Addis Ababa, July 13, 2014 – For a nation that has a history of leaders who held a patriarchal place in the populace they ruled, the issue and style of leadership remains an intense subject of interest, gossip observed. All the more for a leader whose predecessor was not an absolute monarch nor a military dictator, but no less commanding in his Napoleonic premiership, the genre of leadership style Hailemariam Desalegn follows creates curiosity among many students of Ethiopian politics, gossip sees.
A man of faith, soft spoken and humble in his traits, Hailemariam is watched by those up close and afar from the power corridor, with keen interest as to what sort of leader will come of him. Some go as far as wondering whether there is even a “leader” in him at all, gossip observed. From the off-mark cynicism over his role in the state house as a man simply used by other forces, to his supporters admiring his knack in rapidly learning the tools of leadership, no doubt his manners are closely followed, claims gossip.
Yet, he rules over a country with people who have lived through and admire “a strong leader”. They want him to be decisive, imposing and uncompromising, according to gossip. Ethiopia is a place little interested in a leader whose desire is to build consensus among colleagues and team members, claims gossip. Little surprise then that Hailemariam’s recent reading list may have included a book entitled, “The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age”, authored by Archie Brown, a British emeritus professor of political science, gossip claims.
Highly acclaimed for his studies of leaders across the world, from Roosevelt to Churchill, Stalin to Hitler, Mao Zedong to Castro and Blair to Mandela, Brown is no fan of those considered to be “strong leaders”. Rather, he likes leaders such as Abraham Lincoln; Clement Attlee, a British Prime Minister known for his modesty, who filled in the shoes of Churchill, a very strong leader and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, who is credited to brining the Cold War to an end.
The tenet of Brown’s argument is that strong leaders are not necessarily good for societies, while collegial leaders do less harm, for they have constraints in exercising “executive power”. Hailemariam too could land in the favourites list of the Oxford Don, precisely because he is a “cabinet prime minister” in his leadership style. Voices around him, however, have complained that he is reluctant in his decision making, claims gossip.
If lessons from text books are not sufficient, Ethiopia’s “Executive Prime Minister” will soon have an audience with the American “Executive President”, during a side meeting scheduled for August 2014, gossip disclosed. Hailemariam is to attend a US-Africa Leadership Summit, in Washington DC, where several heads of state from Africa are invited, according to gossip.
A few weeks earlier though, Hailemariam will listen to the world’s richest businessman and philanthropist, Bill Gates, speaking on issues none other than leadership, gossip reveals. As part of his two-nation itinerary, Gates will fly to Ethiopia before going to Tanzania, where he is scheduled to address invited guests to the Addis Abeba University, in the last week of July, 2014, according to gossip.
Leading a charity organisation with a strong focus on agriculture and health, Gates will probably speak on the key factors he believes is currently driving growth in Africa; “a strong leadership”, disclosed gossip.
In the end, Hailemariam will have a tough choice to make from the menu of advice he is due to recieve, from a fellow leader to the wealthiest man on earth, as well as a retired professor who has been studying political leadership for close to half a century, gossip claims.