Leadership is a fundamental issue that confronts anybody who thinks seriously about the ways in which human society should be governed. The leadership of any concern, to a large extent, determines its success or failure. Leadership can be found in public and private spheres of life; however, when the concept is subjected to critical analysis, the leadership that is directly concerned with politics attracts a great deal of interest. The reason for this is obvious; individuals occupying political positions “have such an awesome potential to improve or destroy the collective well-being” (Awolowo-Dosumu, 1995:5).
Perhaps, it is the centrality of political leadership in realising the purpose of the state that has brought about the increase in the number of individuals in leadership roles. All over the world, the functions of government have increased in the same way that the need for officials required to perform public duties has grown.
However, despite the growing number of people who occupy political positions, leadership, for the most part, remains elusive. Indeed, the reason for this leadership deficit is not because of lack of men and women in leadership roles, but for lack of the ability to move society out of the series of crises evident in all parts of the world. The result is that humanity continues to face leadership failures, especially in the political realm of social existence. The leadership crisis which revolves on the inability of political leaders to realise the purpose of the state carries along with it the problems of indiscipline, injustice, self-centeredness and other uncivilised acts in public affairs.
Although circumstances and degrees differ, leadership crises trouble all climes. From the south to the north, issues such as discrimination, immorality, corruption and hedonism are part of the problems which the inability to conform to leadership ideal has inclined the world to. Assuming the above observation is true, is it possible that a way out can be found out of leadership failures? It is against this background that the study sets out to identify essential virtues which the leadership of any state must cultivate to be able to engender the end for which the state is established.
This work adopts the causal-explanatory research design. This means that analysis follows the process of inferring from documented communication the underlying factors which are or can be responsible for certain outcomes or results. To accomplish this task, the researcher is required to define and clarify thoughts and arguments, and painstakingly establish ideas that illuminate. Consequently, this paper identifies and explains leadership virtues which are necessary for the realisation of the purpose of the state.
A careful study of literature reveals the existence of different theories which attempt to explain the nature of leadership. However, four theories appear to dominate the idea of leadership. The first one is the trait theory. This paradigm may be traced to Galton’s Hereditary Genius. Galton (1869) emphasises two basic points about leadership. Firstly, he sees leadership as a unique property of “great men” whose decisions are capable of radically changing the streams of history. Secondly, he suggests that the personal attributes that define leadership are naturally endowed and passed from generation to generation. Generally, the trait theory assumes that some people are born with certain genetic characteristics that make them leaders. However, what these leadership traits are and how many of them humans possess remain debatable.
The failure to identify a set of universally acceptable leadership traits explains why some researchers focus on what leaders do, rather than their genetic make-up. This brings us to the behaviour theory of leadership. The assumption behind this paradigm is that behaviour can be learned and that leadership is accessible to all persons. This implies that leaders are not born, but made through teaching and observation. One strand of behaviour theory of leadership is Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. According to McGregor, leaders with Theory X attitude display more coercive, autocratic leadership style, while leaders with Theory Y attitude tend to adopt more participatory, democratic style (Lussier & Achua, 2007). However, Tannenbaum and Schmidt (cited in Daft, 2008) indicate that leadership behaviour could reflect different degrees of autocratic and democratic styles.
The third theoretical approach to understanding leadership is the contingency theory. The central focus of this theory is the situation in which leadership occurs. This is why it is sometimes called situational theory. It is a paradigm shift which recognizes that leadership outcome is dependent not only on trait and behaviour, but also on situational variables such as the quantity and quality of followers, the nature of the task, the type of environment and the time of activity. According to Lussier and Achua (2007), the origin of contingency theory is traceable to Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leader Effectiveness, which posits that success can be achieved if leadership style is adapted to suit prevailing situations.
Conceptually, leadership is denied a universally agreeable definition. Without lapsing into simplistic compilation of definitions, it is important to note that the usage of the term “leadership” involves two broad tendencies. One tendency equates leadership with occupation of position in formal organizations. In this regard, the individual who occupies the office of the president of a country is the leader of that country; the official head of a business organization is its leader; the General is the leader of the army; the pastor is the leader of the church; the vice-chancellor is the leader of the university, and so on. The individual who may have come to his position by self-imposition, cultural requirement or democratic practice, may not be able to demonstrate the capacity required to inspire group confidence towards a common purpose (Maxwell, 1999).
The other usage of leadership is predicated on the degree of influence which an individual exerts on other group members. Thus, leadership is the art of influencing or motivating people towards shared vision (Daft, 2008). The persons who outstandingly influence the rest of the group are regarded as leaders. By this usage, the formal leader may in fact not be the actual or real leader. The formal leader may have little or no influence on the group.
One important effect of the predication of leadership on outstanding influence is that it explains the many cases of leaders who emerge in society as creators of new movements and ideas that have enormous appeal and transformative impact on humanity. Jesus Christ, Socrates, Karl Marx, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela are few examples that come to mind. Another significance of the influence view of leadership is that it helps us to acknowledge the spontaneous emergence of leaders in certain temporary crisis situations. Here an individual may become a leader if he demonstrates the ability to control an emergency situation, where others are helpless. Hence, Emory (1958:62) suggests that “leadership is control in certain types of situation, actual or potential”.
A relatively non-controversial aspect of the literature on leadership is its importance. No nation, no matter how naturally endowed, can attain its end without quality leadership. The nature of the common good is usually determined by the kind of leadership available to a country. In fact, the galvanization of group members towards some definite future requires disciplined, selfless and patriotic leadership.
