Thursday, August 17, 2006

Do We Need Intelligent Leaders?

I have no adequate knowledge or expertise in psychology. I have no political science education to be in a position to intelligently conclude that an intelligent leader is the one that can effectively lead a country.

In my recent "journey" through the information super highway, I stumbled into a piece aired by MSNBC. You can view the piece below:

I know the piece is primarily on President Bush, but to me this is an intriguing piece of a video. Primarily because it question raised in this video clip, trascends beyond the American political arena. The primary question asked here focuses on intelligence as one of the universal ingredients of leadership. I believe we can ask the very same question about Tanzanian leaders, if we do not want to be way too Pan-African and extend this into a continental question.

I know for sure that there have been a number of political figures in Tanzania who have been on the receiving end for their lack of (or a perceived lack of) intellectual powers. One of them is our beloved Rashid Mfaume Kawawa. Rumours have it that Mchonga loved the likes of Mr. Kawawa because it afforded him an opportunity to be a lone shining star in the game. Likewise, it is also rumoured that Mr. BWM followed the footsteps of his mentor by sticking to a less intellectual Mr. Sumaye in order to have the same stardom status.

Whether these rumours or perceptions are true, I would like to get my readers's opinion:
  • Is intelligence that important in making one a good leader?
  • Given the fact that most true intellectuals are typically sidelined in politics, could our lack of development in Bongoland be attributed to sideling intellectual capacity from politics and policymaking?
  • What would one say about someone like Zimbabwe's Mugabe? Is it insanity or lack of intellectual capacity that is his plight?
Let me hear your mind.


Sibala's Corner said...


If - by intelligent leaders- you mean those who have excelled academically by merely book learning, in a narrow academic skill, I would say not necessarily. You know in Bongolang, we have had (and still have ) scores of ministers who are PhD holders, professors etc etc but as you all know, have failed to deliver.
But if - by intelligent leaders- you mean those who have the mental capacity to reason, plan, solve problems, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience – I would say yes.

A good leader should have a broader capability for comprehending his/her surroundings, making sense of things, or figuring out what to do. A good leader should be able to use his common sense. And at the end of the day, may be, common sense is a lot more important for leadership than intelligence.

It is also my opinion that, much more importantly, what good leaders need to have is a vision, clear goals, focus and commitment. Leaders need to have a plan with laid-down strategies on how to move the people successfully towards those goals.
They also need to guide others as role models and be an encouragement to those that report to them.
So if you have leaders who preach that wananchi should get used to drinking water while they themselves enjoy glasses of wine, you know what should be expected.
So bwana Metty we can discuss here whether Mr BWM and his team were role models.

I also think that good leaders need to involve and pay attention to technically skilled people or experts at solving some tasks or problems at hand,listen and understand those expert opinions - what you are referring to as not sidelining intellectual capacity in policy making - in your post. (There are rumors that it was very difficult for others to deflect JKN from his selected path). I also have my doubts whether our current govt pays attention to expert opinions regarding decisions or policies it formulates. I am also not sure whether our presidents have been making leadership appointments on the basis of competence. It seems to me that political lobbying rather than competence has more often than not been the basis.

As to the JKN and RMK marriage, I think the decision was just tactical. You know, as Kawawa was closer to the common mwananchi (and a muslim) he could be used to mobilize the masses better than Nyerere himself (in some areas). Do not forget, it is said that the guy was an actor! But I do not think whether RMK played any role in major decisions that Mchonga made.

Just a word or two about Mugabe. You know this old man is a dictator who is just abusing his bonus as father of the nation to remain in power. He tries to prolong his stay in office knowing for sure that any day the opposition wins elections, he will have to stand before a court of law to answer charges against violations of human rights, economic mismanagement etc etc. But, you know what - his days are counted.

mwandani said...

People have different kinds of intelligence.

Some are great mobilisers, some are quick witted etc, personally I think a leader should use common sense than anything else.

Look at China of Mao and Deng Xiao ping. Mao rebuilt Chinese pride, he provided free education and health care,industrialised the country, he could mobilise people - sometimes at a great price but he did not use common sense when it came to pro-poor economics.

When Deng came he allowed peasantry to sell their crops without any distortions, being conservative, they saved. The market took over, rural areas could sustain themselves, he allowed local democracy - people could scream about any ineffiency or corruption and the corrupt know about death row there... then the educated and healthy society was ready for reforms. I think that was common sense.

Was Deng an intelligent person or did he seize the opportunity because it was more of a common sense to do what he did than follow what had repeatedly failed?

Suppression, burying the head in the sand and inefficiency have repeatedly failed. When a leader takes a path today that led to a dead end yesterday... well I think he doesn't use any common sense - if sense is common to all anyway.

Jaduong Metty said...

Sibala & Mwandani,

Asanteni for your insight. I am leaning towards taking Mwandani's position - that all you need in common sense. I think common sense summarizes all the ingredients that Sibala pointed out, but in a simpler way.

It would be then be safe to say that the application of common sense is equated to the application of one's own intelligence. Given that fact, any kiongozi who fails to apply common sense in their decision-making, regardless of their level of education and intelligence, is equivalant to an idiot.

This realization begs for another intriguing question: is the ability to apply common sense synonimous to wisdom or these are two different concepts? Could it be that we make a mistake in Bongoland to assume that every old man is wise?

Maiki said...

This is an interesting discussion. Let us begin by defining intelligence in the context of leadership - "The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge!" Now, let us not equate this with "book" may have "book" knowledge and still lack the capacity to apply that knowledge in real life situations, that to me is not intelligence!

We definately need intelligent doubt about it. We also need to realize that leaders are both made and born. Here is what I gathered about the qualities of a leader:

1. Have vision. Leaders have a clear sense of where they want to go and how they intend to get there. They see the big picture, then create a strategic plan for achieving their goals.

2. Make decisions. Leaders aren’t afraid to make difficult or unpopular decisions because they have confidence in themselves and in their abilities. They know that indecision wastes resources and opportunities.

3. Take risks. Leaders have the courage to act in situations where results aren’t assured. They're willing to risk failure.

4. Motivate others. Leaders can articulate their vision and ideals to others, convincing them of the value of their ideas. They can inspire people to work toward common goals and to achieve things they never thought they could do.

5. Build teams. Leaders create productive teams that draw the best from people. They effectively coach teams in collaboration, consensus building, and conflict resolution.

6. Possess self-knowledge. Leaders know their own strengths and weaknesses and are able to view their behavior objectively. They recognize their shortcomings, open themselves to feedback, and are willing to make changes when necessary.

7. Display integrity. Leaders must be trustworthy before others will follow them. Warren Bennis, The Leadership Institute, University of Southern California, says qualities that establish trust are competence, constancy, caring, candor, and congruity, which he defines as authenticity, reliability, and feeling comfortable with oneself.

8. Pursue lifelong learning. Leaders have a desire to continually learn and grow and are open to new ideas.

9. Communicate effectively. Leaders can convey their ideas to diverse individuals and adjust their styles to meet the needs of the people they lead.

10. Help others succeed. Leaders empower others and go out of their way to help them achieve their full potential, thereby benefiting the organization.


Sounds like intelligence to me..what say you?