BusinessDay

Lead yourself, build your nation

Vincent got to the traffic light just as it turned red, watching several cars continue on. He came to a complete stop and watched from his rear mirror as several cars lined up behind him. Because he stopped, everyone else stopped and he smiled to himself. He had promised himself that he would be the leader whenever and wherever he found a chaotic situation in Nigeria, that he would lead himself right so that others would follow his example.

He had seen how this singular action of his had prevented a lot of traffic jams from happening. On occasion, he had alighted from his car to help dissipate a brewing traffic build-up and saved many people hours in the legendary Lagos traffic. The traffic control police around his area had become familiar with him and since he’d started his traffic leadership work, the roads in his area had become more organised.

As a proper hustling guy born and bred in Lagos, he had been raised with the belief that without wangling, he could not make any progress and honestly that actually served him for a while. As a sharp guy, it was easy for him to get ahead of everyone when he wanted to. The weak systems in Nigeria favoured wangling but his mindset about it all changed after a five-year sojourn abroad.

The structure in his office was such that the staff had postings in other countries to help them gain more experience and expand their worldview. The company also paid really well and had a great welfare scheme for the staff, so they had a 90% return rate whenever they sent staff abroad for the mandatory overseas attachment.

He remembered his first month outside the country. Omooo! The culture shock was epic and it was hard. Initially, his Lagos blood could not stand the order but after picking up a few parking tickets and caution for behaving out of order, nobody told him to respect himself. He noticed how people used trash cans without compulsion and generally tried to ensure that their environment was well kept.

Executive coaching was part of his training and that was the first time he came across the term “personal leadership”, which is the ability to be responsible for and direct your own life and actions without any external influence. The concept made him understand that he was responsible for organising his own life, making the right decisions and achieving his own goals by himself. The other interesting part of personal leadership was that before he could lead or influence others, he first had to lead himself which was the hardest thing he had ever done.

It was no longer a question of dishing out orders to people to take certain actions or complaining about the government, but leading himself so that he could model the change he wanted to see and influence others positively too.

Read also: Why independence requires responsible independent thinking

On his return to Nigeria, the temptation to wangle started right at the airport but he reminded himself of his newly acquired personal leadership skills and he was determined to start using them. His colleagues initially thought that he was crazy, like “Dude, how do you expect to survive in Nigeria with this personal leadership stuff?” they queried.

Everywhere he turned, he kept hearing about how bad the country was and how “Nigeria was happening to people.” But then, who was the person particularly called Nigeria? Who was the Nigeria that was happening to people? Everybody seemed to blame Nigeria for happening to someone else, even when they were directly responsible for making another person’s life more difficult.

He started spreading his personal leadership philosophy around and soon, everyone in his circle saw how effective the concept was in influencing others. It is the norm to blame the government for everything that isn’t working in Nigeria. Many people don’t see how their ‘little’ actions can contribute to improving the conditions of others. But the thing is, Nigeria is all of us. We are the Nigeria that is happening to each other. Now imagine what it would be like if we each decided to positively influence the people around us by leading ourselves first? Your little action will make Nigeria better. Happy Independence Day!