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.

Opinion: Liberia- Are Tenured Positions Illegal?

Last Tuesday, the Government of Liberia submitted a bill for enactment to the Legislature titled, “Act Prohibiting the Tenure of Public Officials in the Executive Branch of Government.” The intent of the Government is to allow the President of Liberia the unhindered authority to hire and fire any official in the Executive Branch of Government at his will and pleasure. Today, there are statutes that grant tenure to certain officials of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA), General Auditing Commission (GAC), Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), National Elections Commission (NEC), Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and officials of a select number of public institutions.

President George M. Weah

Tenures were granted to these position by Acts of the Legislature, mostly under the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. 

If the purpose of the proposed Act is to enable the President to freely hire and fire public officials in the Executive Branch of Government, then the decision to craft and submit the Act was ill informed and ill advised; no disrespect intended to the President’s Legal Team.

Why do I say so? Current tenures are based on the authority of statutes. If the President’s proposed Act were to pass into Law, it will not enable him to remove those already serving under tenure. They will have to complete the current length of their tenures; the President may as well wait out the completion of the tenured terms before appointing replacements; hence the Act serves no purpose at this moment.

Justices of The Supreme Court of Liberia

Article 21 of the Constitution of Liberia prohibits the enforcement of any law ex post facto.” According to Article 21, “No person shall be subject to any law or punishment which was not in effect at the time of commission of an offence, nor shall the Legislature enact any bill of attainder or ex post facto law.” An ex post facto law is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of actions that were committed, or relationships that existed, before the enactment of the law.

Any Legislation that grants tenure to a public official appointed by the President in the Executive Branch of Government is a Legislative overreach that explicitly abrogates the Executive Powers of the President of Liberia granted in Article 56 (a) of the Constitution of Liberia.  

To the extent of its abrogation of a Constitutional provision, it is illegal. Article 56 (a) states. “ All cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, ministers and consuls, superintendents of counties and other government officials , both military and civilian, appointed by the President pursuant to this Constitution shall hold their offices at the pleasure of the President.”

Liberian Lawmakers- File Photo

The common argument in favor of granting of tenure by legislation is that the Constitution gives the Legislature the authority to create agencies of government. Article 89 states, “The following Autonomous Public Commission are hereby established. A. Civil Service Commission, B. Elections Commission and C. General Auditing Commission. The Legislature shall enact laws for the governance of these Commissions and create other agencies as may be necessary for the effective operation of Government.” 

The powers granted to the Legislature in Article 89 (and 34-49) does not inhibit any authority of the President already established under the Constitution. Article 2 of the Constitution provides the framework for this assertion. It states, “This Constitution is the supreme and fundamental law of Liberia and its provisions shall have binding force and effect on all authorities and persons throughout the Republic.

Seal of Liberia

Any laws, treaties, statures, decrees, customs and regulations found to be inconsistent with it shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void and of no legal effect. The Supreme Court, pursuant to its power of judicial review, is empowered to declare any inconsistent laws unconstitutional.”

Therefore, granting of tenure to public officials who are subject to appointment by the President in the Executive Branch of Government as a provision of any stature is inconsistent with Article 56 (a) and is therefore unconstitutional. 

What then should have been the course of action by the President to remedy this error?

The opportunity offered itself in the case arising from President Weah’s appointment of Moses Owen Brown to replace Ambassador Isaac Jackson as Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In a case brought before the Supreme Court by Attorneys representing Ambassador Jackson, they argued that Jackson’s replacement was illegal and an abuse of power because he was entitled to tenure, which had not elapsed, under the 2010 Act creating the new Liberia Maritime Authority. 

Map of Liberia

The government’s counter argument was that the New Maritime Authority Act did not grant tenure to the position of Permanent Representative to the IMO but only to Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners of the Liberia Maritime Authority. Faulty argument because Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the IMO has always had the designation of Deputy Commissioner of Maritime Affairs.

The Supreme Court reserved ruling on the matter but placed a stay on the removal of Ambassador Jackson in the main time. 

Technically, the decision of the Supreme Court was a defeat to the government, induced by the fatuity of the argument of Government’s Lawyers. The Government would later replace a more impactful Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Lewis Brown, without fanfare.

Where is the logic? This case of Ambassador Isaac Jackson removal provided an opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of tenure granted to public officials appointed by the President.

The true argument was that tenure granted to Ambassador Isaac Jackson as Permanent Representative to the IMO on the basis of the 2010 new Liberia Maritime Authority Law was unconstitutional and an abrogation of the Executive Powers of the President granted in Article 56(a). 

The irony is that on March 2018, President Weah appointed former Representative Gabriel Nyenkan as head of the Secretariat of Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI), replacing Konah Karmo who was appointed by the Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group (MSG) in 2014 in a competitive recruitment process.

