Opinion: Why Leaders Should “Eat Last”

In a previous paper, I underlined possible trends impacting Liberia economy in 2019 and proposed series of recommendations which preceded the IMS report.

In this article, I focus on leadership and why it is important for leaders to “eat last”.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia map
Political Subdivision Map of Liberia Map

This is important because the circumstances unfolding in Liberia is disquieting and shocking.  The  lack of leadership is why we have economically and socially fallen of the cliff. It is unfortunate, because it doesn’t have to be this way. For over a century, we have failed to educate and improve the standard of living for our people. That is why the ability to make decisions that benefit them or know right from wrong is limited.

We cannot blame our people for the lack of social insecurity and failure. It is because of this confusion and indecisiveness that Liberia is in a chaotic state and given rise to the Yekeh Kolubah, Abraham Darius Dillon and Henry Costa of the world. It is because most Liberians under 30 (majority of the voting age population) feel they have no future and these individuals feel their pain, even if they are in it for themselves. And so I predict that we are in it for a long haul.

To correct the gross social imbalances of the past, individuals who aspire to leadership must understand Liberia’s  lessons from a historical context and correct it. Neither this current government nor the previous ones have done anything to turn the tide; so history is destined for reappearance.

First, I’ll conceptualize leadership.

One can equate a leader to being a parent. He or she is the core of the family, who makes sacrifices to see that his or her child interests are advanced so that, later in life, they would follow the right path and become successful. So, in the process sacrifices are made by the parent; lot  of them.

It is this kind of leadership Liberia requires to move forward. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The CDC lead government under President George Weah came with all the hope and aspiration that they had the magic wand to solve Liberia’s problem only to drop the ball, because they were not prepared and had no plan; all talk and no substance. So, they are stuck.

Here is  why I think that John C. Maxwell had a right when he said “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”  Similarly, Dwight D. Eisenhower the 34the President of the United States once said “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity.” The rationale is that without trust and honesty first to yourself and others, success isn’t possible. You cannot force it.

Leaders Eat Last Module By Simon SinekIn Simon Sinek’s book “Leaders Eat Last” he laid out evidently that leaders should create the environment that allow people to feel a sense of purpose, fulfillment and self-actualization from what they do and why leaders must build trust so that people can thrive. In order to build trust, a leader must be transparent and everything he or she does. When they have nothing to hide, they are challenged less because people are aware of what they do and there are no hidden skeleton in their closets. He or she is a teacher and a coach, not a dictator. They communicate what they want to do so the vision is clear.

A leader that eats last is selfless, self-sacrificing; not driven by honor and power with the single-mindedness upon making everyone better. Your success as a leader must come from the vision and accomplishment of your people. Put your people in the spotlight and you will shine. Surround yourself with the best and brightest and you will gleam and standout. A leader that east last is careful of abuse of public office for private gain, since it impacts economic growth and livelihood.

One writer sums it this way with respect to how leaders must eat last  “…Although leaders may not be asked to risk their lives or to save anybody else’s, they should be glad to share their glory and help those with whom they work, succeed. More importantly, in the right conditions, people with whom leaders engage with should choose to also share their glory and take risk. And when that happens, when those kinds of bonds are formed, a strong foundation is laid for the kind of success and fulfillment that no amount of money, fame or awards can buy.”

This is what it means to work in a place in which the leaders prioritize the well-being of their people and, in return, their people give everything they’ve got to protect and advance the happiness of one another; a kind of shared purpose.

This is why we all owe it the opposition in Liberia as well as well Yekeh Kolubah, Abraham Darius Dillon and Henry Costa  because leaders must be checked or you will breed monstrosity and gargantuan.

I have been fortunate to engage with many organizations and have determined that those that are exceptional, whether public (government) or the private (business), are ones in which leaders set clear visions and where people implement those visions. And so, they push harder and harder, take risks to achieve shared-objectives and better the lives of their people. You can only achieve this  if there are empathy and compassion for individuals; not self. People!.

Leaders that eat last see aggrandizement and braggadocio as obstacles to progress and not the other way around. This is fundamental to creating a culture in which folks effortlessly pull together to advance the public good; not  the good of an individual.

Leaders that eat last create a sense of belonging that limit stress and reduce threats.  Everyone feel a part of something bigger; a greater purpose. They give their all, more time, and energy to protect others from the constant dangers outside and seize the big opportunity to impact lives. Smart leaders can accomplish this because it is not about them. Unfortunately, most of our leaders don’t see it this way. They are mostly driven by tittle-tattle, scuttlebutt and gossip.

This is why we need leaders; good ones – Leaders who would look out for people on both sides of the political spectrum (ruling and opposition) and the willingness to sacrifice their comfort for others, even when they disagree with you; a kind of trusted leadership. Trust is not simply a matter of shared opinions. Trust is a biological reaction to the belief that someone has others well-being at heart. Trusted leaders are those who are willing to give up something of their own for others. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate. When it matters, good leaders choose be the last to take from the plate; Not the first.

