Leadership is cause; everything else is effect.
Repeated over twenty times in his book, these words constitute Professor Stephen Adei’s mantra, the conviction to which he tightly holds and the foundation upon which he builds his passion for equipping leaders. It is also the theme of his book Leadership and Nation Building and the basis for his argument that in order to build a nation, Ghana specifically, effective leaders must be developed.
In a very intelligent, matter-of-fact commentary, Professor Stephen Adei presents, strengthens and provides consequent solutions from an argument that basically states that the leadership factor is the most vital in the varied determinants of national progress. The book is divided into three sections. In the first section, Adei starts by explaining the concept of leadership—defining it functionally as determining the vision, goals and values of a nation; providing a strategy for achievement; mobilizing resources toward implementation, managing change and national transitions; developing successive leaders; and making the difficult decisions towards problem solving. He then distinguishes the concept of leadership from popular opinion of that leaders are. He concludes this section by illustrating, with the cases of five different countries, the importance of leadership in nation building.
The second section demonstrates, using many instances from the experiences of many African nations, that leadership has been the single most influential factor determining nations’ successes. It therefore shows that the African political, economic, social and cultural crisis is really a crisis of leadership.
In the final section, Professor Adei focuses on Ghanaian leadership, attempting to answer the question, “What went wrong?” and exposing the reasons behind the successive leadership failure. He concludes by charting a way forward and proposing the path towards quality leadership.
Leadership and Nation Building is packed full of wise gems and unapologetically, truthful points, albeit difficult to hear. Professor Stephen Adei is undoubtedly, a knowledgeable, well-experienced, passionate and candid economist and these traits show forth in the content of his book. In an engaging manner, he expounds on the wrong turns taken by past leaders and how that led to the present African crisis. He addresses myths about the path to national development and puts forth bold ideas that challenge popular, apparently erroneous beliefs.
However, while the content of the book displays creativity and wisdom, the structure and style fail to match up to the quality of insightful analysis.
Written based on a series of three lectures delivered by the author at the 10th William Ofori-Atta Memorial Lectures, the book reads more like a transcript than a deliberate work of literature. This is often the challenge faced by authors whose books are created by transcribing didactic lectures into written form. The nature of oral delivery of information is such that a logical and aesthetic arrangement of points is not vital and where absent, the message remains clear and the listening and learning experience is not greatly affected. In written delivery however, the importance of aesthetics and mechanical accuracy cannot be overemphasized.
I found myself constantly having to refer to previous sentences and sections in a bid to understand how and why certain points were connected together. While interesting in terms of content, the writing is not fluid which, for me, made for an awkward reading experience.
Professor Adei is a man of seasoned insight and varied experience and his exposition on the topic of national progress and the importance of leadership towards it is a must-read for all Ghanaians, especially any who presume to adopt a leadership role. Will the reading experience be pleasant? Not very. Will it be enlightening and encouraging? Absolutely, Professor Adei is passionate and convicted about the possibility of breaking the vicious cycle of underdevelopment and poverty in Africa and makes this point known in no uncertain terms.
I therefore recommend Leadership and Nation Building as an educational piece for which the reader is prepared to take many notes and over which many arguments will be born. With focused concentration and patience, Professor Adei will change your thinking.