Leadership Series (29): Effects of Greed In Leadership. By Victor A. Imhangbe

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The genesis of the Arab spring that happens on December 17th, 2010 could be seen as the direct effect of greed in leadership. According to most accounts, Bouazizi; a wretched and struggling street vendor out of frustration decided to set himself ablaze after a local official confiscated his vegetables cart and humiliated him in the public. The world watched in bewilderment as non-violent and violent protest triggered chains reaction involving grass root efforts across the Middle East brought down abusive and greedy leadership regimes all spring and summer.

It’s not entirely clear whether Bouazizi was targeted because he refused to pay bribes to the police, but the death of a struggling young man from a poor family struck chord with thousands of other Tunisians who began to pour into streets in subsequent weeks. Sadly powerful leaders all too often seem to find ways to do what is in their own best interest rather than for the common good. We seem to relearn this lesson over and over again in every generation and in every culture. The average person struggles and suffers greatly while the lives of the powerful leadership live in unimaginable luxury and privileges. A leader channels the energies of people toward a common goal, tempers self-interest, and build networks, rather than fortresses.

The financial crisis of 2007–08, also known as the global financial crisis and the 2008 financial crisis, is considered by many economists to have been the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.There was hardly a day goes by without yet another twist or turn in the credit crisis that has engulfed the U.S. financial system. Bear Stearns, one of the country’s largest underwriters of mortgage bonds, was swallowed up. Venerable institutions such as AIG, Wachovia, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup brought new CEOs on board.

Media reports suggest that the world’s biggest financial institutions have absorbed more than $300 billion in asset write-downs and credit losses even as home foreclosures were at record high levels and Wall Street has laid-off thousands of employees. While much of the discussion about the crisis has focused on its causes and the need for regulatory reform. According to Russell Palmer; former dean of Wharton University of Pennsylvania and author of a new book, Ultimate Leadership, opine that the situation offers an opportunity to learn crucial lessons about leadership. What caused the crisis? In Mr. Russell opinion, greed was the underlying factor. Wall Street hedge funds and others are looking for any financial machination that they can find to hype their financial returns.

For convenient and easy understanding, I will use Former South Africa President; late Mr. Nelson Mandela; when he was asked if he would seek to extend his five-year term as South Africa’s first democratically elected head of state.” Oh no, definitely not,” Mr.Mandela, 76, replied.
In a broad-ranging interview at his Cape Town office, a smiling Mr.Mandela, widely seen as the key stabilising factor in South Africa’s said: “In 1999 I will be 79 or 80 years. I don’t think an octogenarian should be meddling with political affairs. He continues thus: “I would like to hand-over power to a younger man. I will be available for advice if they want me, but to occupy a position as a head of state, definitely, I won’t take that risk.”

Many people thought such decision was insane; because the position was too lucrative, enticing and attractive not to continue. People like Mr.Robert Mugabe will decide to die on the position, not minding his declining productivity level and economic malaise confronting his people for lack of effective leadership. This altitude is typical of less developed countries in the world.

It is also rampant in corporate world when a chief executive is indicted for a crime, in Western Nations the individual involve will honourably tender their resignation, but the opposite tends to always be the case in Third world nations like; Africa, Asia and South America. There is no patriotism associated with such habit except insatiable greed and avarice.

Greed also pervade in multimillion corporations where the CEO is focused solely on shareholder returns and holds his people accountable only on profitability. Such executive does not care about the kind of culture they create; whether employees are satisfied or if they feel any sense of loyalty or proud to work there, but it’s all about the money.

According to Erika Andersen; If I am ask to state my opinion on moral level: If I care about the welfare of the people who work for me, to look at them purely as an expense to be reduced in my quest for high profit, my answer will be on the negative because I believe business leaders have a moral obligation to look for ways to do well while doing right as well; businesses should be able to make profit at one hand and also to be able to make the world a better place to live in, or human beings should not be reduced to rubbish at the expense of making profits. I also believe that leaders have a moral obligation to establish an environment of mutual benefit with their employees: to create a fair exchange of value: and that it is morally wrong to attempt to get as much from your employees as possible while giving them as little as possible.

On a personal view, greed tends to be the sole reason why a corporation will be unable to fulfill its mission and vision statement, and the leadership instead of throwing in the towel and allow a new set of leadership to infused fresh ideas, they will be reassuring the stakeholders that everything is going well, while opposite is the case.

HOW TO COMBAT GREED IN LEADERSHIP?

  • Self-control and simple lifestyle: Exercise some self-restraint by not killing yourself to acquired properties your generation yet unborn may not need.
  • Contentment: Be content and satisfied with your legal earnings without undue pressure to compete with a colleague.
  • Good parentage: Curtailing the urge for greed at adulthood is more difficult compare to when such excessive desperation is curbed when growing up as a child. This can only be possible with parent who is discipline.
  • Undue pressure: Not getting everything you desire, unless you work for it. This is a lesson that needs to be taught over long periods of time.
  •  Listen to your conscience: It is very important not to be carried away with the happenings in your environment, because I see greed as primarily arising from the society one is born into.
  • Value system: Some of the older subsistence based cultures emphasize different values, as against capitalist society. Subsistence based cultures with less emphasis on capitalist values should be encourage.

While I was searching for resource on this topic, I glance through an interesting photo. It was a Facebook from a friend which I later discovered was retrieved from African Leadership Magazine Blog as shown below:

former-tazania-president

Credit:Leadership Magazine

The Octogenarian on the above photo circled on red line is Mr. Ali Hassan Mwinyi; former Tanzanian President. Why is this single out? Because it is very rare in African soil and only a selfless leader can have the gut to do this without a security guard on a public bus. In Western countries, of course British Prime Ministers usually take public train to work. According to the blog report; “if you do not steal public wealth, you don’t only serve your tribe, you do not oppress people and only served at your level best as a leader, then you will retire and live free with nothing to worry about”. How many of your African leaders can do that?

Unfortunately in my country of birth, ordinary former Local Government Councilor can’t take a public transport again because he/she is too big to stoop so low to do that. It means such person must be a novice or naive to even contemplate the idea, when there are choice cars to choose from, and this luxury was supposed to belong to the people, but converted for private use due to greed.

Conclusively, we can agree that greed is a reflection of leadership failure, and it contribute at least 80% of poverty pervading third world countries. Our next series will discuss how the conduct of self-appraiser helps to enhance leadership performance. Your opinion and feedback is appreciated on the comment column. Do you like the piece? It’s always good to share.

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