Tuesday, June 5, 2018
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"A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special."

- Nelson Mandela

eyond the noise of the soundbite, writing penetrates the minds and hearts of the populace. Written words are the footprints a leader leaves in the sands of time. Letters, speeches, communiques, memoirs, directives, and books all reveal a leader's heart, ideology, and worldview. Above all, a leader writes the story her people will believe.

Why should a leader write?

  • Writing elevates a leader to the plane of a thinker. S/he becomes a thought-leader and influencer.

  • Writing forces people to pay attention; particularly learned people.

  • You communicate more coherently and purposefully in print.

  • Reader-centered writing fosters clarity and productivity.

  • When you write for action, you accelerate change.

  • It helps both leader and the led to make sense of the world around them.

What should a leader write?

A Vision: a leader should outline where they are taking the nation, what they see the nation achieving during their tenure, or dreams they have to the future. When J.F. Kennedy wanted to take America to the moon, he wrote a speech that sold the vision.

A Blueprint: The great statesman, Obafemi Awolowo wrote the blueprint for the development of western Nigeria. Those plans are still accessible to any leader who chooses to build and not loot today.

Strategies: How are we tackling the crisis in the middle belt? How do we ensure a reduction in oil-dependency by 2030? So much to think through, and writing facilitates thinking.

Policies, laws, processes, and procedures: govern actions of people and organizations to promote civil society.

Budgets, Contracts, Accounts, and Loan Agreements: The numbers must be written for all to make sense of them. You cannot account for what you don't count. Of course, writing the numbers may reduce loopholes for embezzlement.

Speeches: Writing your speech before delivering it allows you to structure your ideas in an orderly fashion. Generally, when we speak, thoughts wonder and take our mouths along for the ride. So, we ramble. But a written speech, precludes such circumlocution.

Letters: One would think in the age of soundbites, the written word is obsolete, but there's much that recommends the art of writing - putting paper to pen, fingers to keyboard or even voice to dictation. Many who would typically tune off the musings of a former president, avidly read Obasanjo's letter to Buhari. In today's parlance, writing effective emails, text messages, and media posts, is key.

Stories: People who don't write their own stories are cursed to accept whatever others write about them. To counter such a dire fate, leaders who write stories their people read, inspire self-esteem, courage, joy, and other virtues in the people. Mamman Vatsa wrote poetry and Ken Saro Wiwa wrote novels.

The biographies of leaders are particularly instructive of the possibilities and opportunities available to others who like them, may come from improbable backgrounds but aspire to greatness. Biographies of Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Jomo Kenyatta, and myriad others inspire and motivate.

Leaders face rapid change and growing complexity in our world today. If they can't make sense of what's going on, how can the citizens?

Writing begins the conversation.