5. The Personal Qualities of an Effective Representative

A leader is developed and not born. Personal qualities of a representative, that is, his/her education, social status, family background and personal image are acquired and not born with the person. These have profound effects on the individual's character and performance. The characteristics of an effective representative in this regard include:

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Education: One has to have reached a certain threshold in elementary education, though this should not be the only mechanism to get access to leadership positions. Modern politics is sophisticated and involves debates and participation in complex national and international trends. It also involves studying events through sophisticated media such as Internet, electronic mail, etc. While it is true that some effective representatives have little or no education, and also that some highly educated representatives are often ineffective, current trends show that some basic education to the level of Form V is an essential requirement for an effective representative. Currently the average educational levels of Councillors and Parliamentarians are standard 7 and Form V, respectively. For many years the average for Parliamentarians was Form III but improved rapidly in recent years.

Social status: Social status refers to the perception that the community has about the individual. That is whether or not historically his/her family has made contributions either as leaders or as hard workers e.g. as soldiers, traditional doctor, etc. In a society like Botswana's, where despite rapid changes referred to at the introduction, the value system is still based on the traditional mode of thought, perception of low status of a representative can easily become a political liability on one's candidature. Such representatives normally fail to be elected and when elected they make little or no impact on the society as leaders.

Charisma: Some people have a natural tendency to attract a following and influence other people's behaviour. Normally such people may possess skills such as good communication skills, premonition or ability to predict events, etc. Sociologists call these people charismatic personalities. Charisma can be a useful political tool. Charismatic individuals may be worth establishing a good relationship with because of their influence on other people.

Occupation: having special skills and approachability are some of the

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determining factors for good performance as a leader. Wealth improves patron/client relationships and makes people obligated to a leader. However, an effective leader must be efficient, honest and brave, when dealing with constituents. Lack of these qualities creates a dependency syndrome and irrational support, which is easily lost to a competitor.

The above characteristics that affect the performance of a representative can be divided into those that are achieved and those that are intrinsic or behavioural. Personality is dynamic, and therefore both these characteristics can be adapted or improved.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Juni 1999

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