There seems to be universal agreement on what happens when there is lack of effective leadership. The origin of the proverb , a fish rots from the head may be disputed since I have heard before that it is from the Luo but I saw somewhere else that it is Chinese. I choose to believe that it is Luo; for obvious reasons. The Kikuyu have an equivalent, ‘iri guthua ndongoria, itikinyagira nyeki’ (someone will have to help me with those funny characters). This translates roughly to mean that when cows have a limp on their front limbs, they are unable to reach the grass.
If effective leadership is to be understood as influencing people to achieve set goals, then it is obvious how to measure success or failure for that matter. As long as the cows can’t reach the grass we know that there is a problem at the front and when the fish starts to give out an unfriendly odour we better check the head first to confirm if it is indeed rotting.
This is the same case with leadership. Ineffective leaders do not only hinder progress, they make it impossible. People might therefore keep very busy and do a lot of things but in the end no results are achieved. In fact, people will tend to do more in situations that lack effective leadership but achieve far much less desirable results. This is because ineffective leadership creates confusion while effective leadership finds ways to resolve problems quickly. Hence, there is less time and energy wasted and goals are achieved more easily.
A classic case is what happens in meetings. Meetings chaired by ineffective leaders take forever and it is usually not a surprise that no decisions are usually made at the end. On the other hand, effective leaders are able to keep meetings short and achieve a lot during that period. In the end, everyone knows not only what decisions were made, but also what actions are expected to be taken. People also know what is expected of each of them. Objectives are therefore achieved more easily in such cases.