Many of the world's greatest leaders have most things in common. These individuals may not appear to be the prototypical leader, but they possess many traits of what we can now call the “Unlikely Leaders”.
What do you imagine when you think of a leader? There have been several individuals past and present that we will classify as great leaders, or even the greatest leaders of all times. Many of these individuals may not appear to be the prototypical leader, but they possess many traits of what we can now call the “Unlikely Leader”. What an Unlikely Leader might look like? All “Unlikely Leaders” have the following traits:
Education comes from a less traditional source
Experience has been the primary teacher
Possess an unusual skill set in comparison to others in the field
Willing to take extraordinary risks in order to reach success
One prominent example of a modern day “Unlikely Leader” is Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela's Zero-to-Hero Story is a fascinating one. For Nelson Mandela, nothing worth fighting for can be achieved without struggle. He once wrote in determination: “The struggle is my life.” Mandela became engaged in politics through the African National Congress, which he joined in 1942, and quickly banded with a small group of young members who wanted to step up the tactics of the ANC. Today, Mandela is celebrated internationally as the first black president of South Africa who liberated his country from the oppressive system of apartheid, but for much of his life, Mandela was fighting for freedom underground and in prison.
Locally in Sierra Leone, a less known “Unlikely Leader” is emerging in the person of Dr. Richard Konteh. Like most Sierra Leoneans, Richard Konteh's early life was poor and hard. He was born in Gbendembu Ngowahun Chiefdom, to a primary school teacher and an entrepreneurial housewife. His parents struggled very hard to make ends meet, and in ensuring their kids attain standard education.
Richard Konteh graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education, and a Master of Arts Degree in Education from Njala University (University of Sierra Leone). He also holds a Master of Science Degree in Development Planning and Management, Jointly Offered by the University of Dortmund, Germany, and the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. Richard furthered his studies at the University of Dortmund in Germany where he graduated with a PhD degree in Spatial Planning and Development Coordination.
To Dr. Richard Konteh, character always matters, hard work is in his bones, doing what’s right is a way of life, and making good on his debt of gratitude to Sierra Leone is a lifelong commitment. Dr. Richard Konteh has a great sense of humor and a unique ability to motivate those around him. Today, Dr. Richard Konteh is a loving, kind and caring family man. Showing immense support towards his family – he encouraged them to be the best people they could be. He believes in the principle that a man is called to be a servant-leader—to take responsibility for his wife and children and to put their needs ahead of his own. He is called to demonstrate selfless, sacrificial love—the type of love we see in God toward His children. This is the same principle he holds toward every human being - young and old.
Dr. Richard Konteh does not have the flamboyant lifestyle of most leaders we know, or the captivating delivery of many other politicians. His unique ability and sense of humor enable him to overcome adversities and has enabled him to be successful in almost every venture he has been part of.
Dr. Richard Konteh has held many top enviable positions in public service and led many organizations. No wonder his successes attracted the envy of some of his peers, who tried to destroy him by falsely accusing him of corruption (the allegations were thrown out of court for lack of evidence).
In 2007, Dr. Richard Konteh was appointed Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development. His outstanding performance led to his appointment as Minister of Trade and Industry where he led the development and implementation of Trade Policy and provided policy guidance and supervision to affiliated institutions. He established the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Fund that provided affordable loans to SMEs. He developed and domesticated the Local Content Policy (now Local Content Law) of Sierra Leone. He registered marked improvements in Sierra Leone’s Ease of Doing Business rankings achieving the status of 6th most improved country in the world for Ease of Doing Business.
He rebranded Sierra Leone around the world and attracted more investors to Sierra Leone more than ever in the history of this country. Hosted the first ever investment forum in Sierra Leone that attracted over 300 reputable investors to the country.
Few years later, his continuous impressive performance convinced the President to appoint him as the Chief Minister (Chief of Staff to the President Ernest Bai Koroma). As Chief Minister, Dr. Richard Konteh coordinated the successful implementation of the President’s Agenda for Change and the Agenda for Prosperity. He facilitated the implementation of key government and Cabinet decisions, and provided technical and managerial oversight over critical activities of Ministries, Departments and Agencies. Achieved Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Compliance. He facilitated the fulfillment of all criteria to achieve Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact. He successfully established the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Programme, Performance Management and Service Delivery (PMSD) Directorate , and the Right to Access Information Commission.
Today, as the All People’s Congress (APC) Party is facing serious challenges both internally and externally, at a time when all the big names have either deserted the party, retreated to the trenches, or are playing it safe, Dr. Richard Konteh has personally taken on the burdens of the party on his shoulders. He is the voice dedicated to defend and articulate the views of the party at this difficult time. He stood and challenged the National Electoral Commission during the Tonko-Limba Councillors bye-election. He is leading the party's position in challenging the credibility of the 2020 mid-term population and housing census in Sierra Leone declared by president Bio. He is also leading the party's position in challenging the credibility of the White Paper on the Biobele Commission of Inquiry.
In these times of massive political and economic upheaval, the APC Party and Sierra Leone will benefit immensely by putting faith on the spirit and abilities, and the indispensable, unlikely leadership of Dr. Richard Konteh. He might just be our salvation.