By Wakuma Kudama

Since early this year, Ethiopia has been celebrating the 7th anniversary of the commencement of the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The nation is also planning to start electricity generation on the Dam this year. According to the Office of National Council for the Coordination of Public Participation on the Construction of GERD, two turbines each with capacity to generate 375 MW have already been installed and are waiting to test electricity generation.

The GERD, which will be Africa’s largest dam upon completion with a total volume of 74 billion cubic meters, was started in April 2011 with a cost of more than 4.7 billion U.S. dollars. This project, owned and financed by the Ethiopian government, has reached 64 percent completion. It is believed that the electricity generated from the dam will be sold as far north to Morocco and as far south to Tanzania while more than 50 percent of the dam’s electricity will be sold to Nile River Basin and neighboring countries.

While celebrating this anniversary it is also proper to honour the leadership that brought the GERD into existence. For more than a century, the leaders of the nation had been planning to begin the construction on the Nile River though none of them succeeded. Fortunately seven years ago, the courageous leadership of the incumbent dared to lay a cornerstone on the river to begin the construction of the dam that would play pivotal role in accelerating nation’s green economic development.

We are pretty sure that the demonstration of this courageous leadership is rooted in the thoughts of the great leader late Meles Zenawi who conceptualized the Dam that can transform the energy sector to accelerate the intended development of the nation. The leader whose skillful, strategic and determined leadership brought the biggest hydro-electric power and other mega projects in Africa into a reality has a very significant place in Ethiopia’s Renaissance.

Hence, this piece tries to deal with one of the qualities among the many, evident in the life of the leader. When we ponder on the tremendous leadership he demonstrated and the legacies he left behind, we deduce that he has a very unique and developed character, what I call inner discipline. In my view, few leaders would possess this unique quality, inner discipline. It is one of the essential qualities that determine the success of a leader. The extraordinary leadership Meles demonstrated would be the outward expression of his intense inner discipline.

According to his biographers, Meles was consistently abiding in very hectic schedule. He disciplined himself to read and research unceasingly. As a result, he consumed a number of classics of politics, economics, medicines, religions and the like to qualify himself as a complete leader. The outcome of this self-disciplined state is very evident in his economic, diplomatic, political analysis.

It is conscious to ask, ‘How did Meles gain this discipline?’ The answer could be ‘from circumstances.’ It is usual that effective leaders gain mental and physical strengths through experiencing difficulties. More than his readings, the unique situations he experienced sharpened his leadership skills. For instance, he passed through difficult circumstances in the struggle to overthrow the Dictatorial regime. Experiencing adversities in the battle field strengthened him in a mighty way for the great responsibility that was ahead of him. Leading the nation during the transitional period was another difficult circumstance qualified the leader for extraordinary assignment.

Lessons that are acquired in circumstances can never be gained from reading or schools. That is why leaders those who do not have an opportunity to be tested in difficulties lack steadfastness and courage leadership require.

Other leaders can learn this essential quality, discipline, from Meles in order to lead successfully as he did. Disorganized, undisciplined and slothful leaders are inefficient to meet the growing challenging situations of the world that needs very determined, skillful, coordinated leadership.

Careful study of the lives of leaders indicates that a leader cannot be effective simply because he learned certain principles. The character leadership requires often developed by trouble. The difficulties leaders experience are character building opportunity; even the greater the difficulties, the more opportunities for strengthening mental muscle and moral fiber. The circumstances are temporary while the character that enables the leader to be efficient has long lasting effect. Great leaders like Meles who possessed well cultivated character, inner discipline, sacrificed their own comfort to stand up for the dignity and comfort of their nation. They courageously prepare themselves to pay the price of change they design for their nations. Because of his inner discipline cultivated through circumstances, he excelled his leadership. His ability to concentrate became much sharper, his understanding more perceptive, his memory more alert and his reasoning more explicit. He led more effectively, thought more comprehensively, and grasped the thoughts of others more easily. How clear were his public speeches. How dignified are his ideas among African leaders.

In short, Meles has acquired unique character from the circumstances he passed through. This character, discipline, has enabled him to demonstrate excellent leadership to the highest degree where competition does not exist. It is also unlikely for leaders who are not transformed by troubles to remain steadfast and lead in difficult situations. Thus, they ought to learn from Meles to lead in mighty manner. (Courtesy of Ethiopian Herald)