By Elizabeth E. Hoff
Since the inception of the newly elected government of President George M. Weah I have sat and listened to numerous remarks and arguments about his appointments in the government, mostly consisting of young people. I am usually amused by some of the things that people say about other people, and now most especially about the youths and their quest for leadership in our country. Don’t get me wrong. I have no objections to young people wanting to be in leadership, or those who are already there. But are they ready? This question comes against the backdrop of my past experience from working with young people in the previous government. Prior to the recent elections there was a lot of talk going around about generational change. This seems to me, to be the basis upon which President Weah is making most of his appointments.
I know that it took the President several bitter past experiences to get to where he is presently, but are the young people who are advocating for generational change and who have succeeded in convincing his leadership that they can make a change in our country, prepared to take on the mantle of leadership? I ask this question for a couple of reasons: if you enter many of the government ministries and agencies where young people are public officials, (and I am speaking from past experience), you will immediately notice the air of rivalry that exists amongst them. In most instances, the young colleagues do not work as a team, mainly due to poor leadership ability from those at the top of the ladder, thus leading to the lack of communication and coordination; they envy one another, most often because one group is closer to “the powers that be”; for some others, they often find themselves in a predicament if the boss is a god unto himself or herself and believe that no one can touch them, The working relationship at those institutions or entities immediately hits the rocks, and sometimes those affected are constrained to ask for “study leave” to escape the wrath of their bosses.
Another reason why I am asking if young people are ready for leadership in our country is the high level of arrogance they bring to the job. Most of them, especially those who have never worked in government before, not even as civil servants, come to their appointed positions as if the people with whom they work or with whom they interact, are too far below their standard (the “you know who I am” syndrome) because they are now in “power”; forgetting to know that they, the leaders, are mere servants of the people. This brings to mind a story that my father told me several years ago before he died. He said, “There lived a Liberian man, whom I knew very well, admired and respected. He left a shining mark in public service. He worked in government for many years but never acquired wealth. He had no PhD or Master’s degree. Sometimes I wish he had lived long enough to infect the minds of our young “wannabe” leaders with the true spirit of self worth and trust based on a healthy and enlightened identification of self esteem and humility.
He was a humble man who had the capacity to make room in his life and career for so many people without fear of losing his own ground and without desiring that they lost theirs. That man was the late Liberian writer and poet Bai T. Moore.” In my mind, that is what leadership or team spirit is all about. Unfortunately, it is crumbling all around us because most of our young people are too arrogant, afraid and envious to give people around them the opportunity to mentor them so that they can excel. And these are the people who are now the new “power brokers.” Lord, have mercy!