Opinion

THE FLAWED COPYCAT LEADERSHIP STYLE OF NEVERS MUMBA

NEW hope MMD president Nevers Mumba is always caught up in one controversy or the other, but he became even more contentious when he attempted to justify his claims that the election result in the recently held Lukashya parliamentary by-election were not a true reflection of what transpired on the ground.
He embarrassingly alleged that his party had overwhelming evidence of the rigging that happened in favour of the PF candidate, Mr George Chisanga, adding that if not checked, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) together with the PF would plunge the country into chaos especially in the 2021 general elections.
Demonstrating his lack of judgement, he also accused the PF of setting up an Information Communication and Technology (ICT) centre in Lusaka whose function was to manipulate the election result next year.
The MMD leader also called for the overhaul of the current ECZ and put in place new leadership that would deliver a credible, free and fair election next year.
Perhaps emboldened by the Malawian Head of State’s day-return official visit to Zambia, the MMD leader alleged that in its current form, the ECZ was compromised, and called on all political stakeholders to take keen interest in the matter and demand for change at the electoral body when most of the Zambian people felt that it was unacceptable and unnecessary to do so.
So, did the MMD leader’s actions smack of sedition? Not quite. But for many observers like myself, who passionately support Pentecostal reverends moving into politics, especially in Africa, the MMD leader, turned out to be a huge disappointment to many. Thankfully, a first Pentecostal president had just emerged in Malawi’s Lazarus Chakwera.
Known and unknown to many, Nevers Mumba attended the swearing-in-ceremony of the newly-elected president of Malawi. He was invited to the ceremony as a special guest to the president-elect.
He was the only foreign dignitary at the ceremony that saw Malawi install the sixth president. The fact is PF politicians are, at worst, just a little uncomfortable at the astonishing publicity of this kind of evangelic turn of events.
But at best they are actually rather grateful that the likes of Malawi’s Lazarus Chakwera were in the country on an official state visit. This is because the main goal of the Pentecostal churches is, officially at least, benediction and salvation of poor souls rather than political agitation.
They believe God appoints leaders and Christians are duty bound to pray for them. If Zambia is suffering from a scarcity of good leadership then it is God’s design.
All of this puts the MMD leader in an interesting position. Although on the surface a devout Pentecostal televangelist, who has the keen ear of Malawi’s incumbent president, it has been said that he would prefer to copy and paste the bouncing back to power in Malawi of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) which in his view, offers hope to the MMD in Zambia.
This is believed to be connected to his unmistakable copycat leadership style of antagonism towards the ECZ and ruling party officials whom he accused of rigging the just-ended parliamentary by-elections.
In response, the PF said that it was planning to take the MMD leader to court following his allegations that the ruling party rigged the recently-held Lukashya parliamentary by-election.
But analysts say this is a symptom of the MMD leader’s flawed copycat leadership style. He wants to copy the seemingly idyllic leadership lifestyle of Dr Chakwera.
This may result in short-term success, but rarely will it yield the lasting impact that comes only from a deeper study of great leaders. So how can the MMD leader avoid falling into the copycat leadership trap?
Whilst there is certainly nothing wrong with recognising the great style and achievements in others, one does need to exercise some caution to not simply become a mimic or copycat. Effective leadership requires more than simply tracing the steps of those role models one regards as successful.
If the MMD leader was to think about the great leaders he had worked for in the past invariably they were leading political parties to new levels of growth, breaking into new support bases or holding vote-rich share during times when everyone else was going empty-handed.
They were bringing people and talents together to reach new levels of political performance and they weren’t doing this by simply copying what everyone else around them was doing.
If Nevers Mumba can’t find his own voice, he’ll end up with a vocabulary that belongs to someone else, mouthing words that were written by some speechwriter or mimicking the language of some other leader who’s nothing like him at all.
If the words he speaks are not his words but someone else’s, he will not in the long term be able to be consistent in word and deed. He will not have the integrity to lead.
Undeniably, copycat behaviour is ultimately both self limiting and unsustainable. Whilst the MMD leader can definitely learn from those around him, he ultimately needs to make it relevant to his own teams and political agendas.
Failing to find his own voice and style risks him as being kept small and perceived as disingenuous or lacking in confidence and/or capability to do what he was elected to do.
Truly successful leaders have achieved their success by distilling their own core values, experiences and exposures and matching them with environments that embrace these attributes. Combined with a very strong and clear understanding about what it is they need to do and deliver to be successful they have learnt to master the art of really ‘showing up’ with authenticity and purpose.
All in all, as long as Zambia continues to operate in a political climate of volatility, uncertainty, change and unpredictability the need for unique leadership will not cease. Opposition elements and those new to political leadership in the country would do well to remember this.

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