Leadership is a critical component of development and civilization. In fact, it is leadership that separates nations into developed or developing and underdeveloped. For instance, a nation like Nigeria that is blessed with abundant human and material resources should not be where we are today if not for failure of leadership. That is why I align myself completely to the definition of leadership as “the art of taking people to a place they may not wish to go, but where, in the end, they realize that that is indeed where they ought to be”. This definition fits in perfectly to the situation in Anambra under the administration of Peter Obi as Governor from 2006 – 2010 (first term). The people expected magic overnight, but when the man started working, with an entirely different approach to governance, the political class felt disappointed, the masses were not seeing the impact, until sometime towards the end of that first term in office when the people started seeing the result of his integrated approach to development termed “Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS)”.

Today, I will be talking about the traits or characteristics of credible leadership, that is to say, characteristics or traits that a good leader should posses to be able to offer credible leadership to the people he/she leads or serves. Some of the basic principles of leadership include the following:

1. Service to the people: A good leader must be willing and ready, at all times, to render service to the people he or she is leading without reservations. In fact, a good leader should be a servant to all, hence the advent of the word – servant leader.

2. Responsiveness: A good leader should be willing and ready to respond to the yearnings of his/her followers at all times. This is indeed a critical characteristic of good leadership, hence good leaders adopt the saying, “Do not leave what you can do today for tomorrow”

3. Responsible: A good leader should be responsible to the people he/she is leading or representing. A responsible leader goes the extra mile to ensure that his/her followers are carried along in his/her leadership or representation.

4. Accountability: A good leader should be accountable to his/her followers. This is the bedrock of all other leadership characteristics for upon it all others are built. Without accountability, a leader cannot be trusted, hence service delivery will be threatened.

5. Transparency: Transparency is an essential characteristic of credible leadership. It is not enough for a leader to be accountable without being transparent. He/she should also be transparent, for it is transparent accountability that confers on a person the toga of “a credible leader”.

6. Accessibility: Without accessibility, a person cannot be rated as being a good leader or not, in fact, service delivery becomes impossible. Therefore, a leader should be accessible to his/her followers as much as possible. It is advised that leaders should create platforms for interaction with their followers from time to time for effective feedback and direct access to information.

7. Courage: Without courage good leaders will not be identified, for it is only courageous leaders that can dare to thread where no one ever did by trying new things and using new approaches to governance. Courage is an essential characteristic of a good leader.

In addition to the characteristics of a good leader enumerated and described above, there are three basic leadership qualities, aptly described as “the 3Cs of basic leadership qualities, namely; Character, Competence and Capacity – OCN (2023). For the avoidance of doubt, let me dissect the above-named leadership qualities and describe them as set out below:

1. Character: Character is an inbuilt behavioral pattern of a person, formed over time. It is essentially different from habit. Character formation is a process that takes lengthy amount of time, sometimes from fifteen to twenty years and counting. Basic education and home training are essential elements in character formation, in addition to a person’s focus and personal training will help in building the character the person will live with all through life. Character cannot be faked because it is inbuilt and original. So a good leader must be a person with a good strength of character. 

2. Competence: This is the innate ability of a person to do or act in a given circumstance. When a person can perform almost effortlessly at all times, such a person is said to be very competent at what he/she does. Such should be the lot of a good leader. A good leader, who is competent, is one who knows what to do and is willing and able to do them for the good of the followers.

3. Capacity: This is the ability of a person to do what he is expected to do. It is not enough for a leader to be competent, a good leader must be able to do what he/she knows how to do. It is called capacity to deliver. A corrupt leader, may indeed know how to tackle or fight corruption to stamp out corruption from the system, but he will not be able to deliver on this because he/she lacks the capacity to do so because “one cannot give what one does not have”.

From my submissions above, it is my view that, as we approach the 2023 Presidential elections, let us eschew primordial sentiments, and look out for leaders who posses the basic characteristics of a good leader, and ultimately, the 3Cs of basic leadership qualities, namely; Character, Competence and Capacity as enunciated by OCN (2023). The task before us is to make a choice between having a prosperous nation or a retrogressive nation that is almost sliding into a failed state, a choice for us to move from economic recession to massive economic progression, a choice for us to move from consumption to production, and finally, a choice for us to move from situation of massive national insecurity to a properly secured nation where the rights of citizens are guaranteed. Let us choose wisely, and then vote wisely! 

Comrade Igwe Patrick Afubera writes from Abuja.

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