In addition, a leader that eats last encourage others to do the right thing even if it is popular. When human-beings feel that they have the control to do what’s right and supported, even if it sometimes means breaking the rules, they will more likely do what’s right. Audacity and courage comes from good leaders. Chaos and uncertainties exist from those that are unscrupulous and immoral. A person’s’ poise and timidity to do what’s right is determined by how a person trust his or her leader. A leader that eats last isn’t often fooled because he or she uses common sense and moral judgment.

It is often said that the environment has an impact on the individual. Sometimes if respectable and honest people work in a bad culture, one in which leaders do not relinquish control, lack respect for the law, immoral, shady and corrupt, then the odds of the good habits go down and bad habits go up. Individuals will be more likely than not,  to follow the bad rules out of fear of getting in trouble or getting in trouble with the boss, losing their jobs rather than doing what needs to be done.

Market in Liberia
Market in Liberia

The current global economy will continue to see stock market volatility, decline in commodity prices, trade wars, falling oil prices, hyper-inflation, and the depressing economic prospects for Sub-Saharan Africa. The challenges of reducing poverty and the impact of high inequality across the region will continue to dampened progress and economic activity. And so the challenges of poverty reduction can only be realized through robust economic growth and equitable distribution of the national pie which would require effective and efficiency leadership.

We have by our own nature created a country that is politically and economically out of balance for ourselves and generation to come. It has been so for over 170 years. It will soon self-destruct unless we are smart enough to correct it methodically and with a sense of urgency. Given our inclination for instant enjoyment, satisfaction, pleasure and the weaknesses in our organizations, nevertheless, our leaders may not have the poise or patience to do what needs to be done even if it is the right thing.

For some reasons, there’s this strong feeling that Liberian leaders don’t see their people as individuals but rather pawn in a chess game; a means to an end and why empty promises are often made and they often take the bit and fall for the trap from individuals who are only in it for their own concealed motives. Now more than ever, the Liberian people live daily in a society in which they are total strangers in their own land; in which they struggle to make ends meet.

Liberia is in an imbroglio. How the current government overcome the current entanglement needs to be seen, but leadership should be at the core because effective policies requires sound thinking and facts based on the data to inform policy and drive decision-making.

I have always argued that good governance and effective headship is essential for success in any organization and for implementing policies whether fiscal or monetary. In most instances, crafting effective policy option takes time and requires weighing the pros and cons so that prescriptions drive results and outcome.

So my recommendation for every Liberia leader is to do the following:

  1. Fight to bring people together
  2. Create balance between selfish pursuits versus selfless pursuits
  3. Encourage integrity
  4. Talk less and listen more
  5. There’s always two sides to a story. Listen, listen, listen
  6. Share struggle
  7. Get the job done

To sum, leadership is not about doing less. It is striving to do more. And that’s the dilemma. Leadership takes effort and work. It takes time, energy and a ‘get-up-and-go’ attitude. The effects are not always easily measured and they are not always immediate. Leadership is always a commitment to people to do the right thing.

This is the change Liberia yearns  for; – “A leader that eats last, not first.”

Dr. A. Joel King
Dr. A. Joel King has a doctorate in Management and a diploma in Public Policy Economics from Oxford and Executive Coaching from Cambridge.

Liberia: Opposition ANC Leader Alex Cummings Cites “Ineptitude and Incompetence” For Deteriorating Governance

Monrovia, Liberia – November 23, 2018: The leader of Liberia’s opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) Political Party says he takes full responsibility for the performance of the party in the last Presidential and General Elections in the West African country. 

ANC Political Leader Alexander B. Cummings of Liberia
In a rather honest and harsh introspection and response to charges of the dismal national performance of his party,  Mr. Alexander B. Cummings told a local radio interview in the capital Monrovia on Thursday, “…there are a few things we learned; looking at the post mortem in no particular order…we were not very effective, I believe, in communicating with the youths, the young people. Our candidate selection process was not as robust as it could have been, in terms of the kind of choices who were on the ANC ticket. Our organization, you have to remember that this is the first time the ANC ran in any elections. And so our experience around the organization of the campaign  was not up to par. And so those are just the facts. And I think that just impacted our performance…” the ANC leader said.

