You must avoid two common extremes in reacting to events. How you respond to the world and issues around you can affect the rate your government or office respond to crisis and most importantly people's perception of your character personality, and eventually your genueity and capacity to succeed. Mindfulness means being able to notice the content of your thoughts, emotions and motivations as they appear.
Prof Martha Maznevski, Cyril Bouquet and Ben Bryant (2009) deed inspired me to present this article following lesson gained in their presentation: MANAGING UNCERTAINITY; The Notion of Mindfulness For Better Self –Management and Better Leadership’. I am particularly most compelled to write this article following the publication in the Nation News paper of 14th July 2009.The obvious mission of the publication in the opinion of many was to unsettle the incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State His Excellency Chief Timipre Sylva, but why?
Chief Timipre Sylva a Governor destined to lead Bayelsa as much as our Vice President was destined to be the Nigeria’s second citizen, and Rt Hon. Amaechi destined to opening a whole new frontier in our legal and electioneering process. Like David they have been divinely anointed but like Solomon they require the wisdom and vision of God which as followers we are obliged and should sincerely pray for.
Today Bayelsian are rather saddled with rumours of impeachment, and looting etc than with facts and constructive criticism. Even non indigenes like Lawson, whose governor are worse yet have not uttered words of caution as a journalist to their governor, openly call our governor names. Bayelsians worry why even with Dr. Goodluck then as VP no strategic federal presence has being obvious in the state. But how credible are those fuelling these rumours and claims?
The Nation News paper of July 14,2009 highlighted names of past leaders including LGA and party chairmen some of known credentials that places huge question mark on the publication sincerity of purpose! If one may ask: Is it true that people do benefit in crisis moment? Our past governors did take bank loan and plunge the state (Bayelsa) upfront into debt for succeeding government to inherit? Is it true that Sylva met healthy state treasury? Is it true that the signatories of the subject publication in The Nation News paper (hereafter called ‘The Nation Signatories’) love Bayelsa more than Gov. Sylva – a Bayelsian? Is it true that the ‘The Nation signatories’ are popular and held in esteem in their respective constituencies? Is it true ‘ The Nation Signatories’ have clean moral and service credentials Bayelsan can count on? Yet is it true that they are scheming to destabilise the Sylva-Government so as to force selfish negotiations for 2011 elections? Is it true they are all power drunk addicts? Is it true they are representing us well in Abuja? That they are rather obsessed with election calendar -years ahead? Is it true that Yenagoa terrain is better or relatively the same as Port Harcourt in terms capital outlay required for development? That some of ‘ The Nation Signatories’ solicited for favours that were turned down based on their antecedences and thus looking for outlet to avenge? That Bayelsa control the same volume of industry and fund like River State? Is it wise for Sylva to abandon ongoing inherited projects just to make name: ‘Sylva projects’? Is it true all ongoing old projects inherited by Sylva had been paid for- at least 75% - by previous governments? These questions many have asked me and.... I know they all have huge cloud of uncertainty over them.
Nevertheless, are there lesson we can learn amidst this cloud of uncertainty, drawing from past leaders experiences? Absolute! Chief DSP Alamieyesegha’s (aka ‘Alamco’) tragic experience remains fresh at heart. What went wrong? Alamco acted as if ‘he "was a little absent from all that was heard in the cockpit." He communicated several times with.. controllers, but ultimately appeared to be immune to their instructions.’ Leaders often suffer from poor attention management, being obsessed with the wrong types of signals and ignoring possibilities that could significantly improve the fate of their undertakings. Alamco may not be extreme case, but the problem is widespread.
Next, most actors and controllers today were Alamco’s closest friends. They praised him up and Pulled Him Down (aka PHD)! Therefore, leaders must be careful of professional praise singers as well as assertive destructive critics who are plenty in Yenagoa! You meet them in bus, canteen and vendor stands. They claim to be all sorts including very close associate of governors. Nevertheless, not half all that are heard is true! Not half, the true are accurately presented in context. Not half all untrue are responded to.
How do people tackle uncertainty? ‘The Nation Signatories’ in tackling uncertainty deployed strategies popularises by Martha Maznevski (IMD- June 2009).The proposed two strategies: simplify (Let’s negotiate 2011 election today) and amplify (the on-going variegated media buzz against Sylva-government by various sponsored groups/individuals including non indigenes like Lawson Heyford- journalist ). Well as intelligent as this strategy may be, is that the solution? In subsequent paragraph we shall briefly highlight best values and practices that characterise sportsmanship and great fruitful leadership which in my opinion imbibed will satisfy all stake holders’ interest in short and long term.
