Religion and Leadership Development in Ghana

Religion is another aspect of Ghanaian life that has contributed to leadership development. Before the arrival of the Europeans, traditional priests served as the spiritual leaders who had the prowess to interpret issues of spiritual dimensions. The traditional priests were consulted on many issues such as the prevalence of some strange diseases or unexplained deaths. Today, traditional priests continue to assume some level of relevance in many rural communities in Ghana. Every chief worked closely with a traditional priest who served as their spiritual leader. Training and development of traditional priests were mainly through coaching and mentoring.

In the early nineteenth century, Christianity was introduced to Ghana (then the Gold Coast) by “missionaries from the Basel, Bremen, Methodist, and the Anglican missions” (Nilsson, 2003, p. 11). The introduction of Christianity into the Ghanaian society resulted in a shift in leadership development. As part of their mission goals, churches established schools in Ghana to train children in both moral issues and other mainstream subjects such as English and math. The establishment of mission schools required new dynamics in leadership to spearhead the new system. To this effect, teachers were trained to not only lead the schools but also to lead the church and other community activities. The introduction of teacher training education led to a shift in the male-dominated traditional system to include females who served as teachers and opinion leaders in their communities. Many people who trained as teachers moved higher on the academic ladder and eventually became national leaders. Typical examples are Kwame Nkrumah, who eventually became the first president of Ghana and K.A. Busia, who also became the first prime minister.

Besides directly training people to become leaders, the Christian religion also helped to shape the character of school children. Teachers were trained to show exemplary character in all their endeavors. This attitude helped to form a society of leaders who were measured not only by performance on tasks but also by their personal conduct and interpersonal relationships. Up to date, teachers serve as prominent leaders in their communities. The foundation laid by religious groups in the early 1900s has inspired teachers to lead many initiatives in Ghana. For example, teachers were identified as strategic leaders in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) training in Ghana. With the mass implementation of the Junior Secondary School (JSS) system with a focus on vocational training in the late 1980s teachers were targeted to receive training in many vocational skill sets, including ICT, to lead the new system to success. Teachers’ contributions to the development of communities are visible in every corner of Ghana. Until today, teachers serve as opinion leaders and spearhead most development efforts especially in rural Ghana.

Since the early 1980s, the charismatic group of churches (a Christian movement that emphasizes the works of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and miracles) began a leadership crusade aimed at liberating people from so- called “ancestral curses” and leading them into prosperity. Many of these churches organized crusades to help people become leaders and prosperous members of society. Eventually, some religious institutions extended their activities to establish formal tertiary institutions and other pastoral training schools to help train leaders of distinct character. Pastors and other church leaders continue to contribute in diverse ways to leadership development in Ghana. For example, the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) initiated the pastoral training college in 1988 which eventually metamorphosed into a full-fledged university with a mission goal of nurturing a vibrant academic community conducive for the study, creation, and dissemination of knowledge through research, training, and service in 1997. The Islamic University was also established in 1995 to train the youth to be qualified professionals.

Other religious institutions such as the Christian Council and the Ghana Moslem Mission continue to play key leadership roles in fostering unity and ensuring peaceful coexistence with other religious bodies for national development. The role of religion in leadership development in Ghana is so important that the government consults and collaborates with religious leaders to solve many pertinent national issues. Pastors and other religious leaders serve as marriage counselors and community leaders in Ghana. Even though Christianity dominates religion in Ghana, the traditional priests continue to serve as spiritual leaders in most rural communities.

 
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