BusinessDay

Consider your legacy

Life is essentially about continuity. We continue to live through our children and they will continue to live through theirs. There are times when this is as a result of very intentional strategies or actions and at other times, it’s just a natural consequence of subconscious behaviour. This continuity can take the form of reproducing ourselves through our offspring, our employees, or others over whom we have influence.

Most Nigerians have become experts at complaining and grumbling about all that’s wrong with our nation and I doubt I have an equal when it comes to this. I’m a “complainer extraordinaire” if I may say so myself. But there’s one thing I and many others do, and it’s to conveniently overlook our own daily contribution to the mess through our behaviour and general conduct.

If we don’t take the time to consciously sow the right seeds at the right time, it’s only logical that we’ll simply reproduce ourselves, which is more of the same. And so, we’ll reap what we deserve rather than what we may earnestly desire. There are just no short-cuts, nor is there any substitute to doing the right thing. It’ll take time, discipline, consistency and sheer determination to leave this place in better hands than ours ever were.

If we don’t take the time to consciously sow the right seeds at the right time, it’s only logical that we’ll simply reproduce ourselves, which is more of the same. And so, we’ll reap what we deserve rather than what we may earnestly desire

So I ask you, what sort of seed have you sown in your children and in those within your sphere of influence? Is it one of conceit, deceit, cheating, bribing your way through life, taking advantage of those weaker than yourself, winning at all cost, crass materialism, “chancing” your fellow man at every given opportunity to get ahead, or have you deposited in them a sense of entitlement, instead of a spirit of hard and decent work?

John Maxwell once said, “A leader is someone who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way,” meaning he knows what needs to be done, does it and mentors subordinates to do same.

“This is Nigeria” is a refrain you either love or detest. One can hardly find himself in the middle. So, on which side of the divide are you? The former love the corrupt tendency it implies and the euphemism that, “in this place, there are no absolutes; there is always a way if you’re willing to play ball.” It’s also taken to mean punishment should not necessarily be expected for wrong doing, as everyone knows this is a permissive society where anything goes. It’s understood that you will try your luck, if there’s even the slightest chance that you may get away with it. For such people, “this is Nigeria” is good enough excuse for wrong behaviour.

I challenge you to ask 10 people if they are people of integrity. Without hesitation, all will shout “yes.” Hold up. Don’t be quick to dismiss them, because in a way, they are being truthful. Why? Because that is what they truly believe. So, in that sense, they’re not lying. You see, as human beings, our tendency is to judge others by their actions while we judge ourselves by our intentions, even when the actions are the same.

This is one of the leading reasons for conflict. Someone doesn’t greet us, so we quickly conclude that he lacks manners or simply doesn’t reckon with us because he feels we’re beneath him. But when we fail to greet another, it’s understandable because we know it wasn’t deliberate. Our mind was elsewhere thinking about the school fees which falls due next week, which we still have no idea how we’re going to pay; or we’re lost in thought about our sick aged parent – all very legitimate reasons for us not to notice what might be going on around us.

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If the offended party challenges us, we might try to give an explanation for our apparently rude behaviour but if he refuses to listen, the next thing we’ll do will be to fight back, accuse him of being too sensitive or just spoiling for a fight for no reason. At least, we’ve taken the time to explain and since it wasn’t intentional, he should be able to understand. This means that because it wasn’t our intention to offend, we’ll judge our action as okay and understandable while we judge others purely by the actions we see and not their intentions, which of course we can’t see.

To make matters worse, we’re seldom willing to even give them the benefit of the doubt. Should they try to explain themselves, we quickly conclude that they’re not truthful and therefore lack integrity.

“How can their intention be one thing and their action another?” We ask ourselves. There’s no gainsaying that if we were to judge ourselves by the same standard, we would all fail the integrity test too.

So when you take a course of action as a leader and think it’s acceptable because you believe your intentions are noble, but fail to realise that by so doing, you’re in fact debasing a system and standard you expect everyone else to uphold, you’re just making nonsense of it all.

Transparency International hasn’t rated us too kindly in its Global Corruption Index, signifying that the government’s fight against this hydra-headed monster called corruption may not be producing the desired results quite yet.

I’m not sure if it would be reasonable for us to expect otherwise from a government which seems to speak from both sides of the mouth. It certainly doesn’t help that the President appears to exempt himself from the policy he initiated, banning government officials from taking overseas medical trips, while he does just that.

Of course, the health of our number one citizen is of utmost importance to all of us but is it moral to exempt yourself from a standard you expect of everybody else? Integrity is not just about being truthful. It’s the demonstration of strong moral principles and consistency in moral character. There’s little that’s more potent than living by example.

John Maxwell also quite correctly said,”you can only teach what you consistently model”. Meaning, no matter what you say, if your actions don’t routinely align with your utterances, you may as well be preaching abstinence to a newly released prisoner whom circumstances have denied the pleasure of “knowing” his wife for the last five years.

You’ll be wasting your time. Your life must faithfully reflect what you claim you stand for at all times and if you are in a position of power, you must also ensure the enforcement of rules or laws are consistent and not arbitrary. If you want to be known for something; if there’s something about you that should continue, let it be that. That should be your legacy.

Changing the nation…one mind at a time.

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