Ailing former South African President, Nelson Mandela, is the only person that deserves to be addressed as a leader in the world today, Prof. John Adair, the world’s first professor of leadership, has said.
Adair, the chair of the United Nations Strategic Leadership Centre, made the assertion on Saturday in a keynote lecture at the ‘Emerging Leaders Conference’ organised by The Punch Newspaper in conjunction with Guardians of the Nation International, a non-profit leadership development organisation, at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
“The only person who deserves the title of ‘a leader’ in the world today is Mandela. He is the one that stands out,” Adair said. He added that, while most leaders eventually lose their moral authority, Mandela had remained credible over the years.
Adair went ahead to speak of a need for great leaders in Nigeria.
He noted that Nigeria deserved great leaders in order to harness the country’s abundant resources.
He said, “The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people because the greatness is already there; the task of leadership is to draw it out.
“Nigeria is a great country — with about 186 million people, full of human and natural resources — there is no question about it. The question is, do you have great leaders? Nigeria deserves great leaders.”
In order to have great leaders, Adair said Nigeria as well as other nations, must invest in the development of young, aspiring leaders.
“Many political leaders emerged without training and preparation. There is need for training for aspiring leaders.
“I will like to see Nigeria leading the way among African countries in providing opportunities for aspiring young leaders,” he said.
Adair, who is also a lecturer on military history and adviser on leadership training at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, United Kingdom, and Associate Director of The Industrial Society, said there was a need to convene a conference that would work out a strategy for leadership development in Nigeria.
He stressed that the working group must not necessarily be politicians.
Emphasising the importance of leadership training in the performance of leaders, he said, “Never condemn people for being bad leaders when they have not had the opportunity to understand leadership.”
He said, “There is a revolution from old style management to leadership; a large leadership industry has emerged, billions of dollars have been invested in it but does it work? Has the world become a better place?
“There are question marks — there is a great deal of nonsense that is being talked about as leadership. There is a need to establish leadership on very firm foundations.”
He identified integrity, fairness and justice as some of the attributes of true leaders.
“A leader should be the servant of the people. Success in any organisation or nation depends on leadership at every level.
“What a leader needs is practical wisdom and the ingredients are intelligence, experience and goodness. You could be appointed to a leadership position but you are not a leader until your appointment has been ratified in the hearts and minds of those working for you.
“You cannot transform people into leaders overnight, what you can do is to take people with potential and add value to that potential,” Adair said.
He also advised Nigerian authorities to tap the leadership potential at the grassroots by improving living standards in the rural villages.
“If you improve the standard of living in all the villages by 10 per cent, imagine the difference that would make,” he said.
President of GOTNI, Mr. Linus Okorie, also spoke of the need for true leaders in Nigeria.
He said, “Our nation is in search of leadership — we want people to emerge and help save us from our current reality.
“The founding fathers of the country got it wrong by not outlining any ideology for the country.
“The nations that make progress in the world are nations that invest on developing the leadership potential of the young ones, changing their thought patterns to a possibility mindset.”
The conference, which had over 1,000 young people in attendance, has the theme, ‘Leadership for Transformation: From Potential to Performance.’
Dignitaries who spoke in the course of the two-day event include the Chairman of Punch Nigeria Limited, Wale Aboderin, Minister for Youth Development, Inuwa Abdul-Kadir, and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power, Amb. Godknows Igali.