The futuristic approach to the challenge of leadership in South Sudan

By John Kun Lam

December 11, 2014 (SSNA) — As South Sudan is going through the worse time in the history of ours, I feel that it was really no hardship at all to share and help to develop a blue-print that would determine the future of South Sudan. I love South Sudan and her people because that’s the country I have hoped for. All of us in our beloved country (South Sudan) share a long and wonderful tradition. Our common goal when we were at war with Jalaba was to fight collectively for our rights as the citizens of this country.

I was so proud of you (South Sudanese) when you came out in very blizzard weather in a big numbers on January 9th, 2011, to determine your fate. You wisely made the right choice by putting all your votes in the separation box. The results of your votes are what made South Sudan the world’s newest and youngest nation. On that note, I want to say thank you to all of you.

Our social inter-relationships and our well being as having suffered severe neglect and undue decay in the recent past, much as the situations are regrettable. I posit these unwarranted difficulties as an off-shoot of the poor leadership. There must be in a place, a virtue leadership to make our aspirations possible. The problem with South Sudan as in most African states is the problem of leadership. Everybody says it but unfortunately, nothing ever comes out of those sayings.

If our leaders were screened on a given criteria, and encouraged to perform their functions, the decay of our infrastructure, our well-being and our social inter-relationships may not have occurred. The current situation in South Sudan could have been prevented if it was handled with care. Leadership is often misunderstood. When people hear that someone has an impressive title or an assigned position, they assume that individual to be a leader. Sometimes that’s true. But titles don’t have much value when it comes to leading.

True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence and that cannot be mandated. It must be "earned". The only thing a title can buy is a little time. Either to increase one’s level of influence with others, or to undermine it. In the South Sudan of our dream, we must choose our leadership from our brothers and sisters who we adjudge can pass the litmus test. One has to meet certain criteria to lead the people of South Sudan. From leadership standpoint, one must have the following:

A). A leader must show CURIOSITY: He/she has to listen to the people outside the "Yes Sir" group in his inner circle. Information is also vital to a leader. He/she needs a grasp of the facts, an understanding of dynamic factors and timing plus a vision for the future. Knowledge alone won’t make someone a leader, but without, no one can become a good leader. If a leader never stepped outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he/she grows stale. If he/she doesn’t put his/her beliefs to test, how does he/she knows that he/she is right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. That’s what painted the leadership of Salva Kiir with an ugly color.

B). A leader must be CREATIVE: He/she must be willing to try different things. The ideas you collect from different people can create a trend on how you can lead. Some ideas may not be good and some may be good. So take the good ones. Leadership is all about managing, be it organization or government.

C). A leader must COMMUNICATE: I’m not talking about running off the mouth. I am talking about facing the reality and telling the truth. So communication is very important and it is needed in leadership.

D). A leader must be a person of CHARACTER: You must know the difference between right and wrong and having a gut to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "if you want to test a man’s character, give him power". Salva Kiir had a lot of power and what has that got to say about his character now? True leadership always begins with the inner person.

E). A leader must have COURAGE: Courage is a commitment to sit down, talk, and take a position even when you know it will cost you. The bible (Psalm 27:14) stated that, be courageous and let your heart be strong.

F). A leader must have CONVICTION: You must have passion for your followers. You must not be a "sit-tight minister". Conviction as a role in leadership is needed.

G). A leader must have CHARISMA: Charisma is the ability that makes people want to follow you. In real sense, people follow a leader because they trust him/her. You are a leader only if you have followers. Builder is better than destroyer. So build enough so that you will become the real leader in South Sudan. At this point, I should acknowledge the charismatic leadership of Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

H). A leader must be COMPETENT: A leader ought to know what he/she is doing. More importantly, he/she should surround himself/herself with people who know what they are doing. The bottom line for the followers is what a leader is capable of accomplishing. They want to know whether the person can lead the team victory. That’s the reason people will listen to you and acknowledge you as their leader. As soon as they no longer believe you can deliver, they will stop listening and following. Take Salva Kiir as an example. He is now the enemy of his fellow comrades within the SPLM/A whom he fought the war with Jalaba. Is it a good example for a true leader?

I). A leader must have COMMON SENSE: The only thing one has going for as a huma being is the ability to reason. If one cannot decipher between today and yesterday, that person is finished. The potential to make you a better is your response to leadership and common sense. Your ability to become a good leader depends however, on your attitude. Your attitude toward the people you lead is important.

If you are an aspiring leader, I recommend that you commit these qualities to life. They will be of great help to you and to the people you will lead. Leadership requires a lot from a person. To be a better leader, you must adhere to the following:

1. Leadership is the courage to put oneself at risk.
2. Leadership is the passion to make a difference with others.
3. Leadership is taking responsibility while other are making excuses.
4. Leadership is seeing the possibilities in a situation while other are seeing the limitations.
5. Leadership is the willingness to stand out in a crowd.
6. Leadership is an open mind and an open heart.
7. Leadership is the ability to submerge your ego for the sake of what is best.
8. Leadership is inspiring others with a vision of what they can contribute.
9. Leadership is your heart speaking to the hearts of others.
10. Leadership is the integration of heart, mind and soul.
11. Leadership is the capacity to care, and in caring, you have to demonstrate the ideas, energy, and capacities of others.
12. Leadership is the dream made real.
13. Leadership does not envy of other people’s achievement.

In conclusion, I have a hope that no condition is permanent. The current situation in South Sudan will eventually come to an end, even though we may not replace the lives we have loss. Kingdoms rise and fall; people live and die. South Sudan we all are dreaming for will eventually come, so don’t lose hope.

The author is concerned South Sudanese living in the United States of America. He can be reached at [email protected].

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