Another less debatable point is that leadership is not solely a political construct. Leadership exists in both private and public spheres of life. Hence, “to pigeon-hole leadership as a governance-political construct is to provide a ready alibi for other non-political elites who must share responsibility for various acts of omission or commission, which have over the years resulted in the societal problems all of us so vociferously decry” (Awolowo-Dosumu,1999:5). However, many philosophers, perhaps theorists, who have meditated on the concept of leadership, seem convinced that the fate of mankind depends largely on political leaders. This is because their successes and, or failures affect a greater number of people in any given state than any other kind of leadership.
The Purpose of the State
What the state exists for is one of the issues which political theory addresses. Many theorists have attempted to conceptualise the purpose of the state. For instance, Plato (1974) reasons that the state exists to ensure justice which means each person performing that one function in society for which nature and nurture have prepared him or her adequately. In this case, justice requires treating equals equally and unequals unequally in terms of their aptitude and education. For Aristotle the purpose of the state is to realise the good life. Aristotle (1990) defines the good life as happiness which in quality refers to justice and in quantity, moderation.
Hobbes and Locke are among philosophers who are described in political cum social discourse as social contract theorists. They believe that the state originated from the agreement of people who originally lived in a state of nature (Hobbes, 1985; Locke, 1980). According to Onyeukwu (2017:1), “although Hobbes prefers an absolute state and Locke chooses a minimal state, their doctrines suggest that the end of the state, inter alia, is to ensure peace and security of lives and property”. If we think deeply, we will discover that the state is established for human convenience and obeyed on the grounds of expediency.
Adam Smith believes that the state has three purposes to fulfill. First is the duty of protecting society from the invasion of foreign powers; second is the task of establishing an exact administration of justice; and third is the duty of erecting and maintaining certain public works and institutions which include bridges, navigable canals, habours necessary for facilitating commerce. Others are schools and colleges necessary for the education of the youths (Smith, 2012). Indeed, just as we see above, Smith agrees that the state is a means to an end, the end being a better life for the individual.
Be that as it may, every modern state in trying not to leave anyone in doubt as to what the will of the state is articulates it in specific and clear terms into a body of laws known as constitution. The preamble to any constitution gives us some insight into the ends for which the state exists. For instance, the 1999 constitution of Nigeria opens thus:
We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: having firmly and solemnly resolved: To Live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign Nation under God dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding And To PROVIDE for a constitution for the purpose of promoting the Good governance and welfare of all persons, in our country on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people: DO HEREBY MAKE, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES the following constitution(Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999:1).
We also see the purpose of the state in the preamble to the constitution of the United States of America:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity, do ordain and establish the constitution for the United States of America (cited in Behrens ; Rosen, 1988:239).
We can see that the purpose of the state includes, but not limited to the enthronement of justice, maintenance of law and order, provision of social amenities and protection of lives and property. It may well be appropriate to summarise that the state is established for individual as well as general convenience and wellbeing.
Leadership and the Purpose of the State: Linking Virtues
Leadership is a dynamic and potent force in realising the end of the state. However, for the purpose of the state to be drawn out to its fullest expression, those occupying leadership positions must cultivate virtues which are in tandem with the essence of leadership. The first is goodness of heart or nobility of spirit. When somebody is good at heart or spiritually noble, he or she is also said to be moral or just. Morality or justness is a mental disposition which leaders are required to exhibit in the management of state affairs. There is a part in leadership performance which requires the formation of character, the cultivation of the spirit and the building of the soul. Just leadership is a sine-qua-non for the realisation of state objectives including fairness, justice which brings “the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people” (Mills, 1998:8).
Another leadership virtue which is required in state building process is discipline. Some writers have argued that discipline is of different types, while others say it is what it is, discipline. For instance, Professor Ndu classifies discipline into internal and external discipline. According to him:
Internal discipline is that attribute of individuals which leads us to describe them as self- controlled, sociable, cooperative, law-abiding, and such other similar words which describe them as well-adjusted social beings; while external discipline is the power which the society has to censure and punish its members who have either failed to develop internal discipline or who have allowed internal discipline to fail in their relations to other members of their society or the state (Ndu, 2002:2)
On the contrary, Achebe (1983:28) insists that “discipline is either self-discipline or is nothing else”. In his view, discipline does not invite supervision by an external force but imposed by the individual from within by his/her sense of reasoning and intelligence.
Without laboring the matter so much, it looks difficult, if not impossible, to have external discipline without internal discipline since a disciplined society is a product of disciplined people. The point is that for any state to achieve its purposes, its leaders must be disciplined. A disciplined leadership – that which is willing and ready to apply the inner brake of self-restraint on their selfish desires and actions – will surely inspire followership and brings about a well-ordered society.
Patriotism is also a very important leadership virtue. Every ideal state – that which realises its end – must have patriotic leaders. Patriotism is an “emotion of love directed by a critical intelligence” (Achebe, 1983:28). Patriots care about the happiness of the state and the people. They do not indulge in personal aggrandisement and corrupt enrichment. Indeed, the leadership which is capable of leading the state to success is one that is selfless and committed to duty. This involves, among other things, telling the truth, being honest and standing up against injustice and unfair treatment. Such leadership encourages peaceful co-existence and galvanises stability and development in the state.