The ANC did not win the Presidency or any Parliamentary seat.
In the radio interview which covered several topics, Cummings cited some of his own challenges in the Liberian political theater which led to the party electoral losses such as being viewed as “new” to the scene, the perception that some Liberians held that he was un-electable because there were “others who were in line for this job” to become President because they have been contesting for some time and that he didn’t “connect” well. He promised to continue to work to address those perceived challenges.
As part of re-positioning his political party for the future in Liberia, sources disclose that Cummings is reaching out to all Liberians in the country and the Diaspora to solicit their ideas and support to change the deteriorating trajectory of governance,  a major meeting is planned for the weekend of December 7-8 in Maryland, the United States between Cummings and Liberians residing across the US.
Organizers have confirmed attendance from Liberians in US Midwest, the northeast, Minnesota and the southeast.
The ANC Leader, in his radio interview,  said after nearly a year, governance of the country,  under the Weah Administration, was rapidly deteriorating, citing “incompetence” and “ineptitude”.
Cummings expressed anxiety about the early direction of the country but said Liberians should hope that something may change.
Local Money Changer
Asked what he would have done if he had become President, Cummings said he would have focused on the economy, “…because at the end of the day, it’s all about the economy, it’s all about jobs, it’s all about the currency…”
According to him, he would have focused on having the best economic team at the Finance and Commerce Ministries, finding waste in Government in order to reinvest in the Liberian people. Cummings said he would have lobbied the various branches of government for salary reduction in order to use that money to offer better pay to teachers, police officers and health workers.
The Liberian opposition leader said his Administration would have focused on the area of Agriculture to create jobs and food security, support the growth of Liberian businesses through local availability of credit and loan facilities, relaxation of government’s taxation regime to easily facilitate business growth and investment and improving the reputation of Liberia to attract much needed investments.
On the current effort to impeach Supreme Court Associate Justice Kabineh Janet,  Cummings characterized it as “misplaced”, adding, “I think there’s no basis for the judge’s impeachment. I think it’s an attempt by the Executive branch to try to control a separate branch of government; the Judiciary branch and its a violation of the separation of powers. I fundamentally disagree with the case that is being propounded to impeach Judge Janeh.”
Several lawmakers led by ruling party legislators are pursuing impeachment articles against the high court justice.
Commenting on the ongoing saga of the mission billions in Liberian dollars from the National Bank ANC Leader Cummings called for inclusion of discussion of the 25 million US dollar the Weah Administration claimed it infused in the economy to mop up deteriorating local currency.
Liberia Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah
The country’s Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah recently disclosed at a Parliamentary hearing that unnamed local money changers were used by government to undertake the “mopping up” of Liberian dollars on the market instead of commercial banks.
A forensic investigation is underway into the missing money.
“…I think that’s perhaps what most Liberians should be angry about is the fact that you have a  government where the Justice Minister said one thing about the mIssing money, you have the Information Ministry saying something else, you have the Minister of  Finance say something else and subsequently change on what he said and you have the Governor saying something else. You wonder why we are not getting investors in this country…that’s one of the primary reasons because business people and investors are confused, they are alarmed…”, Cummings explained.
In a separate development, Liberia’s National Security Council (NSC) has identified the lack of citizens access to electric power as “…a national security emergency and, as such, MUST be treated with the outmost sense of urgency…”
According to a Press Statement issued on Friday, “….the NSC has instructed the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) and it’s partners to take advantage of the relevant provision(s) of the PPC Law dealing with National Security matters by single sourcing ALL electricity procurement processes.”
Liberia has struggled for nearly 20 years with the inability to generate reliable power since major infrastructures were destroyed, damaged or looted during the country’s devastating civil wars in the 1990s.
The Liberian NSC decision comes at the same time a Report was made to President George M. Weah on a scary standoff and shooting incident on last Sunday.
Some Members of Liberia Presidential Guard – File Photo
A soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) was shot and wounded by a member of the elite Presidential guard just prior to a scheduled international soccer match between Liberia and Zimbabwe at the national sports stadium outside of the capital Monrovia.
Recommendations of the investigation report,  which has been approved by President Weah, called for the dismissal of the Chief of Operations of the Presidential Guard Shadrick Nyantee, and the dismissal and prosecution of Special Agent Abu Thompson for unlawful discharge of a fire arm.
Five other Special Agents involved in the incident were suspended, according to the NSC Press Statement.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine

Liberia: Govt Fails To Attend Policy Dialogue To Resolve Economic Hardship

Liberia Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah
Liberia Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah

Monrovia, 14 Jul 2018: The conspicuous absence of the Liberian government representatives at a major policy dialogue here this week called to seek solution to the deepening economic “crisis” in the West African country may have been a faux pas of omission.

A former former foreign minister  of the country is describing the absenteeism as “unacceptable”.
Our Monrovia correspondent reports that Liberia’s Ministers of Finance and Economic Planning, Commerce and Industry, as well as acting head of the Central Bank of Liberia and commercial banks, were absent at the one-day dialogue organized by the governance commission to brainstorm on how to solve widespread economic problems.
img_0680The commission involved economic experts from the University of Liberia and Cuttington graduate school as well as personalities from academia who analyzed Liberia’s economic woes with a view to recommend possible solutions.
Speakers were expected to crystalize their views in recommendations to the governance commission for onward submission to the government.
High inflation exacerbated by the free fall of the Liberian dollar is causing sharp price increases in essential commodities beyond  the affordability of ordinary Liberians.
But the conspicuous absence of government representatives at the forum prompted former Foreign Minister Olubanke King-Akerele to observe: “We are in trouble; a major economic forum like this going on, (and) no Finance Minister, no Bank governors in attendance… “This is unacceptable.”
img_0655-3
                                    Map of Liberia
The former minister in Sirleaf’s government who was  not invited to the forum, cited her participation in  the Malaysia experience where a think-tank provided the model for sustained economic growth in that Asian nation.
Madam Akinrele-King stressed the indispensability of think tanks which
show governments the way forward in times of crises.
By Tepitapia Sannah
Monrovia, Liberia
West African Journal Magazine