We need coherent, pragmatic leaders

via We need coherent, pragmatic leaders November 29, 2013 Zimbabwe Independent 

IN an increasingly integrating, interlinked and interdependent world, countries and their leaders must understand the world has become far more complex and is forever changing. This requires a paradigm shift to a pragmatic framework over ideological considerations.

Rigid ideological beliefs and solutions to critical issues, particularly economic matters, no longer work effectively and thus alternatives must be tried.

Seeing things in binaries, like during the Cold War, doesn’t help anymore.As the world changes, and changes fast, informed people have lost the appetite for extreme positions and views. Rather than admiring those with strong political views, progressive people now increasingly understand and acknowledge that those frozen on fossilised ideological templates are blinkered and poor at both listening and understanding, for they belong to the past.

Ideological captivity makes people self-righteous, even consumed by hubris, whereas pragmatism requires compromise between different world views, and the world is now dotted with such compromises.

So, pragmatism is a buffer against ideological extremism, as well as a tool for rational and progressive development.

When Xi Jinping became leader of the Communist Party of China, he did not pay tribute at Mao’s tomb or tour the rural heartland of Hu Jintao but instead travelled to Shenzhen, a prosperous special economic zone once overseen by his father. There he laid flowers at a bronze statue of Deng Xiaoping, acknowledging the architect of China’s current prosperity and its rise as a global power.

We were reminded of the subject of ideology and pragmatism by our government’s recent threats to ban exports of raw platinum to force foreign mining companies to refine locally. This came amid the latest official threat to ban foreigners from owning bakeries, barber shops, estate agencies and other such businesses at a time when local companies are retrenching and shutting down en masse.

Of course, indigenisation and value addition are necessary, but the underlying assumptions of this campaign smacks of incoherent ideological thinking. Ironically, the January deadline for companies will affect nationals from China, DRC, India, Nigeria and Pakistan, among others. This and other things like the “Look East” policy actually dramatise the problem.

Zimbabwe is “looking east”, while the East is looking West and in every other direction. Deng, with his cat metaphor, and Kwame Nkrumah’s words, long debunked this misleading linear thinking.

The truth is we don’t need such things as the “Look East” policy; we need progressive thinking and strategies of economic development. Governments can’t afford to think within the “Us versus Them” premise; their policies and decisions must be based on research, data, technocratic advice and citizen needs.

We live in a world of complex matrices and perplexing choices, so we need to be more nuanced and discerning in our understanding of issues. Crude and crass thinking doesn’t help anymore. Zimbabwe needs a coherent and pragmatic leadership, not insular and myopic rulers, more so when clashes over resources have become a political lightning rod in many mineral-rich countries like ours.



  • comment-avatar
    Hondokosi 9 years ago

    A well thought through and well written article !!

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    All trus, but Mugabe and ZANU-PF aren’t listening unfortunately.

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    All true, but Mugabe and ZANU-PF aren’t listening unfortunately.

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    Boss MyAss 9 years ago

    Great leaders must move from intention to impact. A powerful intention coalesces our thinking, belief and emotions around the transformation we want to create. Empathy is always the most difficult pinnacle in the transformation process. It focuses the direction of our efforts and helps chart the way forward. Intention is a deeply subjective mindset arising out of a personal story, which becomes a platform for change and transformation. Impact, however, happens in the external theatre where our personal story must engage effectively with the reality of the situation. The journey to impact only happens when leaders master the feat of holding this paradox together. Transformative leaders do two things simultaneously: they see the world through their eyes, and they see their actions through the eyes of the world.
    For that, leaders must learn to watch their intention through the eyes of the world, and in so doing, regulate and shape its expression. Intention and impact must go hand-in-hand; while the former provides a subjective map that helps us go forward, impact provides the objective compass that shapes what we must do in order to fulfill the intention. If it is self-awareness that allows the intention to flower, it is situational awareness, or the ability to read reality that regulates intention. The two must never stray away too far from each other.