Leadership failure is not an event, but a process that evolves over time

Friday January 15 2021
US Congress.

Congress employees scamper for safety after President Donald Trump supporters invaded the House. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


The world watched with horror as a president who lost an election mobilised violence against his own people.

The insurgents walked freely through the Capitol so much so that legislators had to be evacuated and the vice president of the United States acting in his capacity as the Senate president also had to be evacuated. It was indeed a free for all day for madness.

The president's spiritual adviser had prayed for angelic reinforcements from Africa. I think the message was intercepted and the demons responsible for all our post election violence across the continent are the ones that came in full force. However, breaking into the seat of an arm of government is a low even for Africa and it being inspired by a sitting president is a new kind of low. How did we get here?

Every entity rises and falls based on the capacity and choices of its leaders. The democracy police of the world has lost its democracy police badge and voice because of one man. Leadership is everything and it always starts with leadership of self. Organisations don't fail. Nations don't fail. It is always leadership that fails. Even then, leadership failure never happens overnight.

Failure is never an event. It is part of a process. Strong leaders have always emerged during the most trying periods.

George W. Bush ran against sitting vice president Al Gore and the elections were so close that the result had to be determined by the Supreme Court. Probably the most trying moment for Al Gore, who by extension president of the senate was to affirm the electoral college results in Congress. He did what he had to do and he moved on. What he exhibited was true leadership. He had led himself to a place where he could temper his own emotions with reason. He could weigh his emotions and feelings against a greater good and bigger picture and make with grace a decision that went against everything that his emotions would have liked to do. It was against this backdrop that George Bush was sworn in.


The first few months were shaky and seemed almost like a search for some form of legitimacy and acceptance. Then the terror attacks of September 11 happened. The president was at ground zero and standing on the rubble when someone shouted from the crowd to him that, “we can't hear you.” He responded and said, ‘‘I can hear you, the rest of the world will hear you and the people who took these buildings down will hear from the rest of us.” This reshaped the trajectory of his presidency. Many observers believe that it was the September 11 attacks that gave a footing for the George W Bush presidency to really take off.

Your gifts can open doors for you and get you to the top but at the end of the day your legacy will be defined not by your gift but by your character. Yes, it is character that sustains gifts. The character to sustain your success is developed through the process of becoming successful. The process is what builds character and the process includes oscillating periods of highs and lows.

Those who compromise themselves out of the lows will never be able to handle the grace and dignity that should come with the highs. Whatever you compromise to get, you will ultimately lose. So the question was, “how did we get here?" And the answer is simple. The people who could have checked things before they got this bad all compromised their values for the support base of President Trump. They shut their eyes and ears to the build up to this moment. At the last minute some attempted an about turn but it was too late.

Wale Akinyemi is the convenor of the Street University ( and chief transformation officer of PowerTalks. [email protected]