By Constance Meju
Community Leadership is the courage, creativity and capacity to inspire participation, development and sustainability for strong communities.
–Sir Gustav Nossal, great Australian Community Leader
To understand the importance of Communication to development and how it can be used for inclusive governance that transforms Community.
What is Communication?
Two-way flow of information from sender to receiver
Speaking, Writing, Gestures including body language and facial expressions.
Town crier, Radio, TV, Newspapers, magazines, journals, Letters, Social Media
Globally, the community is the single most important unit of governance. If communities are developed, there will be less pressure on the cities, less number of youth dying on the Mediterranean Sea from imagined short routes to greener pastures.
People are the integral component of a community. They are the ones who develop a community and make it successful. Thus, it is very important that their needs and concerns must be discussed in order to develop a healthy community. Communication skills are key in this regard.
Through communication, the community’s leaders can know what the community wants, what problems the community is facing and what can be done to resolve the community’s matters. When this is done, it leaves people satisfied and happy which is one of the factors indicating that a community is doing well.
Through communication we can cater for vulnerable people and help them improve their social conditions and lifestyles. We can gain an insight about what problems they are facing regarding their lifestyles and we can work to make their lifestyles better. This too comes under the heading of community development.
Some Top Qualities of a Good Leader:
Self-awareness- ability to admit and learn from mistakes and to seek information to fill knowledge gaps
Integrity-Doing what is right, a commitment to leading by example
Courage-Readiness to put the cause before the desire to be popular
Confidence-Faith in your ability to confront more challenges
Vision-A strong sense of where you are going as a person and where you think your community should be going and how can get there.
Enthusiasm-A lively interest in the people issues and events around you-a feeling of excitement about the possibilities and emerging problems.
Wisdom-Intelligence coupled with insight and empathy as opposed to raw intelligence.
Strong Intellectual Skills- Ability to interact and work harmoniously with others, while being prepared to take on individual. responsibilities.
HOW DO YOU PROMOTE ACCEPTANCE, DRIVE SUPPORT AS A LEADER?
Communication is the answer. You need to relate-
Effective communication is the willingness and ability to listen to and understand the thoughts, ideas and concerns of others and, to clearly communicate your own thought, worries and ideas. A vision is nothing if it cannot be said to others.
People are the integral component of a community. They are the ones who develop a community and make it successful. Thus, it is very important that their needs and concerns must be discussed in order to develop a healthy community. Communication skills are very effective in this regard. Through communication, the community’s leaders can know what the community wants, what problems the community is facing and what can be done to resolve the community’s matters. When this is done, it leaves people satisfied and happy which is one of the factors indicating that a community is doing well.
Through communication we can cater vulnerable people and help them improve their social conditions and lifestyles. We can gain an insight about what problems they are facing regarding their lifestyles and we can work to make their lifestyles better. This too comes under the heading of community development.
There should be Free flow of information from the CDC to the Community Leadership, the People-Men, Women, Youth, etc., External partners, LG/State Govt., Companies, School Authorities gives you a better understanding on where your people stand on issues
“While receiving any message, the good leader keeps all his doors open and tries to figure out the main idea. Even in cases of negative feedback, he doesn’t lose his heart but takes it as an opportunity to learn new things. He always tries to understand the weak points and analyze the usefulness of the communication. It is must for a leader to be sensitive towards moral ideologies. According to a research on leadership, the trust is a factor which any individual wants to have before following anyone enthusiastically in any situation, whether it may be a battleground or meeting room and want to get assured that the leader they are going to follow is truthful and ethical (James Kouzes and Barry Posner, 1993).
. The best communicators always have a unique quality of listening peacefully to what others are speaking. This makes them good observers and enables them to read a person or group’s mind by analyzing the attitudes, behavior, activities, ideals, anxieties and are able to modify their messages according to the situation. Leaders who communicate effectively to encourage and stimulate their people are considered to be the best leaders or managers. They ensure work, discipline, and a sense of responsibility among team members. They have strong and precise set of working principles and believe to incorporate the same in their teams and because of this they are highly appreciated and followed by their team members (Lee Froschheiser).
Effective Communication helps the community leader in shaping policies or approach to policies from other sources.
