Let's Talk!

LEAD GHANA organizes occasional forums with the Ghanaian community at home and abroad to share its ideas on the way forward and to listen to what you have to say to us about leadership on the continent.
Why is it that when you take a Ghanaian abroad he or she will often thrive?

Many of us excel and surpass the efforts of many people in their own lands. Quite a few of us even become leaders in these foreign lands, yet when we are at home in our own country many of us cannot shine. 

Could it be that we don’t have all that we need to reach our full potential in Ghana? And if so, are we talking about money, infrastructure and facilities or is there something else, something deeper that is preventing us from reaching our full potential in our beloved homeland?

This was the riddle that begun the second collaborative forum between Star 100 UK, a network of young Ghanaian professionals in the UK aiming to make an impact back home, and The Leadership Ghana on 30th May 2014, at Bankside Community Space, Great Guildford Street, London.

With about forty participants made up of young Ghanaian adults and others interested in the country, key areas covered were:

• why most leadership programs, development aid and government programs often fail to have the desired impact when they do not take into consideration individual personalities, personal missions and the cultures in which we operate.
• why we must develop ‘custom – made’ leadership models for Ghanaians
• why personal development/informal education is essential for meaningful, lasting national development
• who an authentic leader is

This program was very clear in defining some of the issues of our society and provided a list of actions we can all take with us to address these areas.

The program was a great insight to the grassroots problems which prevent the emergence of more, tangible leaders in Ghana.

Really good talk- some deep, clear perspectives on leadership very much needed in our time.

As a non-Ghanaian, I thought this was beautifully structured and very well presented. Examples were very illustrative. Thank you!

Very interesting presentation, touching on true key Ghanaian traits, encouraging the need for change but in such a positive and humorous way!

I loved the ‘inside out’ and ‘outside in’ part — if someone had told me that when I first went to Ghana to work in the 1980s it would have helped me a lot!

The session was really insightful. Seth articulated a lot of issues that we are all aware of but have never truly reflected on. He also gave us some practical, useful tools we can take away to advance ourselves and empower others.

LEAD GHANA’s second Leadership Forum and the first to be held in Ghana looked at Seth Tandoh’s assertion that “Ghanaians are smart people trapped in dumb systems.” You can read his article here

The big news is that we Ghanaians at home generally lack an understanding of HOW to get to achieve the results we desire and that this is hampering our development efforts.

The views of some of the twenty or so participants at the 2nd May forum held at the University Of Ghana, Legon, highlight the fact that in Ghana we have serious problems with understanding or even being aware of the processes one must go through to achieve our end goals.

The irony (and the tragedy) is not that “we are lazy and do not want to work HARD, more often it is that we have not learnt to work SMART. It is as if working hard is, in itself, the process that will bring about the results rather than the planning adopted or the principles used.”These observations could go a long way to explain why, when Ghanaians travel to societies which understand ‘working smart’, we excel as we are willing to put in the hard work required to bring the principles to bear fruit.

Without this ‘smart work’ ethic we tend to resort to “copying from the surface”. Real creativity and innovation seem to be lacking. 

Taking a deeper look at our social systems, how do they hinder our development by discouraging us from asking questions and going into the hows and whys of life issues? Clearly, our social systems need work. Many agreed that we need to broaden our definition of education.  

How do we get society to appreciate the journey is as important, if not more so, than the destination? With sound leadership.

When asked to describe the state of Ghanaian leadership, not a single person in the room had anything positive to say about our leaders. Leaders were perceived as “lacking in vision”, “being selfish/egoistical”, “failing to be transformational”, “isolated” and “unable to think outside the box”. Not a pretty picture.

“One of the things I noticed during the recent electioneering campaign (2012) was that the candidates were saying ‘when I come into office I will do this and that’ but critically they all failed to explain HOW they were going to achieve their campaign promises and WHY were they planning to do these things.”

“Our culture and everything about us is to do with hard work often just for the sake of it. As long as we are not working hard and taking a long time to do build up something there is no way it is perceived to be right or worthwhile.”

“Any time we see something good that we want to duplicate or add to what we have, we copy from what we see. We don’t ask questions about HOW that thing came into being. We display a shallow mind when we are trying to learn something; we don’t ask enough questions, we don’t go deep enough.”

“We are afraid to fail. Everyone is waiting for you to fail and crush you when you fail saying ‘I told you so’. In Ghana when you fail you have done something wrong. If I am in class of 40 students and I am at the bottom of the class and I end up being repeated we do not investigate WHY I failed and if there is something I can do to improve.”

“Our parents often crush our dreams. They want you to go to a science school or a business school but if you study the child, you find that is not where his interest is so he is forced to kill his dreams and fulfill the dreams of the parents. Because the child’s interest is not in that field, he is not able to perform as well as in the area in which he is interested. I dreamt of becoming a great painter one day but having been influenced into a contrary field by parents now I don’t know what will happen.”

“I have read a little of our history and after independence we can see how enthusiastic Ghanaians were to build their own nation, but the problem came down to leadership. At the end of the day, due to poor leadership, everybody became despondent. The belief was: ‘if I am not part of the top in society I can never make it’, ‘if I don’t know this person I can never get here’. And this is what we are going through till today. The question is can we change the leadership we currently have? Can we have better leadership in Ghana or in Africa? If we can then we can solve all the problems.”

What makes a Ghanaian a Ghanaian? This was the opening question at a meeting of Star 100 UK, the network of young Ghanaian professionals, in London in 2012. Attended by over 40 young men and women, the interactive event set out to explore the Ghanaian identity. Ben Fletcher who yearned to reconcile his experience of his countrymen with perceptions of Ghana handed down to him by his parents, developed the program.

The audience were divided into small groups and given a set of questions to answer about being Ghanaian. The results are interesting. Ghanaians view themselves as humble, hospitable, peace-loving people. We also see ourselves as honest, hardworking and disciplined. Natural intelligence was highlighted which is interesting as Seth has controversially said that Ghanaians are ‘intelligent people trapped in dumb systems’. 

High on the list of perceived Ghanaian values were pride in our culture, our onus on formal education and our spirituality and religious beliefs which give us a ‘moral code’ to operate by. (However spirituality was also criticised where everything negative is attributed to witches and curses.)

 Whilst some saw Ghana’s development as ‘progressive’ hailing democratic and peaceful elections as part of our political maturity (‘no coups in recent decades’) with great and ‘inspiring’ improvements to infrastructure, others saw development as ‘painfully slow’ with one group rating the last decade of development a paltry ‘C-‘.

Hindrances to national development cited included tribalism, a lack of a culture of maintenance, and an absence of capital for Ghanaians at home with good ideas. Interestingly, some attitudes were also seen as stumbling blocks such as the way we too easily accept the ‘system’ as being broken and irreparable and use this as an excuse to explain away our ‘inconsistent’ development history.

So what can we do to improve the situation? Participants were optimistic and highlighted some practical steps needed to set us on our way. 

These included introducing more accountability into systems in Ghana, addressing the lack of innovative spirit, improving time keeping, focussing more on education (formal and informal), having healthier eating habits, reducing the brain drain and addressing the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of state organisations such as the Ghana High Commission in UK.

Other suggestions were reducing time spent on funerals, taking pride in locally produced products and sending more money home for socially responsible projects.

Attitudes that young Ghanaians feel are required for accelerated development include being more open, having more unity and being more supportive of one another, gossiping less and being less idealistic. Also mentioned were developing a team spirit and improving our self-esteem.

But how practically can all this be done. This question was addressed in the Q&A time with Ben and Seth.