The Act which created LEITI in 2009 authorized the President to appoint members of the Multi Stakeholders Group (MSG), and granted the MSG the power to recruit the Head of Secretariat, Deputy and other staff members of the LEITI Secretariat. The President’s appointment of Nyekan, was a violation of the LEITI statute and unlike the Jackson Case, falls outside of the powers of the President as authorized in Article 56(a).

Note that the President does not have the authority to appoint the LEITI Secretariat, (condition imperative in Article 56a), hence, he does not have the authority to remove the head of the LEITI Secretariat.

In spite of the mixed reaction and condemnation by Global Witness and Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), the Government of Liberia has not corrected this error. As a consequence, Liberia has been delisted from the prestigious international integrity institution.

There is sufficient public favor for the continuation of tenure for the select number of public officials appointed by the President; be it those at the LACC, GAC, CBL, NEC, PPCC, etc.

Flag of Liberia

This sentiment is informed by a perception that the President, and for some, this President, by demanding the right to control the tenure of the designated public offices, is exercising dictatorial tendencies.

Let us put the Liberia Presidency in its proper legal perspective. The Constitution of Liberia creates for us an Imperial Presidency. The President is the Head of State, the Head of Government and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. There is an assumption, when one appraises the powers granted the President of Liberia; that the framers of the Constitution expect the President to be wise. By the same logic the framers also assumed that the people clothed with the Constitutional power to elect their President have the ability to elect a President capable of managing the vast power and authority granted the office of the President under our Constitution. 

There are limits to which the Legislature can manage the President in the execution of his authorities granted by the Constitution. The notion of tenure for a public official serving a position mandated to the President seem to suggest that the officials need to be protected from removal over a certain period. Who is the tenured official being protected against? The President? The President is the only elected official that has been granted the mandate by law to perform the duties of the Executive Branch of Government; he is responsible for the performance of the Executive Branch of the Government of Liberia. All appointed officials in the Executive Branch of Government are agents of the President; that is why the Constitution places their services at the pleasure of the President (Article 56a).

The Legislature cannot prevent the President from executing the authorities granted under the Constitution. The Legislature is not the people. It is a proxy of the people. The wishes of the people are enclosed in the Constitution, the supreme and fundamental law of the Republic. That is why the abrogation of constitutional provisions are expressly stated to be illegal (Article 2) and that is why there is a requirement for the assembly of the people in the form of a referendum to change or amend (Article 91 – 93) any of the explicit wishes of the people enshrined in the Constitution. 

Liberians Voting – File Photo

Cross Section of Liberians During Election – File Photo

Is there a reason for concern about governance? Yes! And rightfully so. When the will abandons that which is above and turns to what is lower, it becomes evil – not because that is evil to which it turns, but because the turning itself is wicked.

Therefore it is not an inferior thing which has made the will evil but it is itself which has become so by wickedly and inordinately desiring an inferior thing (St Augustine). 

In St Augustine’s attempt to define the source of evil, he illuminates a cardinal organizational challenge; the value of the quality of leaders.

We have been taught that the most important element of an organization is the quality of its people.  

Under Liberian Law (1986 Constitution Article 54) the President is granted broad powers to appoint all the senior members of the Executive and Judicial branches of Government, yet the constitution does not ensure that the Office of the President be filled with a person with the requisite qualification that makes him/her capable of making the value judgment in appointments.

There are only three eligibility requirements for the Liberian Presidency (Article 52) and they do not include any proficiency requirement whatsoever; hence, the only safeguard in the Liberian Constitution for vetting a Presidential appointee is the Consent of the Senate (Article 54). 

The framers of the Liberian Constitution made the assumption that the people, the Electorate, have the ability to elect the right quality of people to serve as Senators and President that enables them to make the right decisions on the quality of the team to handle the affairs of the country. 

Therefore, the only guarantor of good governance is the unknown. History has shown time and again that the absence of a visionary leader with a plan is always the demise of a nation. 

For years we in Liberia have grappled with the challenges facing our country and watched with frustration as many leaders appointed to manage public organizations fail and are replaced with new leaders who fail and are replaced again, and again; but this is the nature of the laws that the people have enshrined in the Constitution. At such time when these laws change, the people, all the people are required to uphold and defends them.

There are some who wish to undo the power of the Presidency because they either distrust the ability of the President or resent his Presidency. The Presidency of George Manneh Weah is already a done deal; water under the bridge. Should Liberians examine and question his policies? Yes, we should! Can anyone undo the fact that he is the elected President of Liberia and by virtue of that fact has the authority and right to exercise all the powers that the Constitution places at his disposal? No! No one should. Ours is a democracy. When in the early 1800s the French Republic faced a doubtful leader, the French Jurists and Philosopher, Joseph de Maistre, cautioned the public in these words, “In a democracy, people deserve the government they get.” Paraphrased, the democratically elected government is a microcosm, a miniature of the people. There is only one President of Liberia, let’s allow him to succeed or fail on the merits or demerits of his policies and their implementation.