First, it must be emphasised that the shouting and crying amidst this uncertainty does not matters most, but our Values. We should re-brand ourselves and values: because values guide people’s decision-making in uncertainty. In other words: like biblical Paul, be born again, be circumcised at heart and mind! Second, the Chinese have lesson to offer: since government and governance after all are both private and public business, rather than crying genuinely or wolfishly we must understand why and how Chinese Private Entrepreneurs succeed where and when others are failing: more often than not, their industriousness and resourcefulness more than compensate for the lack of systematic corporate governance, limited access to capital markets, and an often unsophisticated approach to organization and management ( Nie, Xin and Zhand -IMD 2009). Ideas not propaganda! Small industries at individual levels not propaganda! That is what Bayelsians require! Sylva alone do not make-up Bayelsa and neither did he alone vote himself into office.
But what do best leaders do? In her study, Martha Maznevski in June 2009 emphasised that best leaders do not allow their desire for control to rub them of the greater benefit of allowing others do their job! Her emphasis: the courage to not always control. In Nigeria’s political scene this odd manifest itself so strongly. Instance, Federal powers directly or indirectly but continually intruding into state and LGAs affairs: contracts, appointment of LGA, Board chairmen, nominating commissioners, ward counsellors...etc and going further to direct them on their duties with ‘untouchable’ banner hovering over them.
Consequently, compelling ‘golden governors’ to make-do with a runaway cabinet and government machinery but yet turning around to hold them responsible for bad governance. Too bad! In resisting this subtle but significant hostile hijacking, most political leaders have met their doom. However, Mazenevski insisted clarity, confidence and courage as assets of best leaders: ‘courage is related to standing up to use your curiosity. Confidence is about having the courage to step forward; the courage to be disciplined, the courage to let go of control sometimes; the courage to be clear about your values. And the courage to know you do not know everything.’
Further ,Two kinds of attention disorder often exacerbate the difficulties political leaders face in moments of socio-political c** economic downturns and their subsequent attempts at recovery. Two identified disorder are fixation and relaxation:
Alamco represent an interesting case study. It is always likely in any crisis situation that leaders will become so preoccupied with a few central signals that they largely ignore things at the periphery. In the Alamco tragedy, the ex-Governor was undoubtedly focused on few important matters: (1) the need to proceed with a quick takeoff (his absence without the Assembly’s approval from office was approaching the legal limit of time constitutionally allowed for governors : an impeachable offence), (2) the complex manoeuvres required to keeping his loyalist as Speaker of the Assembly (3) obvious opponents passionate to avenge old scare, and (4) shame of defeat and fear of the unknown: life style. Because the Alamco government crew members were so preoccupied, they didn't give sufficient attention to the presumably very important communications coming in from ‘sincere friendly controllers.’ He travelled amidst warning not to and came back in desperate attire! With reference to the ‘Nation Signatories’ people are certain potential poor performance because they (‘Nation Signatories’) are too pre-occupied with (1) the fact that the incumbent Governor Chief Timipre Sylva will oversee the conduct of all elections following his most recent legal victory (2) their passion to return to office by all means (3) destabilizing and distracting Sylva now will compel him into some form of agreement.
This is almost the opposite problem, and it tends to follow sustained periods of high concentration. Having achieved a certain level of success leaders usually become less vigilant toward subtle changes in the situations they face. This I clearly recognised as a likely contributing factor in the Alamco disaster. Alamco’s ‘Relaxation’ - after having executed the difficult task of second term, felt invincible and egotistic. So also was his crew thus a sudden feeling of relief, which increased their desire to finally overcome the ground problems: capital flight without fear or caution!
How can you avoid fixation on the one hand and relaxation on the other? The key is related to the notion of mindfulness, and how you make sense of the thoughts that cross your mind at any given moment. Finally, to avoid serious crashes, leaders have to be mindful. Of course, faith comet by hearing and hearing the word of leaders. In Bayelsa if the likes of Chief Ebitimi Banigo, King Alfred Diete-Spiff amongst others can endorse the subject matter of ‘The Nation signatories’ publication then it means a lot to me. Otherwise it is no more than a political blackmail calling Obama gay! .
Allison John, MSC,AISM,IFIAN,NIA,NES
Director, League of Bright Minds
4 Nzemanze Close, Owji PH.