Leadership and the ills of shortcuts

Shortcuts are a placebo; they offer immediate succour but do not proffer any real solution. They provide transient gratification which is soon replaced with enduring regrets. Those who seek shortcuts want an easy way out, they want quick fixes. They do not want to go through the rigours and pains of paying the required price to achieve an end. Those who look for shortcuts seek a circumvention of the process; they desire to eat omelet without cracking eggs. But more often than not, taking shortcuts leaves them with the short end of the stick. Those who take shortcuts often end up at the wrong destination. Shortcut hurts more than it helps.

Success is a journey that does not permit taking shortcuts. Those who want to achieve enduring success in any endeavour must learn to shun the lure of shortcuts. Lasting success is achieved over time not over night. But those who are unwilling to pay the required price for lasting success and embrace shortcuts often end up paying a far higher price than they would have paid to achieve their aim.


Nigeria and the subsidy conundrum

The subsidy cul de sac that has been foisted on Nigeria is a result of taking shortcuts.

When the first refinery in Nigeria was built in 1965, the capacity was just 60,000 barrels per day but it was adequate for the 50.15million population of the time. At that time, however, the downstream sector was deregulated as Nigerians were made to pay the prevailing market prices for petroleum products and there were different price regimes in different parts of the country.

By the time the second refinery came on stream in 1978, the refining capacity in the country went up to 185,000 barrels per day for a population of 69.29million. The third refinery, which was inaugurated in 1980, pushed the local refining capacity to 295,000 bpd while the population was 73.6million. When the fourth refinery was commissioned in 1989, the refining capacity shot up to 445,000 bpd of crude, while the population had risen to 92.84million.

Since 1989, the local refining capacity has not increased though the population has gone up to more than double the 1989 figure. Besides, the local refineries are producing far below installed capacity which means that while demand for petroleum products has been increasing, supply has been on the decline. When the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) could not meet the demand, rather than build more refineries or increase the refining capacities of the existing refineries, the government engaged marketers to bring in petroleum products with a directive not to sell above specified prices despite the huge cost of bringing in the products. This naturally resulted in subsidy payment by the government to marketers. If this step had been taken as a stop-gap measure, it would have been understandable. But for close to 20 years, Nigeria has resorted to importing petroleum products to meet local demands despite being an oil producing country with no specific measure being taken to correct the anomaly.

Subsidy has cost the country so much. A conservative estimate puts the cost of subsidy to the country over the years at N20 trillion. This is money that could have been used to build more refineries, fix the rail system, ensure better education, improve the healthcare delivery system, improve the road system or improve the general wellbeing of Nigerians.

How did Nigeria get into this rut? Those in charge could not project to realize that there would be increased demand for the products and make adequate preparation for same. When faced with the stark reality of their failure to plan, they sought a quick fix by resorting to importation rather than building new refineries.

Those who seek shortcuts always end up worse off.


Why do people take shortcuts?

People often resort to shortcuts for a number of reasons. Here are some of them.


Desperation for success

Those who are desperate to achieve success without the willingness to make the required sacrifice often find themselves taking shortcuts.

Ben Johnson was an acclaimed sprinter who took the world by storm when he set 100metres world records at the 1987 World Championships in Athletics and the 1988 Olympics, winning the gold medal at both events. But the joy of his feats did not last as he was later found guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs and was subsequently stripped of the medals and the records. He was at the zenith a moment only to end up at the nadir the next. Such is the fate of those who take shortcuts.

Johnson was undeniably one of the good sprinters the world has ever known. But he wanted to be the best without working hard enough for it. Now, he lives with the regret and shame of taking a shortcut to success.


The crave for quick fixes

Many of those who end up stuck in the valley of shortcuts often find themselves in that situation because of their desire for quick fixes. When they first made that choice, they just wanted something to get by until they were able to get something better. But they later found out that it was easier to get in than to get out. They kept on with the quick fix until it became impossible to get out of it. Those who seek quick fixes often get stuck in the quicksand of shortcut.


