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Isn’t it a contraction that poverty and great wealth should co-exist? That scarcity and wealth should dwell in the same space at the same time?

As a nation Uganda is rich.  There is no shortage of mineral, natural or human resources. We now have oil and natural gas, even though they are yet to be turned into value for the people of Uganda. We have deposits of gold and copper, natural forests of extensive of bio-diversity and several water bodies. We have human resources. In fact we have one of the fastest growing populations in the world. At roughly 40 million people, more than half of the population is under the age of 25. The youth population bulge is now being referred to as a ‘divided’. But, with all these resources Uganda is still ranked among the poor countries globally.

What is the missing link? Where is the challenge? Who has the secret code to unlock this wealth and turn it into real value for the people? How do we navigate the path of change to a better future?

Somewhere between the wealth in raw assets, revenue collections and the billions of dollars in donor aid on the one hand and the capital city’s street children, drug needy hospitals, corrupt public officials and impoverished peoples in far-flung districts on the other hand, lies a gap that needs to be closed.

Leadership and change play a crucial role in building the bridge that closes the gap to make prosperity a reality. By leadership I do not mean those in government. In this context leadership is defined as a process and an action word rather than a particular person or a noun. I refer to a special kind of leadership that brings change and solves problems of this magnitude.

It is not the kind mandated by the people through the vote or handing over instruments of power. Holding instruments of power lies at a very basic level of leadership where there is no genuine interest or investment in the people and their problems. It is simply having and exercising authority over others.  Without investing in people, there will be no followers. Thus leadership will be disconnected from the people and will be like the proverbial train engine that hurtles down the tracks without its wagons. When there are no train wagons there is no following and no accountability. It then becomes a big challenge for those holding the instruments of power to put together meaningful efforts to resolve the poverty dilemma and lead national transformation.

And so we remain poor, not because we lack resources but because leadership is not yet vested in its calling. It has yet to crack the secret code that closes the gap.

People connect with leadership that has three important ingredients, responsive, accountable and responsible (RAR) to the people. But the failure to build and stick to an agreed leadership value system, leads to the absence ‘RAR’. As a result people continue to suffer, their needs are largely unknown and therefore unmet. There is no depth or authenticity at this level. Services flow from the people to leadership at this level rather than the other way around. There is even exploitation and gain at the expense of the people by virtue of position.

Responsive leadership will seek to recognise, appreciate and work on the needs of the people. It is conscientious and credible, creating a trust relationship. In these conditions the quality of leadership changes and partners with the people to levels where projects and national interventions can be run efficiently and effectively. Partnering with the people is the beginning of leadership vested in its people.  This is when the realization dawns that success is going to depend on bringing everybody on-board.

But this should combine with a strong task orientation. Understanding the needs of the people alone will not deliver the change. The leaders and the people work together to set clear goals, monitor progress and keep the national priorities in clear view. Opportunities for corruption are reduced and the risk of engaging in corruption is increased.  Leadership practice must be properly honed at this level to deliver results.

Sustaining success on the road to change, calls for actively seeking, attracting and investing in several competent professionals and experts from different specialisations as co-workers to jointly combat the poverty challenge and any other national challenge. It calls for a deep interest in a high quality education system that ensures a steady and supply of qualified professionals and top notch leaders to stay in the country to manage and lead. It calls for identification of leadership talent and seriously nurturing the pipeline to have successors ready when they are required. Leadership at this level seeks to motivate and inspire people to deepen commitment and sustain outcomes until a positive difference is seen in terms of poverty reduction.

To see far and beyond what others see, to continually chart the course, to share the vision clearly, to motivate the people and invest in them, to make great personal sacrifice and to remain eternally interested in making a positive difference in the lives of the people is the kind of leadership that will bring change.  Respect and even reverence will flow freely from the followers towards leadership. This is the secret code that will deliver change the story from poverty to prosperity.

Posted by Maggi @HRiCon

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