Leaders and limits of sentiments

Leaders sometimes run into troubled waters as a consequence of their failure to see issues as they really are. When leaders have a wrong perception of an issue, the issue will be wrongly diagnosed, wrong solutions will be prescribed and wrong results will be achieved. Leaders who fail to see issues as they are actually see those issues as they (the leaders) are because they allow the interference of their personal interests in the situation for the reason that they are controlled by sentiments. According to dictionary.com, sentiment is a thought which is influenced by emotion. In other words, when leaders fail to rise above sentiments, they surrender to emotions and lose the power of objectivity; they perceive issues from a jaundiced view and are unable to take proper actions to reinforce what is right and correct what is wrong.

Leadership success has a lot to do with perspective. A leader’s perspective speaks of his outlook and the outlook determines the outcome. But when leaders allow sentiments to hinder them from having the proper perspective of a situation, they become enslaved by their emotion. Emotion beclouds reasoning because it distorts the reality. Hence an emotional person can hardly be rational. When leaders descend into the arena of sentiments, they disrobe themselves of sensibility, deprive themselves of objectivity and become susceptible to ineptitude. Leaders who give in to emotions are unlikely to make serious impact.

Leaders must learn to detach themselves from a situation and view it from the perspective of an uninterested party. The problem with many leaders is that their personality and interest get involved in the decision making process and this often impacts negatively on their decisions and consequently their actions.

Medical practitioners are not allowed to treat their relations because their emotional attachment to the patient will becloud their judgment and could affect their professionalism. Instead of seeing the injured or sick person first as a patient, they see him as a brother, son, uncle or father and this will affect their judgment. Because of the filial sentiments, they either fail to do enough so as not to subject the sick to excessive pains or exceed the set boundaries in their bid to speed up the process of healing. Either way, they fail to do what is appropriate and may actually put the sick in the harm’s way.

To do what is right and get the required result, leaders must learn to play down their sentiments in every situation so that they can have the right perspective at all times. To play down sentiments, leaders must detach themselves from every situation. When leaders are able to detach themselves from a situation, they are able to have the proper perspective of it. It is then that the right result could be achieved because change comes with a changed perspective. For as long as the perspective remains the same, the same treatment will be given to the situation and the same result will be produced. To have a different result, there must be a new approach to an issue and that is a consequence of having a new perspective. Leaders who want to go far must learn to rein in their emotions and soar above their sentiments so as to do what is fit and proper in any situation.


Nigeria’s dilemma

Nigeria struggles with gross underdevelopment despite her huge endowment. Nigeria is the 11th largest crude oil producer in the world and is home to many natural resources, yet it has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, one of the lowest electricity generation rates, while about 83 million Nigerians live below the poverty line. Nigeria is stuck in this rut due to the inability of leaders to see issues as they really are. Every issue is interpreted through the prism of politics, religion and ethnicity. Most Nigerian leaders see themselves first as ethnic leaders before being national leaders. Therefore, rather than take decisions that will benefit the nation as a whole, because of their religious and regional sentiments, they take decisions that will advance sectional interests which will be countered by other groups. The result is a logjam because each group wants to take advantage of the others. Consequently, it has been extremely difficult for the country to keep developmental pace with her contemporaries.

When leaders don the toga of sentiments they make it difficult for their nations to evade the burden of underdevelopment.


Benefits of playing down sentiments

Nobody wants to injure his or her interests; hence the average person is selfish. But that is not expected of leaders. Leaders who want to succeed must exorcise selfishness from their system. A selfish leader will not just wreck himself, he will destroy the organization he superintends over because he will fail to do what is right for the organization and its people since he is concerned about doing what is good for himself. Therefore when a leader is able to play down sentiments and factor out his personal interest in the decision making process he is able to lead aright.

These are the benefits of playing down sentiments:


Taking right decisions

Results are a consequence of decisions. When leaders are not hindered by sentimental or selfish considerations, they are clearheaded and are able to take the decisions that will move their organizations in the right direction. A leader’s most important task is decision making. To make decisions which will serve the purpose of their people, leaders must free themselves from the hold of sentiments.