Loathing the highway of hard work

Zig Ziglar said, “There are no elevators to success, you have to take the stairs.” This means those who are seeking shortcuts to success are looking for the elusive. Achieving success requires working hard for it. Hard work is hard stuff. It is not synonymous with slicing through butter with a hot knife. Hard work is taxing and tasking. Hard work is a grind. Hard work is sweating it out when others are cooling down. Hard work is putting the whole of you in an endeavour, it is going back to the same issue until a solution is found. But hard work pays. It overcomes hard life and wears down hard luck. It destroys difficulties and tears obstacles apart. Those who work hard eventually achieve their goals, if they do not give up. But those who seek shortcuts end up where they never envisaged.


Lack of creative thinking

A problem persists until the thinking about it changes. When a problem arises, the best way to resolve it is to change the thoughts about it. Until the thinking changes, the situation does not change. Those who can think creatively when they encounter a challenge do not resort to taking shortcuts. Instead, they travel into their inner recesses to find a way out of the situation. They keep tasking their intellect until they find a way out of the puzzle. But those who cannot travel this route go for the easy way out.


Inability to face reality

Some people are given to avoiding reality. They prefer the postponement of the evil day to facing the real issue headlong. Consequently, they avoid taking the decision that is necessary to solve the problem at hand. What they do is to paper the problem and manage it for a while. But that does not last as the real issue, which they try to avoid, usually multiplies and waits for them in the future.


How leaders avoid the trap of shortcuts

It is possible to avoid taking shortcuts and escape the attendant pains and anguish by doing the following.


Commitment to ethical conducts

Those who seek shortcuts are those who lack strong character. A strong character is a product of integrity. Integrity is adhering to the highest standards in all situations. Integrity is being unchangeably committed to ethical conduct irrespective of the situation. Those who have such commitment would not touch shortcuts with a barge pole. They would rather suffer the pains of long hours of effort than allow themselves the fleeting pleasure of success achieved through unethical means.

One of the things a leader must do is to develop his character to the point that taking shortcuts does not hold any appeal to him. Not only do leaders who are weak in character wreck themselves, they also ruin the organizations they lead. So, it is vital for leaders to develop their character so as to preserve their reputation and their organizations.


Determination to go the whole hog

In life, you can’t get more by doing less. To get more, you have to do more. To be more, you have to do more. To experience an increased output, you have to increase your input. Those who hope to get more by doing less either get deluded, and become disoriented at the end, or they seek shortcuts. It is said that in the balance of life, output is always equal to input.

Going the whole hog rather than taking shortcuts is the dominion of the determined. Those who make a mark in life are those with determination and grit. The greatest deterrence to failure is determination. So, rather than looking for shortcuts or an easy way out, it is better to be determined to make the required sacrifice to achieve the desired result.


Long-term thinking

Leaders are expected to pre-think, pre-plan and prepare. Leaders who do these are not cut unawares by developments in their organizations and are not pushed to the point of having to condescend to taking shortcuts. Leaders must always find ways out of conundrums; that is their calling. Leaders must always provide solutions; that is why they lead. They can only do these if they give themselves to long-term thinking. Anyone who cannot engage in long-term thinking is not fit to lead. The present is already known. Leaders are put in place to lead their people and organizations through the uncharted waters of the future.


The tool for this is long-term thinking.

Leaders must also develop their ability to think creatively. Creativity is doing something new or doing old things in a new way. This is usually achieved by having a fresh perspective to issues. Leaders who are overwhelmed by challenges are those who have failed to develop their creative thinking capacity. When leaders develop this capacity, they are able to proffer solutions to challenges because they are able to bring creativity into the situation. It is creativity that transformed the telephone invented by Graham Bell into the smart phones of this age. Leaders cannot thrive without being creative.


Taking hard decisions

Leaders usually end up taking shortcuts when they fail to take hard decisions. One of the primary functions of leaders is making decision. The quality of decisions made by leaders will determine the wellness of the organization they lead and the wellbeing of their followers. Nigeria is losing trillions of Naira yearly to subsidy payment because of the poor decision taken by a leader at a point in time and the failure of those who came after him to take the hard decision of stopping the hemorrhage. When leaders are not afraid of taking hard decisions, they end up making life a lot better for their followers.

When Lee Kuan Yew took over the leadership of Singapore, the country was in a dire strait. Corruption had become a culture and laziness among the people a tradition. But he took the hard decision of changing all of that by rewarding excellence and punishing corruption. The decision transformed Singapore from a backwater fishing depot into a first world country in 30 years.


Last line

When leaders shun shortcuts, there is no limit to the height they can attain.


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