Leadership: An All Inclusive Affair

Leadership: An All Inclusive Affair

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity… For there the Lord commanded the blessing— Life forevermore

Few human tragedies compare to the Second World War. It was a catastrophe that claimed about 80 million lives (about 3% of the world’s population at the time) and left nothing but ruin in its wake. At the heart of this conflict was the parochial interest of one man – Adolf Hitler. Hitler pursued an agenda of exclusivity that touted the Germans as a superior race to the rest of Europe, and in fact the world. The end result of his misadventure was a devastating war that saw the physical and economic collapse of Germany. Abraham Lincoln was another leader who plunged his country into war. But we remember Lincoln differently. Whilst Hitler pursued a parochial agenda, Lincoln pursued inclusiveness – the liberation and integration of blacks into American life. Whilst Hitler ended up destroying Germany, Lincoln ended up building a united and stronger nation. One of leadership’s greatest tests is in building systems and structures of growth that promotes the interest of every group as equal.

A 2011 global report by Opportunity Now and Shapiro Consulting found that over 80% of people who had worked with an inclusive leader were more motivated, productive, loyal to the organisation and more likely to go the extra mile. According to a 2013 Ernst and Young global survey, 85% of business executives from across the world say that their organization’s ability to manage individual and group diversity will be one of the key determinants of success today and in the future. What is true for businesses is also true for nations.

Cross functional multi-ethnic and multi-geographic cooperation has become imperative to national and regional success in today’s globalized world. This places a huge demand on the ability of today’s leader to develop competitive advantage from existing gender, religious and ethnic differences. This in most cases requires time and conscious effort, particularly in societies where cultural, ethnic and religious differences have bred distrust and conflict, societies which have become quite common today.

As Nigeria journeys along the desired path to growth and development, it is important that we keep in mind that nothing sustainable can be achieved if we insist on promoting parochial interests, be they religious, ethnic, class or cultural. The widespread distrust resulting from our differences has since been a clog in the wheel of our collective progress. But the truth is, this diversity, which for us has been a source of conflict, is actually a point of competitive advantage in today’s world. Making it work for us will require efforts from every quarter – from the leadership to the led. Leaders across the country should be seen as role models in this pursuit. Everything, from our speech to body language and decisions should be weighed in the light of this. Nothing should be done, or seen to be done, to the detriment of any group.

Inclusiveness is not an isolated strategy or initiative, as a matter of fact experts agree that it is a critical part of the overall drive for change and development. In the light of this it will be a total aberration to do anything – in words or deed – that will be divisive. We should pursue what makes for unity and peace and thereby build a country we can be proud of. Every group within our body polity has something to offer. Everyone should be given a chance to contribute. Everyone’s interest matters. Everyone is necessary. Every religion is important, at least to its adherents. And every man has a right to life. Every iota of hope and optimism the current moment holds can be squandered in pursuit of parochial interests and agendas. So we, collectively, must prevent this from happening by ensuring an all encompassing drive toward harnessing our diversity to build a strong and virile nation.


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