By Saye Zeekeh Boye Zonen
After all the hoopla of the campaign season, I was expecting the then President-elect, Mr. Weah, to bring all of us, citizens, into the fold with the inspiration of a rousing call to volunteerism, nationalism, and work. But instead, the sirens blared, the decorum grew and the pageantry ensued.
Mr. President, our ability to self-actualize lies dormant, and our potential remains untapped.
We may look bewildered, but we are not beggars, we may look tired, but we are not throwing in the towel. Give us the word and we will move this nation forward. Our hunger for progress must be fed with inspired words and deliberate actions. Since you came through our ranks, you should know our worth. Dim or dash the decorum, with which you are leading, it is not your strength. Ignite your influence and inspiration; they are the greatest assets of your presidency.
Mr. President, Liberians the world over are salivating for inspired leadership. The work to rebuild cannot be yours alone. There are qualified and competent brethren in your opposition; position them and challenge them to bear fruits. We are still out here in the field scattered and lost. But our tools are in our hands, our boots are strapped to our feet and our ears are intoned to your call for us to give ourselves to the work of nation-building.
A critic I am not; nor am I a cheerleader. I am aged enough to understand the incredulity of man; therefore, I don’t kowtow for approval. My purpose here is to share an observation. See it as I do, or shun it if you may, but I strongly believe your soft power is the strength of your presidency. Please employ it, Sir! Because Liberia is a nation steeped in the trappings of pageantry, decorum, and bluff, the strong, powerful, wealthy, and “educated” personae seem attractive. It may work for you, given the level of love the people have for you, but ultimately, it will reduce your efficacy and eventually fail us all.
Your victory was decisive. It showed that the people really wanted you to LEAD (Listen, Empathize, Attend and Direct) them. A mandate of this nature must never be squandered.
Your greatest asset is not your popularity or your wealth, Sir. You have influence. Employ it to inspire action in your people. The people of Liberia, especially the young ones, voted you into office because they believe you have a good heart for Liberia. They believe your intention to see Liberia prosper is solid. They trust that all your policies will be in their interest. The people truly love you.
The unfortunate thing, however, about unequivocal love from a defeated people is that it is analogous to a dead weight. It is too heavy to carry alone. Any attempt to manage the weight of the nation by diplomacy alone will prove disastrous. Dump down the decorum with which you are leading them, and use your influence and inspiration to challenge them to take ownership of their sorrows.
When a weak person believes in you and puts their trust in you, they look to you to fix all their aches. Do not mistake the admiration of your people as a responsibility to singularly shoulder their burdens. You will both fail. Here is a tip for you, Sir, if you may: defeated people are NOT destroyed people.
The Liberian people may be defeated, but they are still dignified. Don’t try to be a messiah to them. They don’t want you to do it alone. Be a leader.
Dignity is the door through which downtrodden masses can walk into comfort. Point them to inspired-work, they will move. This is the greatest asset you have at your disposal, Mr. President. Inspired self-work is the surest way you can give an individual dignity. Invite the weakest of your people to get involved in the process of nation-building. It will inspire those with meager means to give a little more. It will encourage those who are away to return.
Effective leadership is not machismo, nor power. Effective leadership is influence and inspiration, assets you have in abundance. Employ them, Sir!!
Your story is one of triumph. Most Liberians see themselves in you that is why they follow you like flies to fruit. If you view your people through a dignified lens, you will see that they want ownership of their plight. You will see that they want to get involved in their solution; you will see that they want to help you succeed.
They want to be challenged, they want to be inspired. Share with them the burden, explain to them your vision and encourage them to own their own growth. If austerity is necessary for the change, don’t exempt them from it, don’t shield them from the work required to move them beyond their impasse. Inspire them to give of themselves, challenge them to make the sacrifice, and, of course, you and all your appointees must lead in that direction.
The inspiration to write this was birthed out of the cleanup campaign I witnessed days before your inauguration. The young people of this country will work for free, and the most influential person who can inspire that action is you. Once in a while, put on jeans and t-shirt and chill with them as they clean their garbage. It will inspire them to move up to the bigger challenge of going to the schools you promised to develop or revamp. Employ this unfiltered, inspirational engagement to all sects of your people and you will see growth. Play to your strength, inspire your people and they will improve themselves.
About the author, Saye Zeekeh Boye Zonen, is a speaker, an author, a youth-mentor and an entrepreneur/educator.
He can be reached at [email protected].”