Leading Into Leadership — Styles

Ato Ulzen-Appiah
5 min readSep 5, 2018

Ever since the year 2003, I have seen people say I would be the president of Ghana. They must have seen something in me. Some have been saying #Ato4President for a long time. But that’s not the point of this post so we won’t get into that. I would rather have people say I am (not I would be) a great leader. I don’t think I am a really great leader (which is what we need to see) but I am trying and would love to be known as one of the best leaders of all time. The same way Alex Ferguson is one of the greatest managers of all time. Beyonce is one of the greatest singers of all time. Tim Duncan is one of the best basketball players of all time. Oprah is one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time. The late Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest leaders of all time. Catch my drift? I have blogged about (my) leading into leadership at KNUST-JSS, Presec, Syracuse, MIT, etc. Where am I today? Let’s see.

One fine day in May, Naomi Kokuro (the #bcksi logistics lead) asked me “How do you describe your leadership style? Personally. And how do you think the members will describe your leadership style?” She continued, “As a leader, u need to know how your fellows describe your leadership style. This will help you to know if you are in tune with them”. She added some more fine insight, “You should get your people to feel responsible for every activity they do not compulsion or obligated. Once they do it as an obligation, The results is not sustainable” Odikro papapaa!

You see, I disagree with me needing to make them feel responsible. I responded “That’s not my job entirely. I don’t have the time and energy to do that for everybody”. Naomi didn’t agree with me, what about you? Let me know.

Naomi Kokuro (@EMBAhenfie): ”Sad. ❌❌❌ (yes, she typed this hehe). The moment you lead, you become responsible. Not to force them but your actions will influence. No time or energy stuff”.

I disagree. (Disagreeing is fine, no?) I want to lead people who would be more responsible. I haven’t said I’m not responsible, but I am no interested in working with people I have to ‘babysit’. I am looking for people who would be proactive, which is not exactly the same as people who are leaders (but that’s fine).

I’ve spoken about leadership styles twice at SOS HGIC in Tema (not Junior Camp Ghana related) and shared some examples. You can google articles talking about leadership styles, she’s a great friend. My leadership style is a mix of strategic, transformational and facilitative. Strategic because I like to lead based on strategy, seeing how things would work, research and testing this. There is some design thinking and engineering in here if you dig deep. And it is important to pick out the best strategies and improve them as we all work on them. Transformational because I believe in transforming people. There are so many people out there who could be much better than they are and it is our collective responsibility to help these people because we all benefit. I always want to see people around me grow so they can take on more responsibility, new tasks, add value, bring more success for everyone to benefit, whether it is in terms of recognition, money, feeling good, etc. Facilitative because I believe good information must spread. In order to generate success (however you measure it), one must facilitate the right things and best practices to be done. That one is a leader who understand the importance of facilitation and the responsibility to help make things happen.

Naomi Kokuro: “You should as a leader analyse yourself and leadership style once a while”. Un, deux, trois, quatre. I think GhanaThink members will describe my leadership style as transformational, coaching and charismatic. I pay a lot of attention to coaching people I work with to do better. I do this privately and publicly depending on the situation. You don’t think Sir Alex does the same? Do you call it shade or tough love? Ah well, up to you. At the end of the day, we are a team, win or lose. We need to reduce repetition of mistakes and be on the same page with our X’s and O’s (I’m not talking about xoxo puhlease). This is why Gregg Popovich’s leader — Tim Duncan — has been called a Team First Superstar. Leaders know that role players and other team members are very important, you have to kerr as a leader. I believe I have a lot of charisma. I won’t talk plenty, lemme rhyme for you — Obama.

Esperanza Felicia Yakubu (@EspeeGH) who has been part of the Barcamp Accra and Jobcamp Koforidua teams and is now working with Digital Opportunity Trust — DOT (connected to GhanaThink’s Ghana Youth Social Entrepreneurship Program) chimed in: “I think you are a combination of laissez-faire and democratic”.

That democracy word. Sigh. I responded: “I can see some of that too. I guess one can’t really be one leadership style. I am not a big fan of democracy so I doubt I’d go around saying I am a democratic leader hehe”. Can we dissuade our minds of the opinion that you are either democratic (good) or autocratic (bad) as a leader? There is so much more in between. No matter what cracy is involved, the best decisions must be made and implemented in leadership. That is why I like consensus building. If one of your next thoughts was Paul Kagame and Rwanda, good on you, you see where I am going.

@EspeeGH posted (on Whatsapp, not Twitter): “The laissez-faire style is what I see most in you. Reason being that these type of leaders serve as mentors, have great motivational skills. They try to hire the best people and then trust them with the process. Proof is the Barcamp teams most of the time teams organize and reports to you. My thought though”.

Someone needs to write an article about reporting, followership, communication and leadership. One might exist, but because of the notion of followership, it might not. Is that a word? Maybe. I use it.

You have heard that song, haven’t you. What’s your flava, tell me what’s your flavour? I have told you about mine. Let us learn from you. Comment and let us all know. We’re a team of learners who want to be better leaders.



Ato Ulzen-Appiah

I’m part of @GhanaThink which runs @barcampghana @JuniorCampGhana @volunteeringh, etc & @Museke. Read #mightyafrican blogs & @Abocco’s @ #GhanaConscious.