• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Nurturing our youths for leadership

The United Nations General Assembly gave an “official” definition of youth as “all persons falling between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four inclusive”. It is not within the scope of this article to discuss the limitation of this definition bearing in mind psycho-social perspectives including different images of youth since medieval times. The World Bank has, however, estimated the global population of youth to be more than 1 billion, which is approximately 18 percent of the world’s population. According to the World Bank, youth percentage of total population in Nigeria is 31 percent. By implication, there are 53.0 million youths assuming a population of 170 million.
Report shows that unemployment rate is high at about 41.6 percent for youths between the ages of 15 to 25 years. Statistics show that unemployed youths consist of 17 percent of males and 23.3 percent of females. Consequently, most of our youths will seek work in the informal sector since the formal sector cannot accommodate them. Work in informal sector of the economy will barely provide very low earnings for these unemployed youths. “Despite rapid growth in formal wage sector jobs, the majority of these youth are likely to work on family businesses and in household enterprises, often with very low incomes.”
To boost young people’s earnings, governments need to hasten overall business climate reforms and strengthen basic education. Make infrastructure and financing more accessible to our youth who are entrepreneurs. In the face of these challenges, the crop of unemployed youths is regrettably not prepared for leadership responsibilities in public offices or businesses. Employed or unemployed, it is 53 million youths that we need to nurture in Nigeria for leadership in business, industry and government. This task is herculean as there are very few mentors around. Most effective leaders tend to mentor others, while mentors nurture leadership skills in their mentees.
Leadership in business and industry, according to the Encyclopaedia of Professional Management, is defined as “that part of management which deals with the direct supervision of subordinates”. This definition is equally apt for those in public or civil offices. Leadership is the act of leading a group of people or an organization. It inspires others to pursue organizational goals and vision within given parameters to an extent that effort, vision and success are shared. Leadership in a business world requires harnessing the energy and efforts of a team so that their outlook is advanced from an unremarkable point to a desirable point of excellence. During the process, leadership manifests in projecting your expertise in a way that gain the confidence of others. Ultimately, leadership is about trust which inspires confidence in the team to align their vision and level of commitment for their gains and confidence of others.
The relevance of leadership in any nation cannot be overemphasized as it holds an evidently important position in philosophy and history. Leadership of such men and women as Sun Tzu, Carl Von Clausewitz, Thucydides, Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill, Golda Meir, Lincoln, Napoleon, Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Mao Tse-tung, amongst other notable leaders makes a lot of positive difference to the world. Africa has also been blessed with a few leaders of international repute, and the same goes for Nigeria. In his book The Art of War, Sun Tzu characterized leadership as a mix of five traits, namely: “intelligence, credibility, humanness, courage and discipline”. These good traits when formed at youth make a difference in the lives of individuals, and ultimately the society. But will these traits make an individual an effective leader? It depends on the situation that necessitated the individual to emerge as a leader.
Since the beginning of the 20th Century, most psychological research on leadership has been tailored to finding out those traits and personality patterns that make a difference in organizational performance. An expert research finding on leadership traits reveals “no evidence of a single trait or characteristics that identified a person as a leader”. Furthermore, there was no trait which identified a leader in all situations. Although it is desirable for a leader to be brighter than his followers, all people are leaders on a few occasions and at other times they are followers. The fact that you are a successful lecturer in the university does not mean that you will succeed as a local government chairman and vice-versa.
Leadership and mentoring are mutually reinforcing and there exists a relationship between them. Mentoring is about transforming people and the entire society. It is the system that promotes professional development by linking a person (mentee) with a mentor who will focus on the overall development of the mentee. It is to be emphasized that not all leaders mentor because they do not have what it takes to do so. It could also be that he or she may have inferiority complex. Those who mentor must have been blessed with the authority or authorized to be a leader.
Through mentoring, leaders focus on creating cohesive and loyal citizens, while helping them to develop personally and professionally. The implication of neglecting the personal and professional development of our youths is grave. If you know you are a mentor, please start by mentoring students in your secondary and tertiary institutions. How will a youth identify a mentor? The first logical step to find a mentor is to look at someone you have worked with. You may proactively find someone but do not request for strangers. This is because someone you do not know may not be willing to invest his or her resources in someone they have not met. You may be lucky to find someone who is willing and ready to mentor you through networking friends, colleagues and families.
Our leaders and youths need mentoring as it is a lifelong process. Mentoring the chief executive is as important as mentoring those in the junior cadre. This is because the youth are tomorrow’s leaders, while chief executives of organizations, states and the nation are today’s leaders. All our youths like anyone else need guidance for support. Through mentoring, our youths would be made accountable, focused, confident, and truthful. Our youths will equally be creative, intuitive and positive. Accordingly, if you are a successful leader and also a youth, it is suggested that you should continue to seek mentors even informally.
Happy New Year.