Elections matter! Let every Liberian resist the temptation of attempting to micromanage a sitting President. 

My advice to the President: Put the unconstitutionality of “Tenured Appointed Positions in the Executive Branch of Government” before the Supreme Court; the only body which according the Article 2 has the power to declare “any inconsistent laws unconstitutional.” We will judge the government at the appropriate time by its performance. 

I hold this value to be true that “Adherence to the Law is the only safeguard of our democracy.” 

 

Author Cyrus L Gray, Jr., is the Author of the Negro Nation (www.amazion.com), the International Shipping Guidelines; and Publisher of the New Liberian Magazine (renamed LIB BUZNEY).

His new book, FOG (A Story of War, Love and Country) will be published in December 2018 with first rollout in Monrovia. 

As a day job, he is a Logistics Business Development Consultant with Core competence in Air and Seaport Development.

His recent work was Co-Consultant for the crafting of the Economic Analysis of the Mesurado Fishing Pier (Oct. 2018) at the Freeport of Monrovia, for Liberia’s National Aquaculture and Fisheries Authority (NaFAA).

Opinion: “Liberia Deserves Better “

Voting queue in Liberia
Voters queuing for the October 10th Elections

Liberians went to the polls on October 10, 2017 to vote in presidential and legislative elections. To ensure the credibility of that democratic process, participating political parties accredited and dispatched their representatives to monitor the process at every polling station around the country. These party representatives worked alongside international election monitors from reputable and experienced organizations in the business such as the Carter Center.

These elections, according to observers, were generally free and fair. But out of the 20 political parties that threw their hats in the race for the highest office of the land, none received the required 51 per cent of the votes cast to be declared a winner. Consequently and as provided by law, the National Elections Commission (NEC) announced a runoff between the first and second place winners – the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) of former footballer George Weah and the Unity Party (UP) of Vice President Joseph Boakai, respectively.

NEC Liberia
NEC Liberia

The runoff was scheduled to have taken place on November 7, 2017. However, that second round of voting was halted by the Supreme Court based on an appeal by one party which alleged that the first round of voting was marred by fraud and irregularities, a complaint that was and is still being looked into by the NEC. The Supreme Court is expected to lift the injunction after the NEC has satisfactorily completed its investigation and announced its findings. All of this is taking place within the confines of the law as it relates to conducting national elections in Liberia.

Regrettably, however, supporters and sympathizers of the CDC, under the illusion that they’ve already won the presidency, now see themselves heavily burdened by conspiracy theory, inarticulately inundating social media with outrageous and substandard posts such as the ones below, to the embarrassment and shame of the country they’re losing sleep to rule:

We are CDCians we are preparing WAR coming

fight again in Liberia your get ready if NEC and

Ministry Justice don’t give green light to

election runoff WAR will open again

In another post, a man claiming to be a supporter of the CDC and struggling to get his message through, calls on his comrades to attack the Chairman of the National Elections Commission, Jerome Korkoyah, and “burn him alive.” This is not a hyperbole, just in case anyone has the most infinitesimal of doubts as to the recklessness of the people behind the political party that may become the ruling party in Liberia.

If one plus one equals two, and if we know that to be true, then anyone can be his/her own soothsayer here. The sign post is clear.  The problem is that we do not know whether people are reading.

But let alone the intent and contents of these posts. What’s even more troubling is the fact that no one knows the stance of the CDC’s standard bearer on the scare tactics his followers are injecting into our political discourse. Mr. Weah has remained mute on every issue since he declared his presidential bid. We don’t know how Mr. Weah intends to govern the country if he becomes president; we don’t know how he plans to tackle local issues such as the economy and national unity and security in a country still reeling from war.  What about Liberia’s foreign policy objectives under a Weah administration? We just don’t know anything because the CDC top ticket candidate avoided every debate during the campaign and he has not given one news conference or granted a press interview since he announced his candidacy, leaving the rest of the country in limbo and sending off his supporters on a free-for-all media blitz, saying and publishing whatever they want.

Senator George-Weah
CDC Senator George Weah

We want to state here with emphasis that Liberia deserves better, Mr. Weah! Come from the shadow, not only to tell the Liberian people which direction you plan to take their country if elected president, but also dissociate yourself and your party from your chaos-driven supporters pushing the country to the limit. Don’t leave the country the impression that re-enforces the parable that “A little boy will never talk about making his farm on the mountain if he didn’t hear it from his father.”

About the author:

James K. Seitua is a former Editor of the Liberian Daily Observer newspaper

Editor’s Note: West African Journal Magazine is in possession of the actual video of the “incitement to violence” against the NEC issued by a person purported to be a supporter of the CDC but is choosing not to publish it due to its highly incendiary nature.