*Proper identification of Community NEEDS leads to solutions- points the way on where to take the issue, what to say, how to say it for best result.
*Believe in Others- Strive to build the capability of others; praise them where necessary and appropriate;
*Fight for them if important and provide them with helpful feedback
*Motivate them to give you their best
WHAT ARE OUR PERCULIAR ISSUES AS NIGER DELTA COMMUNITIES?
Conflict Management is a major leadership challenge
A leader has to be trusted for people to open up to him/her.
Trust encourages community members to alert you, speak up when things are going wrong and confident to come up with innovative ideas (Contract, government intervention programmes)
Trust drums support for community transformation.
So, what is your mission?
It is important for community leaders to avoid drifting/making wrong moves.
A leader must UNDERSTAND his People. Who are your people?
What are the collective goals of your community? Are your moves, plans and actions addressing them? If not, what are the gaps and how are you communicating these to your people?
Are they in full understanding of what you are pursuing?
How do you handle Noise-gossip/fake news?
Eliminate noise as much as possible.
What all are the key points leaders have to keep in mind while communicating with their teams?
- You need to Listen
- Be Open to suggestions
- Think Critically before decisions are made
- Send out clear messages
- Be informed/knowledgeable
- Ability to easily reach out/convey your message
- Constantly Research and follow developments
- Monitor and welcome Feedback
ROLE OF THE MEDIA
The media influences public opinion and is also influenced by the society. Some prominent national newspapers tend to set the national agenda based on this influence, a response to their focus on issues considered by citizens to be of vital importance.
By virtue of its position as the fourth Estate of the Realm, coming after the Executive, Legislative Arms of Government and the Judiciary, the Media has a constitutionally assigned role as the watchdog of society and therefore, owes society the duty of protecting it from the ravages of bad leadership.
Let us identify some overriding societal concerns in Nigeria and our communities today:
Insecurity now threatening even the security personnel that should protect us
Decadent Education system
Decadent health system that sends our president and top functionaries on medical tourism
High Unemployment (33%) making Nigeria second highest in the world
Highest in Poverty, now world Poverty Headquarter despite abundant natural resources
High corruption putting Nigeria high on the global index
Impunity and disrespect for rule of law by even the president
Ethnicity causing agitations from several groups
Almost every report critical of some aspect of the government is based on information deliberately leaked to the press by someone inside not happy with what is going on and the press jealously protects such informant to avoid sanctions.
The media is charged with the responsibility of informing, educating and entertaining the people but in the leadership arena, it focuses more on educating the people on happenings, new policies and their likely effects or gains and where necessary, digs up enough information through research and interviews, to galvanize citizens against acts inimical to their safety or development.
This assignment makes media focus on influential personalities- captains of industry, royalty, policy makers, governor’s, lawmakers, politicians, persons in key leadership position- objects of scrutiny under the microscope of the media especially, journalists.
Leaders are supposed to be accountable to the led especially, those in public office, as a way of boosting public trust and ensuring that they work in accordance with laid down procedures and to avoid impunity since absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Unfortunately for Nigeria, once some mount the leadership ladder, obeying the rule of law, respecting the basic rules of good leadership are ignored.
Constant communication is supposed to flow from the leader to the led but this is a tough order especially among our government officials. A vital document like the budget, a guiding principle for governance which ought to be available for individuals, communities, civil society, etc., are hoarded to prevent followers from tracking expenditure.
Top officials are even difficult to contact and the COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse. Getting out information of this nature to the public then becomes a necessity for the media as the organ full freedom to inform the public and they use direct and indirect means to source their information for public good.
It must be stated here that it is binding on the media to report facts and to do so objectively. And watching over leaders has often met resistance.
Writing on the linkage between the press and political leadership, Kevin Philips, a US critic of the media and author of the book Mediacracy argues that the modern media has turned against business institutions and large corporations in a vindictive manner even though news organizations are themselves big businesses.
“The news media is itself corporate institution, diverse in ownership, in ideological disagreements on many things but although it is not monolithic, it exerts a powerful influence on US society.
“… the press exerts considerable influence . Often this influence is a force for reform, uncovering shortcomings in society and providing information that government officials, business leaders or others in powerful positions are sometimes reluctant to divulge.”
