily, more and more of them are leaving the abject poverty web and the middle class is on the rise. The turn-around from failure to success that mesmerises the world has happened within 20 years, not 50.
On our part, at 50 we still can’t feed ourselves despite having fertile land and an expanse of fresh water running along the entire length of our fish-shaped country from Karonga to Nsanje.
The economy is growing below the six percent rate needed to contain the current levels of poverty for our growing population, meaning we are getting poorer by the day or to be more precise, the poor are getting poorer while the rich (a very small elite group indeed!) are doing all they can to cling on to their comfort zones by hook or crook, cashgate and corruption included.
This is what necessitates transformational leadership. We need the next occupant of the State House to have a clear vision of how we can turn around our misfortunes and claim our rightful place in the sun.
Obviously, it’s all about change. Changing the status quo necessitating change of the mindset and, probably the most difficult part, getting out of one’s comfort zone if need be to play a role out there even if it’s freezing cold. There’s simply no prosperity if we don’t sweat and suffer bruised palms.
So how do we tell a transformational leader from a pack of charlatans? The presentation of nomination papers for the contestants in the presidential race last week has brought confusion in the political discourse on transformational leadership.
There are those who think the potential for transformational leadership is higher in UDF candidate Atupele Muluzi, the running mates on DPP ticket Saulos Chilima and on PP ticket Sosten Gwengwe just because they are 40 and below.
Then there are those, albeit fewer, who think the potential for transformational leadership is higher in DPP candidate Peter Mutharika, PP candidate Joyce Banda, MCP candidate Lazarus Chakwera and the running mate on UDF ticket Godfrey Chapola just because they are above 40 and therefore more mature and experienced.
But who said transformational leadership is about age or experience? Nelson Mandela was above 70 years old when he became president of South Africa and Barack Obama was in his 40s when he became the first black US president. Both were transformational leaders.
Transformational leaders are purpose-driven, innovative change agents who inspire their followers in order to get results from them. It’s not what we’ve seen all along where presidents buy cheap popularity by exploiting the very poverty they are supposed to wipe off, giving people handouts in anticipation of the vote as a thank you.
Handouts encourage high-level corruption and dependency on the part of the recipients, not development. Transformational leaders will be measured by how well their vision has been executed and its impact on the well-being of the country and its people.