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We all should approach face mask issues as leaders, not as politicians

Saturday February 13 2021
mask pic

EUTERS/FRANCIS KOKOROKO

By Epiphania Kimaro

In January, the Mayor of Moshi ordered meeting delegates who were wearing face masks to take them off: “I’m the mayor and I’m not wearing one, yet you’re wearing them. Does that mean you love yourself more?” But why did he do that is a question still ringing in people’s heads.

Well, what the mayor did could be a well thought approach that seemed appropriate according to his judgement, or it could have been one of those things that jump off the mind without much thought. But in any case, it would be great to put his reaction into perspective and may be try to extract some sense from it – if any!


Leadership style

‘Do as I do… Act as I act… I am always right’ was in summary what the mayor was communicating. But what kind of leadership style is this? Among the common leadership styles, such as visionary, transformational, democratic, and servant, his approach was autocratic. In an autocratic leadership style, the leader often makes decisions alone and expects followers to do exactly what they’re asked.

Of course, every leadership style has its advantages and disadvantages. Plus, leadership is more situational than a set-in-stone approach. As such, a good leader is one who can adjust his style to match the situation. The challenge with an autocratic leadership style is that the rigidity and lack of respect for the other person’s choice can cause resentment among the people and undermines the leader’s ability to get desired results.

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Putting all politics aside - which is what our leaders should do when it comes to public health – the incident of the Mayor of Moshi was simply a matter of leadership skills and ethics. A good leader tells his/her followers what needs to be achieved, and allow them the opportunity to creatively devise ways to achieve that end-goal. The end-goal for the government is for people to stay safe from bouts of infectious diseases.

The government has of course put in place some recommendations for the public, but that does not mean that people cannot explore additional measures to keep themselves safe as long as they cause no harm to others. It’s mind boggling trying to make sense of the claim that a person’s decision to wear a face mask will trigger public fear.

The values of Mwalimu Nyerere really emphasized the importance of leadership ethics that genuinely respect other people. If you respect the people you lead, you should also respect their choices - especially when they are matters concerning preserving one’s life. As the new generation in Tanzania would ask ‘Kwani unakwama wapi?’


Development as freedom

Another way of looking at this issue is from the development perspective. The ideas of Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel laureate in Economics, resonate very well here. He argues that development is freedom - including freedom of choice. How can we say we are developed, or even developing, if we cannot give our people the most basic freedom of making a choice on how to protect their health?


Wisdom

‘Do you love yourself more’ is what the Mayor asked, in backing up his order to remove the masks. Of course, they love themselves more - or, at least, as they love others! If the Mayor is a believer, he should have recollected the wisdom of the Word of God on loving your neighbour as you love yourself. Loving others is grounded in loving yourself first. In summary, incidents like this paint our leaders with a dirty brush - and compromises people’s trust in the fellow’s ability to lead. Perhaps our political leaders need more leadership up-skilling, and a refresher on the essence of mutual respect between leaders and the led. Especially in our digital world where almost everything will leave a permanent digital footprint. But, what footprints, what values, are we as a people leaving behind for the children who we expect to be leaders of our nation in the future?

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Ms Kimaro writes about careers, personal development and issues affecting youth and women