Let us pause here and revisit the Trump administration. America is the bastion of democracy with a lot of checks and balances but the Trump leadership was able to abuse that century old system. But for the strong rebuff of the media, who knows, we may have been seeing a different development there. When it looked like Trump was going to override the system, the media rose up to the challenge and battled to ensure enough citizens understood the danger they were in and voted him out. The media galvanized a sway of public opinion against him to the extent that he pronounced many media houses his enemies.
Here in Nigeria we face the same challenge of officials who see themselves as above the law but exposure if some of their fraudulent acts and the accompanying public outcry keep them a little in check. However, the twin evils if ethnicity and religion sometimes undermine the media as well as poverty. But it must be agreed that the major organ if control in the Nigerian system is the media though bouts of violence also send messages to our leaders.
In calmer circumstances, both the leader and the media work in harmony to propel societal development. The leader needs the media to sell messages of innovations, new policies, changes to the followers and helps monitor progress thus helping ensure a smooth process. A good example is the sensitization on care and prevention from the pandemic including properly educating citizens on the vaccines.
For a deeper understanding of the influence of the media, writing about the press gallery on the US Capitol (Parliament) way back in 1880, Carpenter commented:
“There are two Congresses in Washington. One sits on the floor of the House and senator, the other sits on the floor of the galleries. This Second Congress is the Congress of the Press. When some of its members speak this morning over over the electronic telegraph, they will this afternoon reach more than a million readers in all cities of the nation. There is not only one of them but has a daily audience larger than any preacher, any lecturer or any political speaker ever had in the United States, or I might say, the world. About 100 correspondents are now entitled to seats in the gallery. More are young men between 25 and 35 years of age”.
By 1981 the number of news correspondents and editors in Washington, America’s eat of political power, had increased to 3266 but their worldwide audience has risen today, to billions thanks to cable television, the Internet and other social media outlets.
According to a Cambridge University online article, ‘Governing in the Media Age: The Impact of the Mass Media on Executive Leadership in Contemporary Democracies,’ “A careful reconsideration of mass media effect on the conditions and manifestations of political leadership by presidents and prime ministers in different contemporary democracies suggest that the media more often function as effective constraints on leaders and leadership. Overall, the constraining effects of the traditional media have been more substantial than those generated by the new media.”
Studies have also shown that the media has a huge influence on voters in elections. They know the key players better than the voters and voters cast their votes based on the portrayal of parties and candidates by the media. Recall the overwhelming media campaign against the Goodluck Jonathan administration and hyping of President Muhammadu Buhari’s imagined incorruptible nature which kicked Jonathan out of office in 2015.
The Cambridge Leadership study states further, “The media are more likely to play an important role in the way political leaders influence society. Most voters never meet party leaders in real life and therefore, they form their judgments about them mainly on the basis of their representation in the media”. So, the media influences what voters think about when casting a ballot.
Leadership is about positive change, the ability to see a problem others might not see, being creative enough to think out solutions and mobilizing others to join in solving that problem rather than serving self.
According to Dr. Otive Igbuzor, there are six priorities that leaders and teams need to focus upon:
- Developing new products and services (Inventor)
- Wining and retaining customers (Catalyst)
- Designing a supportive infrastructure and systems (Developer)
- Focusing on efficiencies and improving quality (Performer)
- Building the culture and developing people (Protector)
- Scanning the future and seizing opportunities (Challenger)
Ensuing that these priorities are addressed and in a manner not detrimental but beneficial to the generality of the people, is the summary of the role of the media and it uses varied ways to carry out this duty.
*Through the Radio and Television-Electronic Media- via news, interviews, discussion programmes, documentary/features, news commentaries and analysis, even drama.
*Through Newspapers, Magazines. Journals, Newsletters-Print Media- in news stories, editorial commentaries, opinion articles, letters to the editor, feature articles, interviews, news analysis, investigative reports, etc.
The above are known as traditional media and now you have a more interactive and instant media pooling in millions of citizens into the demand for better service from our leaders. That is known as new media, Social Media, a media gradually smoking recalcitrant leaders out of their inner chambers to respond to their people. Thanks to smart phones incidents rarely accessed instantly fly in jolting our leadership.
