If I were Birtukan! (Part II) By Kuchiye

November 11th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Truth be told, I wasn’t certain which topic I will dwell on when I promised continuation on the above title. But that did not mean I, like everyone else, was short of vexing questions that scream for contextual redress. The emails I received shed light on a particular topic which I believe is dangerously misunderstood and which I strongly feel about.

Role of “The Leader”

Quite a few emailers wondered if the view in my previous article did not boarder hero worship while others felt I was a little too insensitive toward old timers. Nothing can be further from the truth.

I am from the school which heralds the individual as the source of breakthrough ideas, the inspirer, the risk taker, the organizer and leader. World history is replete with life-changing milestones thanks to the inspired leadership of individuals. The same holds true for Ethiopia, well, until 1974 when Marxism took over, crushed the spirit of the “individual” and replaced it with bogus “collective leadership” madness. Onslaught on individualism and the individual was a necessary political agenda if the communist movement was to succeed. It is exactly what happened. Every organization, party, government, Kifle-Hager down to the Kebele level was issued a modular organization structure that espouses “Collective Leadership”.

What amazes me is long after the communist system was thrown into the dust bin of history, Ethiopian political parties and social organizations continued to use the model as if they are not aware of the system’s demise. Look at the organization chart of any political party including UDJ’s and EPRDF’s for that matter; they are replicas of the old system: “Teqlala Gubae-Maekelawi Committee-Sira AsfeTsami Committee-LiqeMenber-Teqedami Mikitl Leqe….”

Coming back to the topic at hand, I have the greatest sympathy for the position of “LiqeMenber/Chairperson/President”. Without underplaying the role and importance of other party organs, the Chairperson, which I prefer to call CEO, holds the most crucial position and carries by far the greatest responsibility.

Now, do our organizations give the CEO commensurate authority? No at all! Do they want to hold him accountable for everything? In a heart beat! The CEO has the unkindest cut of all and lacks the basic right to choose his own cabinet, the soldiers he will go to war with. He is forced to work with strangers who are funneled through an incompetent “election” process. These people might not even align with the CEO’s management style, relate with his enthusiasm and measure up to his competence standard. No wonder we find ourselves in a perennially stagnant state of affair. Even a novice management student will find our arrangement laughable.

Can somebody tell me how in the world we can expect results from a party CEO if she does not even have the authority to hire and fire employees, for example? Should she be wasting valuable time lobbying incongruent Executive Committee members? Should she even dwell on such trivialities when there are tons of burning issues on her plate? Remember when the termination of a secretary and a janitor from UDJ’s office by an executive became cause for turmoil and media circus? That week was one of the most bewildering and heart-wrenching for many and heightened cynicism over the capacity of Ethiopian political organizations to go far.

In a September 2009 article, “No leader No Glory” http://kuchiye.blogspot.com/ I tried to underscore the danger of this antediluvian arrangement and even went as far as suggesting a compromise solution, if for any number of reasons we found it difficult to allow the CEO pick his team a 100%. We can start with a 50/50 arrangement. Let the CEO choose 50% of his cabinet and the General Assembly the rest 50%. I felt this will be a good start in efforts aimed at modernizing our organizations.

Let’s remember accountability is an honored prerogative for a driven CEO, but only if the CEO is empowered with the requisite authority to do his job. US president Harry Truman had a sign on his desk with the inscription “The buck stops here!”, meaning he accepts personal responsibility for the way the country was governed and did not pass the buck to anyone else. But he had executive authority to do his job.

Hopefully, nobody in his right mind will accuse me of advocating dictatorship. In a democracy, a CEO’s authority is crafted with enough checks and balances, as for example the President’s authority in the USA. The last time I checked, there was no dictatorship in the USA! What I am trying to plead with Ethiopian stake holders in political and social organizations is our concept of the leader’s role, responsibility and authority need to change. Absence of appropriate delegated authority in a CEO’s position is a recipe for disaster. “ebab yaye beliT bereye” mentality will not take us far for not every tree bark is a snake.

If I were Birtukan, I will take this issue as a priority item and discuss it with my colleagues. I will even seek the services of a professional who can streamline the organization structure, prepare standard operating procedure and train staff. One of the marks of a forward looking leader is her ability to identify stagnant cultures and move with fortitude to change them. On the flip side, the mark of a mature society is its ability to identify a good leader and be ready to nurture and protect her.
Where there is no leader there won’t be glory! It took the leadership quality of Abraham Lincoln to get the America we know today, it took the combined leadership of Emperors Tewodros, Yohannes and Menelik to put the broken pieces of Ethiopia together and we now have a home, it took the acumen of Steve Jobs to rescue Apple from its death bed and bless us with the IMac, Iphone and Ipad; it took the creative and entrepreneurial genius of Larry Page and Sergey Brin to give us Google without which we will all be lost, literally. Indeed, leaders matter!
“ድሮም ሆኖ አያውቅም፣
ትናንት ሆነ ዛሬም
አንድ የንብ አውራ ነው- ከሺህ ሰራዊት ጋር
ውጤትን የሚያሳይ- የሚጋግረው ማር፡፡”
ዳግማዊ ዳዊት – ጥቅምት 2002


  1. Ted Befekadu
    | #1

    Indeed, leaders matter! Here is a good step forward in achieving a common goal, people! Well said, “…Where there is no leader there won’t be glory!”

  2. Azaria
    | #2

    “On the flip side, the mark of a mature society is its ability to identify a good leader and be ready to nurture and protect her.”

    Listen up people! Bravo Kuchiye!

  3. tewbel
    | #3

    With all the wriitings and comments made about Birtukan I have not heard one voice that said let’s join and her party IN Ethiopia and join the struggle on the gfround there.
    Good luck paper heros.

  4. Birtu/can
    | #4

    Ethiopians are cursed from lack of leadership. We desperately need a visionary leader who can raise up our spirit from the bottom of the pit. Birtukan mideksa might be the one to take us to the promised land. She is “courageous,fearless and represents hope and freedom”. What distinguishes Birtukan from the rest of our current leaders is that she seems to be following Sun Tzu’s advice to the letter.Here is a page about leadership from Sun Tzu’s “The art of war”.

    “Leadership and methods are opposite and yet complementary concepts. Leadership is the realm of ideas. Methods are the realm of action. Leaders make decisions. Methods execute decisions. As leaders, we act alone. Using methods,we interact with others in an organization. Both elements are necessary for success. A good leader without good methods is a dreamer who can not get anything done. An effective doer without good ideas does a lot of work but without accomplishing anything useful.

    Ideas alone don’t make us successful. Work alone doesn’t make us successful without good ideas. We have to put both together in order to make progress in competition. Our divided nature as competitors creates tension and movement as we switch between our roles of dreamer and doer”.


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