Angela Merkel

Unlike what the situation is in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, the effect of COVID-19 pandemic is much milder in Germany. As of Sunday, May 10, 2020, Germany had recorded 171,324 cases of infection and 7,549 deaths. Compared with the US, which had recorded 1,347,318 cases and 80,040 deaths and the UK with 213,260 infections and 31,587 deaths, Germany trumped both countries in the management of the COVID-19 crisis.

According to those in the know, Germany has done pretty well because unlike the American president and the British prime minister who have political ambition and had to be political correct in handling the crisis, Angela Merkel had told Germans of her intention not to seek reelection in 2021 before the advent of the crisis so she was able to take rational and necessary decisions without bothering about her popularity rating. While both Donald Trump and Boris Johnson were vacillating about taking the right action so that they would appear good to the electorate, Merkel had no qualms shutting down the country and keeping at bay those who could spread the infection in the country. The German Chancellor also took other far-reaching decisions that minimized the spread of the virus in the country. As a result of its low infection and death rates, Germany is able to offer assistance to other more embattled European countries by accepting patients from them.

Merkel’s unsentimental handling of COVID-19 crisis has shot up her profile to the extent that rather than being a lame duck leader (she is on her way out of office), she has become a global reference point as the whole world looks up to her for leadership with respect to managing COVID-19 rather than the USA.


Taking right actions

Often in Nigeria, after investing time and other resources to generate great ideas that have the capacity to facilitate the country’s development, such ideas fail to see the light of the day because the leadership lacks the will to implement such as a result of their sentimental considerations. Invariably, such ideas do not go beyond the pages of the paper where they are documented. The nation and the people languish in lack and deprivation because leaders are unwilling to commit themselves to the good of the people as a result of their sentiments.

But when leaders are not held captive by sentiments, they are able to initiate right actions that will advance the cause of their people and their organizations.


Going for the best hands

When leaders rise above sentiments, they are able to go for the right people who will deliver the goals for the good of the people. Quite often in Nigeria, sensitive positions are peopled with incompetent personnel with the effect that the country and her people are shortchanged.

In 2014, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi was removed as Nigeria’s Sports Minister because of political sentiments. This is in spite of the fact that in the previous year, he had led the country to its first African Cup of Nations competition victory in 19 years. Abdullahi’s offence was the political difference between his godfather and the President. His good deeds and accomplishments in office no longer counted, he had to be sacrificed because his godfather fell out with the President. But the issue really should not have been about political considerations but competence. However, the President failed to see the issue as it was but as he was. Abdullahi’s godfather had wronged him so, he had to let go of the man that brought home the coveted trophy. Football administration in the country subsequently suffered as a consequence. The country could not even qualify for AFCON 2015 to defend the trophy it won in 2013. She also failed to qualify for AFCON 2017. The nation’s image was only redeemed in 2019 when the Super Eagles qualified for AFCON and went ahead to finish third at the tournament.

Sentiment is the cemetery of great leadership.


How leaders can rise above sentiments

Leaders can tower above sentiments by paying attention to the following:


Look at the bigger picture

Leaders are not supposed to be sectional or narrow-minded. Most leaders who give in to sentiments are sectional. Leaders must know that once they assume that role, they cannot afford to be sectional. A head of department should not harbour sentiments for a unit. A general manager must not have a preferred department. A CEO must see every section of the organization as his territory. A state governor or a president cannot afford to make himself the governor or president of some people and not of others. A leader must have the bigger picture in view at all times. This will moderate sentimental tendencies and enable them to do what is right for the generality of the people, and not just a section.


Keep the vision in focus

If leaders bear in mind the vision and are determined to achieve it, they are unlikely to be held down by sentiments. The vision is the guide, when leaders keep it in focus, they stay on course and are not derailed. But when leaders look away from the vision, they deviate from their course and set the stage for a crash. Leaders must resist the temptation to jettison the vision for sentiments.


Accommodate opposing views

Leaders who surround themselves with people who are like them, think like them and act like them will end up on the wrong street because their perspective will be narrow. As unnatural as it may be, leaders must learn to accommodate other views so as to avail themselves of robust perspective. Though psychology teaches that that like attracts like, physical science teaches that opposites attract. So, leaders must be able to combine the two by deliberately cultivating those who are not like them so that they can have a richer view of situations around them.


Last line

Greatness does not dance to the beat of sentiments. Those who aim for success must learn to be unsentimental.



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