Social Media is changing the role of leaders and their relationships with followers and other stakeholders.
Recall ENDSARS and several online campaigns against obnoxious planned government policies like the RUGA, Waterway Bill, Hate Speech Bill, Church Leadership Structure Bill, even the lockdowns, etc. A combination of social media campaigns and traditional media put government on the spot and caused a back down.
It is obvious that with trust as a basic requirement for leadership, leaders need to maintain the trust of those who choose to follow them and leadership experts like JD Maxwell insist that flow of communication must be kept for trust to be nurtured. Social Media offers a good solution here.
It allows much more personal communication between leaders and their followers and the two-way dialogue create opportunity for followers to influence decisions and outcomes, indicating a shift in the power dynamics.
Through social media-WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pintrest, Telegram, Zoom, etc., leaders can communicate frequently and instantly with their teams in a variety of sophisticated ways. Available services allow for better dialogue, immediate reaction and response and gives followers access to more choice about the information they receive, attend to and respond to.
However, work would need to be done to filter noise in the form of fake information and information overload.
‘We have always known that for leaders to be trusted; they need to demonstrate integrity and authenticity, and this style means sharing personal experiences and views. Social media appears to amplify this need and leaders must be cautious and manage the boundaries between their private/ corporate or public life.”
A visionary leader will do well to embrace the new media which population swells by the second otherwise they may become irrelevant to those they are to lead or leading and the genre is not likely to be knocked off soon. 11 new social media users join the fray every second and this is a worldwide phenomenon linking villages and cities across the globe instantly; much is to be gained. Active social media users reached 3.196billion in 2018 and 3.80 in 2020 while 5.196 billion people have smart phones worldwide and 185million users in Nigeria as at 2019 records.
While television, print and citizen journalism remain vital outlets of communication, a growing population draws its news primarily from short bytes released on social media platforms.
Patricia Hind, a business psychologist in her paper on “Leadership in an Age of Social Media, says leaders must look beyond their normal media environment to make the most of available opportunities.
Leadership experts advise that leaders play a proactive role in raising the media literacy of their immediate reports and stakeholders to ensure that a culture of learning takes place as well as develop distribution competence, knowing what to post, tweet to attract immediate and intended reaction/response.
“In the realm of social media, the relevance of any message begins when its audience responds by rating, sharing, commenting, liking and re-tweeting. Leaders need to enhance their communication routines by temporary (often informal) influencers who help to spread their messages to the intended communities and reinforce them in the process”.
The Leaders Role to Engage The Media
It is the responsibility of the leader to effectively engage with the media and inform both their organizations and their public of their activities through the diverse array of available media and the youth must be part of this.
The duty of the leader exists within the context of reciprocal responsibilities between leaders, the media and the public. The Media are accountable to the people for ensuring leaders are speaking and acting authentically. The public holds the media to account for investigative reports, unraveling hidden dangers and misdeeds by the leadership, asking probing questions like why there should be a huge difference between flared gas figures recorded by internationally used Gas Flare Tracker managed by NOSDRA and that recorded by NNPC and DPR amounting to a loss of over $600million in 2019 and now or how Boko Haram reportedly captured 12 of the 15 fighter armored vehicle purchased by the army under Burutai.
The media is the catalyst community leaders need to change the face of governance at local, state levels.
Concluding, President Buhari said he hopes history will remember him well; how do you want to be remembered in your community, state and Nigeria?
What are you using your current leadership opportunity for? Use that office and the power therein to speak hope, care, transformation; relief for the oppressed, security for the threatened, a brighter future for those coming behind.
Use your leadership opportunity to write your name in GOLD!
Thank You and God Bless!
- Governing in the Media Age: The Impact of the Mass Media on Executive Leadership in Contemporary Democracies-Cambridge University online
- Leadership in an Age of Social Media by Patricia Hind, Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School.
- Lecture Notes on Leadership and Entrepreneurship (Fourth Edition)
- 7 Leadership Principles-Leadership Essays-Google
- Role of Communication in Community Development by E.O. Aruma, International Journal of Network and Communication Research Vol.5, No.1, pp.1-10, April 2018-Published by European Centre for Research Training and Development UK (www.eajournals.org)