Nigeria: The urgent need for strategic leadership

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By Phillip Eyam-Ozung | 24 March 2010 




The real implication of modern globalization reducing the world into a global village is that every inch of the global space has since become part of the world’s competitive landscape in which all people, enterprises and nations must compete for all available resources and opportunities in a way that makes the development and deployment of competitive-edge competencies and capabilities the sine qua non for personal and corporate success.


Thomas L. Friedman aptly captured the overwhelming impact of globalization in his book entitled The world is flat in which he wrote that ‘Globalized trade, out-sourcing, supply-chaining and political forces have changed the world permanently, for both better and worse…The pace of globalization is quickening and will continue to have a growing impact on business organization and practice’.


In my book entitled the roadmap to a new leadership paradigm, I posited that ‘Based on the socio-cultural, technological, political and economic impact of modern globalization on all people, enterprises and nations across the globe, it is clear that it is the degree of the economics of globalization that each person, enterprise or nation achieves compared to others that fundamentally determines the scale and scope of development that can be recorded! ‘ The corollary of my position is that development will continue to elude any person, enterprise or nation who/that is incapable of generating the level of the economics of globalization needed to drive much-needed development. But, the reality is that global competitiveness is the core driver of the economics of globalization and so the degree of the economics of globalization that is achieved always depends on how globally-competitive a person, enterprise or nation is.


Thanks to globalization, the global marketplace can now be likened to a highly-attractive and highly-competitive industry or market in which barriers to entry and exit are low and rapidly thinning out. Any strategist worth his salt knows that the design of competitive strategy for any enterprise or nation playing in such a competitive environment will succeed best if it’s situated within the context of a bloody battle-field in which the rule is ‘kill or be killed!’. The ‘battle-field’ scenario is most appropriate because the reality is that in any highly-competitive industry or market, competitive rivals are continuously plotting against each other in their legitimate bid to grow their marketshare! Three examples of the ‘kill or be killed’ competitive pitch will suffice.

In the 1950s, when RJR was the global leader in tobacco business, Philip Morris’ pursuit of industry leadership was hinged on their declared and documented mission to ‘Knock off RJR as the number one tobacco company in the world!’ In the 1960s, when Adidas was the global leader in sports wears, Nike’s pursuit of industry leadership was hinged on their declared and documented mission to ‘Crush Adidas!’ In the 1970s, when Yamaha was the global leader in motorcycle business, Honda’s pursuit of industry leadership was hinged on a most audacious and offensive mission which in the Japanese language read ‘Yamaha wo tsubusu! ‘ (meaning ‘We will destroy Yamaha!).


Given how well-established, formidable and dominant industry or market leaders typically become, the missions of these wannabes could have been dismissed as mere rhetoric. But, the evidence that Philip Morris, Nike and Honda were neither day-dreaming nor engaging in empty rhetoric is that they all went on to achieve industry leadership by taking out the industry leaders they resolved to overthrow! The foregoing examples underscore the competitive reality that once any player emerges the leader in his industry or market, he immediately becomes the legitimate target of everyone else in the field! Sometimes, where the leader is considered too formidable, the wannabes can adopt a common-enemy strategy by joining forces to take on him as Microsoft and a host of other players in the computer software industry recently joined forces to take on Apple which has long been the pace-setter and dominant leader in the applications business that is the biggest contributor to its bottom-line.


Though leaders usually have such advantages as name recognition, size, stronger brand franchise and larger resource-base over wannabes, wannabes still engineer leadership changes from time to time because they operate on the strength of strategy which enables them to overcome their resource constraints. The most successful wannabes are those who recognize that no matter how much-more sophisticated and complex competition in any industry or market becomes, the baton always changes hands when someone else somehow becomes better and faster at performing the four key activities of strategy which include building on strengths, correcting weaknesses, exploiting target opportunities and countering competitive and contingent threats than the leader and everyone else in the field! While many factors such as ethnicity, religious extremism, corruption and bad politics can be blamed for Nigeria’s scandalous under-development despite her huge reserve of high-yield natural resources, the truth is that all the above-listed ills are only symptoms of our failure to understand that strategy makes a much greater contribution to socio-political and economic development than resources because it’s what determines what works.


As a result of this fundamental lack of understanding, our political governance and leadership systems remain wholly resource-based rather than strategy-led. For as long as the sharing of oil revenues among the three tiers of government remains the center-piece of governance, for so long will Nigeria continue to pay the high developmental cost of neglecting strategy! Nigeria’s redemption doesn’t lie in the zoning of political offices- it lies in the migration of its political governance and leadership system from being wholly resource-based to being strategy-led.




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