There has been much talk about statesmanship in recent past. It would appear this word has gained currency in the new dawn of more liberal democracy.
In some nations, statesmanship is often reserved for a special league of the more significant, wise, skillful and respected political leaders.
The implication is that statesmanship is a term reserved for the few men and women who have distinguished themselves as always acting in the best interest of the state.
Such leadership comes with strong expectation to be different. It lays upon the statesman what I call the Burden of Leadership.
It is those who bear this burden courageously and sacrificially on behalf of the people that may eventually qualify to the rank of statesmanship. It is earned not awarded.
Since the August 2022 elections, many have found themselves thrust into leadership.
Some have hit the ground running, while several are still dazed or dizzied by the victory that ushered them into the limelight.
It has been interesting to watch or listen to leaders as they settle down to business. The lives and conduct of some of these people, leave you with the feeling that the leadership may have thrust them into the path of destruction.
It is a fact that leadership imposes on an individual serious demands. As we have observed in this space before, such demands often have the effect of drawing one from the ordinary pathways of life to the rigours of distinctive living.
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Therefore, when a person takes up a position of leadership, whether as the class monitor in a nursery school, or as the President of the most powerful nation, there are certain expectations immediately cast upon them.
The class monitor is instantaneously transformed from an ordinary pupil to the embodiment of what a perfect pupil should be. Her performance in class is no longer personal, but an inadvertent representation of the academic prowess of class monitors.
Should this poor kid need to cry, she must be conscious that she will be judged by higher standards – not because class monitors have no tears to shed, but rather because this is the burden of leadership a class monitor must carry.
The fact is that the higher up the leadership ladder, the greater the leadership burden.
Hence, if you are the President of the US, whatever you say or do, can and may be used against you.
That is why leaders who want to be statesmen are often more conscious of the leadership burden they carry.
As I look at leaders in our nation – whether political, public, corporate or religious – it is apparent that many have not captured the gravity of this burden of leadership.
Our thoughts, words, and deeds often do not seem to reflect the consciousness that we are no longer ordinary people.
Even the thought life of a leader must be pure and must not scheme evil. Even if people plant ideas in my mind, yet because I am a leader, I will refuse to ponder over any wrong or evil thoughts.
The words that proceed from the mouth of a leader must be guarded. Circumstances may demand that I tell somebody or some people off with some choice words, yet, because I am a leader, I will weigh my words. Similarly, a leader’s actions must be circumspect.
Because I am a leader, there are things I simply will not do; places I will not go; and people with whom I will not associate. My actions are restrained and constrained.
This is why when we see senior leaders exchange abusive words in public, it communicates that they have not understood the journey to statesmanship.
Instead they deeply undermine the honour that comes with leadership.
True statesmen are men and women who have been fully seized of the dignity that comes with leadership.
The drama that we have witnessed in the recent past points to a nation of people who have never truly appreciated what leadership is all about.
As we build this nascent nation into greatness, we need men and women with a deep patriotic drive. Only such can eventually ascend to the reserved pedestal of statesmanship.