Taiwan Gongloe is showing us the way- Admitting you’re wrong, should be the new right in Liberia

By. S.Karweaye

Liberia: No one likes to admit that they made a mistake. If your job involves being judged and evaluated by people, that instinct is almost certainly worse. And if your job involves being evaluated and you have a group of people committed to defending you on an ideological basis no matter what you say, admitting error becomes all but unthinkable.  It is no exaggeration to say We humans are universally terrible at admitting when we are wrong. For example, Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Sekou Conneh, and others still do not regret the 1989 & 2003 invasions of Liberia despite the heavy cost in blood and treasure and the meager benefits, if any, of the decision.  

In Liberia, it is quite easy to imagine politicians who will be convinced of their rightness on an issue despite public opinion to the contrary. Cllr. Taiwan Gongloe’s public apology to journalists and the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) after he said journalists in Liberia’s reading skill is far below that of the 8th-grade student at the Heritage Impact High school in Ganta Nimba county and publicly apologizing to journalists and the Press Union of Liberia PUL) must be commended. 

In a society where politicians canvassed for votes and will say whatever to get those votes, being blunt can lead you to trouble. Instead, politicians used blarney and spent the campaign diagnosing a malignant political landscape that we have long believed to be broken. Politics, to pull an evergreen quote from Orwell, has always been “a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia”. Cllr. Gongloe admittance of his mistake and public apologizing is a sign of transformation leadership. Making mistakes is such an important part of the leadership journey. I am certainly not suggesting to be reckless when leading – but being responsible to know why things didn’t work in your favor and how you could have approached things differently is is a sign of good leadership. 

People don’t expect perfection from their politicians– they just demand their unwavering attention and bold initiative. Cllr. Gongloe is honest about his shortfall and has proved he has learned from the mistake, and for such is earning respect along the way which creates an environment of transparency. When politicians or leaders admit to mistakes as in the case of Cllr Gongloe, it brings clarity to opportunity gaps and elevates a deeper sense of accountability that can be shared amongst the people. Also, when politicians or leaders admit to making mistakes, it creates an opportunity to earn respect, strengthen their political base and lead by example – it ultimately builds a culture of trust as well. 

In Liberia, it’s not easy for politicians/leaders to admit they are wrong. There is a school of thought that politicians/leaders should not admit to making mistakes because they lose credibility and power. They prefer to dance through all kinds of hoops and excuses to avoid blame – and the political consequences. That’s why we celebrate narcissist leadership over those who are self-aware, humble, and honest because admitting a mistake can cause even pure supporters or partisans to doubt their loyalties. Daniel Drezne wrote in the Washington Port Article. “Although opponents of that political leader might be happy to see that kind of candor, they are not going to switch their vote just because a president they dislike acknowledged being wrong. So from a political perspective, public admission of error generates zero political upsides and risks alienating one’s base.”

To some of Cllr. Gongloe’s detractors, acknowledging a mistake feels like a sign of weakness, make him feel vulnerable, flawed, and exposed, but Cllr. Gongloe is a fearless and honest politician that made a conscious decision to do the right thing even if it costs him. Cllr Gongloe’s misstep in Ganta does not mean if he is elected as President, Liberians will be in the hand of a terrible leader. It means you’re in the hands of a human being in a leadership position who is – hopefully – doing his best. If our politicians and leaders can at least admit they are wrong – even if it doesn’t come out perfectly – this is a sign of a leader you can trust. Cllr. Gongloe is showing us that admitting you’re wrong should be the new right in Liberia. 


The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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