Editorial: African leaders must exit the stage when they mess up

As your nation’s leader, citizens expect you to have all the answers almost all the time. If you don’t, you’ll let them down. Or maybe you believe that if you show any weakness, they’ll lose respect for you, and you’ll lose authority. You might even fear losing your position if you do anything wrong.

The problem is, of course, that we’re human. We make mistakes all the time, but the best people -the best leaders- learn from them. And great leaders also admit when they’ve made mistakes. Contrary to a widespread belief among managers, bosses, and leaders of all stripes, admitting mistakes strengthens your position in so many ways.

The Chronicle has learnt with great enthusiasm that the Britain Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has resigned as leader of his Conservative Party and will soon bow out of office following his loss of public support.

The move by the British PM is a mark of a great leader who measures the mood of the people who gave him power and accepts that he has lost touch with them and should exit honourably. The writings on the wall against the PM are too strong for him to erase. So rightly, he must exit.

We would have expected the same action by our leaders here in Africa, but the story is always different. In our part of the world, it appears resignation from public office following public disapproval is non-existent.

It is sometimes strange to see public officers mess up so seriously and instead of accepting their mistakes and exit office, they rather snub and sometimes even castigate the very people who gave them power. Sadly, that has become the order of the day on the Continent of Africa.

The Chronicle would like to draw the attention of our public office holders, especially those in politics, to respect the mood of the people all the time by honourably resigning when the writings on the wall do not favour them.

We are of this opinion, because, as leaders, admitting your mistakes and exiting the stage is the fastest path to move past them, gain respect, and give you some grace. Despite a clear sign on the wall, former President Alpha Condé of Guinea decided, not only to stay in office, but also changed the Constitution of the country. In the end, he was removed and humiliated by the Military.

The Chronicle is convinced that when leaders realise their mistakes and immediately admit them, it allows everyone to focus on finding a solution, rather than focusing on the problem and who’s to blame for it. By being upfront, you’re cutting the blame game short, and freeing up everyone’s time and energy to help troubleshoot.

As a leader, when you are the first to admit a mistake and take steps to correct it or minimise the damage as soon as possible, you’re earning the trust of the people you lead. Sure, there may be repercussions, but the loss of respect and leadership ability won’t be among them.

Again, learning from mistakes is how you grow as a leader and enables you to teach others based on your mistakes, which makes you a thought leader.

Admitting your mistakes to those immediately concerned is one thing, but making them public -that’s something else entirely!

But when you are that brave and transparent, you enable others to learn from your mistakes, and you become a teacher with wisdom to share. In short, you can become a thought leader in your field, because great leaders do admit their mistakes and exit the stage.

Openly talking about your less-than-perfect decisions can be one of the best moves you make as a leader. Your transparency can reveal opportunities for positive action and strengthen the sense of accountability for everyone in your team.

The Chronicle would therefore like to remind our leaders that, being a leader does not mean you must all the time be right, as humans you may at some point get it wrong and when the people feel you have gotten it so wrong, accept it and exit the space they gave you to lead them.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here