A public service transformational leader is a change agent who, with insider advantage, has a deep understanding of the current state of the system and its constraints.
The topic of leadership has been a constant in any discourse that touches on Africa especially Nigeria. Whenever the question arises on why Nigeria or any of its component parts has not been able to reach the fullness of her potentialities and gifting, the missing piece in the picture is always leadership, and it is not just anything but right leadership.
Undoubtedly, leadership is a heavily explored concept. A quick Google search of its meaning will produce 269 million results. Despite the massive number, I doubt if definition is the issue in interrogating leadership as concept, rather it is the action and performance records that are usually in contention.
Though, there are as many definitions of leadership as can be, I will define leadership as the art of leading others to deliberately create results that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. A systematic interrogation of leadership through the prisms of the fundamental indices of this definition is therefore necessary.
If we are able to define leadership, then where do we situate transformational leadership which is a higher derivative of leadership? As leadership is an instrumental process and technique serving as a means to an end, leadership experts have developed models and styles based on different methodologies in relations to followers and dynamics to reduce ambiguities associated with the concept.
Transformation Leadership model as a theory was introduced by American political scientist, James Macgregor Burns, and he described it as playing out when “leaders and followers make each other to advance to a higher level of moral and motivation”. Therefore, leaders who fit into the transformational leadership model are able to stimulate and inspire their followers to achieve extraordinary outcomes and, in the process, develop their own leadership capacities.
The agenda for public service leadership especially in the twenty-first century has been conditioned by complexities associated with fluid development environment, changing ideas of what government should do in managing the development process and a rapidly evolving global conditions shaped by ever shifting political and economic variables. These challenges encountered by different governments across the globe were made more complex after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the globalization of terrorism as well as the confounding threat occasioned by climate change including Hurricane Katrina and Tsunamis among others, and not to mention the menaces of Boko Haram and Herdsmen, here at home. Today, complexity has become the core feature of most policy issues, yet governments are ill equipped to deal with complex problems.
Transformational leadership model was not expected to be effective and was less common in public organizations compared to business systems largely because transformation methodology is almost at variance with transactional bureaucratic mechanisms of public service. However, in fast growing economies, public policy makers have deployed system thinking and future research approaches, with attendant successes, in national change management programmes. So, in addressing complex problems, including but not limited to economic recession, poverty, jobless growth and income inequality, national disasters, which causes and effects are blurred and with no clear solutions, radical approaches implied by transformation have been deployed by totally changing long-established system and deep-seated culture change.
In positioning the public service as the agent for the actualization of developmental objectives of state, its systems, structures and work culture have to be reinvented through implementing change programmes that deliver positive impact. Conceptually, while change fixes the past constraints, transformation creates the future. So, a public service transformational leader is a change agent who, with insider advantage, has a deep understanding of the current state of the system and its constraints.
It is in this sense that issues usually arose with respect to the issue of whether the target of change can also be the tool for change. Whoever leads the change process, without an intimate knowledge of the current system AS-IS, is delusional trying to transform it.
Transformation results from an orchestrated and well led chain of events that successfully implements change strategy and transition plan. A strategic factor in the transformation process is leadership and is responsible for the engagement of people including managers in creating, adapting to and meeting the demands of the anticipated future. This means that a transformational public service leadership becomes real if it envisions and designs the future state and employs strategic interventions to chart the desired course in arriving at the change destination.
There are three dimensions to transformational leadership and these are Idealized Influence, Inspirational Motivation and Individualized Consideration.
Idealized influence combines the characteristics of charisma and clear visions and passion. These attributes must be present in those considered as role models, to be respected and trusted by their followers. Leaders with idealized influence are good communicators, able to connect with their followers at an emotional level. Their visions and passions are reflection of their real life experiences and it helps them build trust, inspiration and respect to win their followers’ engagement
Aside this, Inspirational Motivation in a transformational leader is manifested in the leader’s capacity to communicate a compelling vision and hold high expectations. It entails building team spirit, sense of belonging that facilitate ownership, loyalty, creativity and shared values that creates motivation for sacrifice and oneness. Individualized Consideration involves the technique of listening, mentoring and coaching and, it puts premium on followers as asset value to be invested in for collective benefit, commitment that creates a supportive environment.
These well tested frameworks can be applied to the Nigerian condition but it is important to address our minds to the more important question of why change oriented policies in Nigeria witness perpetual transition and arrested development.
It is a familiar narrative that Nigeria is not short of vision, development plans and ideas, but that the devil resides in the details of execution. This means that some of our past leaders have implemented policies and programmes that created varying levels of changes that unfortunately get trapped in their transition phases. Suffice to say some past leaders were far-sighted, competent and exhibited considerable measure of understanding of how to manage change.