There is a popular quote which states that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Human beings are prone to be intoxicated and controlled by absolute authority. Once individuals have access to absolute authority without checks and balances, they would be prone to control every aspect of their subjects.
There are different types of leaders and their difference determines the effectiveness of their position. There is the dictator; he believes that leadership can only be achieved through force and that the subjects would be illogical if not directed. These leaders actually believe that the masses are incapable of thinking for themselves; therefore, they should be directed. In the developing world, there has been rise of military dictatorship. Military dictatorship is always as a result of dysfunctional government and instability within a country. The military dictators usually develop a notion of messianic authority. Examples of dictatorship leaders who have seen themselves as some kind of messiah includes, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and also Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Leaders who have developed a messianic attitude usually believe that they are the only answer to the problems of their subjects. Nations struggling with abject poverty usually produces dictator-type government.
There is also the democrat. Democracy came from ancient Greece. It was believed that every individual is a government to himself and those individuals can represent themselves at a public sphere. The ancient Greek had a direct democracy that had influenced the current style of representative democracy that it is in United States. Leaders have a great influence on individual decisions. United States as a case study, the policies pushed by the president and the congress has greatly shaped individual behaviors and attitudes. The right of the government to legislate laws also gives them the abilities to legislate the decisions that people make. Because of the policies that have been passed over the years, individuals had to make decisions based on the law that has been laid down.
The best approach to understand the effect of authority over individual decision making is also to study the Aristotle analysis of leadership persuasion. He divided the leadership into three different categories. These categories include ethos, pathos and logos. The term ethos is a Greek word for ethics, and also known as credibility. Aristotle argued that for individuals to be able to influence the decision making of others, they must be trustworthy, reputable, have integrity and knowledgeable of their field. People follow leaders that they believe to have integrity and know what they are doing. In United States for example, while running for office, many candidates elude an attitude of integrity, aptitude and electability. Their goal is to convince people at the pole that they have the answers to the problem of the society. Even though they could have misconstrued themselves to the voters but they present themselves in the form of likability. Another significant aspect of ethos is charisma. People are always drawn to leaders with charisma. Charisma is always a major component of what make leaders influence the thought process of their audience.
Aristotle further argued another aspect of leadership persuasion, which is pathos. Pathos also means emotion. Pathos is some sort of emotional and motivational appeals. There is a quotient test which is known as emotional intelligence. People who have the abilities to know what others are thinking and know how to relate with them get the best out of others. People are emotional beings. The aspect emotion could be awaken stronger in religious and political organizations. People could be drawn to a personality rather than understanding. Issues that are most pressing to individuals are those which get people emotional. Great leaders have been able to understand the most urgent needs of the people and use that as a benchmark to win their political and emotional will.
Aristotle further explains the third aspect of leadership persuasion, which is the logos. The logos simply represent logic. Logic is used to support a claim (induction and deduction). It can also be the facts and statistics used to help and support the argument. Aristotle sees logic as the most reasonable means of persuasion. This makes sense because ancient Greek philosophy was greatly influenced by logos. Logic involves active reasoning and being able to make sense to others. When there is a clarity of claim, people become less apprehensive. Leaders who can accurately explain their standpoint influences others to follow them. For example, Christians see the bible as the authority and the true word of God, so they accept it as logical and sane. The atheist debunks the idea of God existence because they see it as illogical and un-intellectual.
Sometimes, logic could be a fight of two worlds competing to affirm its truthfulness. Leaders with the ability to articulate what they believe usually end up as leaders of the sect. It is also the functional aspect of an organizational. Leaders who can show that he or she understands and highly convicted of their stand tend to pull more crowd and could also change the course of history. For example, Martin Luther King became the front man of civil justice in a divided America that has denied the rights to the blacks. Martin Luther king with his vocal abilities was able to influence many people to demand their civil right. Someone like Malcolm X was also able to rise to the top leadership of the nation of Islam because of his great abilities to sound logical and to recruit many young people. The world is always searching for people who look like they know what they are talking about and could also convince others to follow.
A mentor of mine and an American Statesman once stated, “Man’s greatness consists in his ability to do and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done.” We all do have the ability to acquire the leadership needed to influence and apply ourselves in the society. Only few people make this attempt. Once we realize our place and mission, we would also become part of the few. As Nigerians, we need to understand this in order to decide who our leaders are or plan to take leadership positions towards steering our country right.
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Busola I. Obayomi is a dynamic leader who has branded himself as a leadership guru. Busola has served as a student government leader and in various leadership capacities. He has worked closely with New York state elected officials, starting from the City council to New York State Legislature. He is also a founder of Youth Zeal Initiative, whose mission is to empower young people in using their gifts and talents to inspire others.