3-4 Rehoboam assembled Jeroboam and all the people. They said to Rehoboam, “Your father made life hard for us—worked our fingers to the bone. Give us a break; lighten up on us and we’ll willingly serve you.”
5 “Give me three days to think it over, then come back,” Rehoboam said.
6 King Rehoboam talked it over with the elders who had advised his father when he was alive: “What’s your counsel? How do you suggest that I answer the people?”
7 They said, “If you will be a servant to this people, be considerate of their needs and respond with compassion, work things out with them, they’ll end up doing anything for you.”
8-9 But he rejected the counsel of the elders and asked the young men he’d grown up with who were now currying his favor, “What do you think? What should I say to these people who are saying, ‘Give us a break from your father’s harsh ways—lighten up on us’?”
10-11 The young Turks he’d grown up with said, “These people who complain, ‘Your father was too hard on us; lighten up’—well, tell them this: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. If you think life under my father was hard, you haven’t seen the half of it. My father thrashed you with whips; I’ll beat you bloody with chains!’”
12-14 Three days later Jeroboam and the people showed up, just as Rehoboam had directed when he said, “Give me three days to think it over, then come back.” The king’s answer was harsh and rude. He spurned the counsel of the elders and went with the advice of the younger set, “If you think life under my father was hard, you haven’t seen the half of it. My father thrashed you with whips; I’ll beat you bloody with chains!”
1 Kings 12: 3-14 MSG
Reading further down the passage, this response of Rehoboam lead to a division in the Kingdom, into Judah, presided over by Rehoboam and Israel, presided over by Jeroboam. It would be interesting to note that, Jeroboam ruled over 2% only of the tribes of Israel due to this misjudgment of his. So how does this affect leadership and nation building?
Leadership is not by right, it is earned. And in this our dispensation, monarchy have fast faded out and given way to a generation of leaders, who earn that right to lead and not think it as a right. Although in some instances, we have people who still think leadership is their birthright…thus leading to despotic leadership and dictatorship.
As a leader, you have a responsibility to lead, command and guide but not to lord yourself nor beguile yourself to leadership nuances. In the words of John Maxwell, “He who thinks he leads but has no followers, is only taking a walk”. This is an apt description of the Rehoboam menace.
Leaders, from the foundation of the world, have been known to be unbiased, fair and just in their dispensation of justice and management of people and resources. This has earned them a place in the annals of history has been wise, just and noble. And it helped them to build, a solid based of loyalties and a strong capital base of people, resources and a State.
In Nigeria, the Rehoboam menace reared itself up more often than not in our political landscape. And not only there, in virtually every sector of our lives; Corporate, Family, Church, Alumni Platforms, just name it. And it is a menace that tears down structures that have been built by sweat and toil of people…who laid a foundation of equity, trust, and truthfulness.
A classic example, Governors Ajumobi of Oyo State and Amosun of Ogun State, both suffered a humiliating defeat at the just concluded polls simply because they had lorded themselves over people as against leading them. Same applies to Bukola Saraki in Kwara, who was humbled by his subjects at the poll by rejecting him. This is was a result of them taking advantage of their positions and undermining the will of the people they govern.
And it’s not predicated in Political circles as mentioned earlier, in corporate settings as well, it’s highly prevalent and endemic most times. Have you asked yourself, the post you occupy, are you accountable to the people you lead, enough for them to trust your leadership?
Someone shared a story of how, his immediate superior, rejected a salary increment amongst all her peers, and rather, demanded salary increment for her subordinates after which she’s can be increased. The action shocked the management, her colleagues and her subordinates. The result, the attempted increment was eventually canceled that year and an overall review was done by the management for salary increment, amongst her peers…anger. But amongst her subordinates, their respect and loyalty for her went sky-high. And he was sharing this story, 10 years after it happened, and the respect has not waned an inch and they do regular business together till date!
Leadership is about serving…and not ruling. It’s about administering and not governing. It’s a whole world of difference. If you can’t be emphatic as a leader, then you have no business being in leadership. Let’s take a cue from the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who in the wake of the deadly shootings rose up to the challenge and made executive pronouncements to tackle the issue of gun control head on and also readily identified with the anguished victims in the massacre. Compare that to US President Donald Trump, who despite all the deadly massacres on his watch, he has not budged on gun control, but rather suggests an idea that could further exacerbate the situations.
Let’s bring it down to our Country Nigeria, if we are inured from the day to day realities we face…failing health care system, dilapidated schools, poor infrastructure, inept civil service, then we have failed in leadership. And this leadership is not about pointing fingers to our “elected” representatives, but it’s to us… it’s from our midst they got elected, do we as individuals hold ourselves accountable to our environment and society? Do we play our civic roles as citizens or we await a messiah who would do it for us?
Leadership is about accountability… If we cannot be accountable to ourselves and to the people around us, then collectively as a people we suffer the rehoboam disease of leadership. It’s not far-fetched…who empties waste in drainages knowing the implications? Who runs traffic red-light? Who seeks a short-cut to getting things done? Who refuses to follow the law to the letter? Who discounts laid down procedures? Who makes the rules but yet disobeys it? We could go on and on…but the truth is it’s you. Or you think how can I be a leader? Let me make it clear to you, do you have one or two people that look up to you for guidance? Or better put, do you have people that you have influence over them? Yes or yes? Yes! That makes you a leader! You don’t need to have a title to become a leader. That one person could be you as well…for you will lead yourself to do the right or wrong thing depending on your moral persuasion. But the bottom line is this, we are all leaders in our sphere!
Corporate, Political, Religious, Social…as individual leaders, we have a civic responsibility, let me rephrase, we have a moral responsibility, no it doesn’t fit, we have a terrestrial responsibility to hold ourselves accountable in all our actions and deeds. The Rotarian Four-Way Test readily comes to mind on this issue of leadership and how leaders behave;
1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all?
TRUTH: Is the action am about to take as a leader, true to my nature and to our common belief system? Would it be regarded as truth by the other end or seen as deception?
FAIRNESS: Is the action fair to all concerned? Will the lowliest and most disadvantaged of all people view that action as fair? How do you monitor your fairness level without bias?
GOODWILL AND BETTER FRIENDSHIPS: Is your action winning you true friendship or face valued friendship? Is it growing your emotional deposit account with people or overdrawing your emotional deposit account with people? Will your relationship with people as a leader stand the true test of time or it would fall like a pack of cards in the day of adversity?
BENEFICIAL: Will your actions favor everyone or just a privileged few? Will your decision be helpful to all, or just a privileged few?
Let’s weigh ourselves as an individual, and as corporate, religious/spiritual and political Leaders on the 4-way test scale, in whatever capacity we may find ourselves, so we don’t suffer the Rehoboam leadership disease.
In the words of John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader“. Brian Tracy aptly puts it, “Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position“.