• July 2nd, 2020

Good leadership will prevent things falling apart

The term “good governance” is one of the most abused and misused concepts. Even people who have no idea of what it means often profusely parrot it. Often this done mainly in contexts that it has little or no relevance. Superpowers from the West have sometimes deliberately abused and misused the concept of good governance to advance their expansionist programmes and policies, or effect regime change in what they refer to as rogue governments in the world. 

Be that as it may, if principles of good governance are clearly articulated and applied in an honest manner, leaders at any level would not have to wait for things to fall apart in the famous words of Chinua Achebe in order to take action. At least, this was how our Professor of Tertiary Education Management one afternoon in 2015 introduced the Principles of Good Governance to us at the L.H. Martin Institute of Tertiary Education Management at the University Melbourne, Australia. We were all a bit perplexed by the professor’s introduction – all 20 of his charges who had travelled to this renowned University from African and Asian countries on a South-to-South cooperation aimed at strengthening leadership and management of tertiary education institutions. 

It later became apparent that the good professor wanted us to remember the principles of good governance by beginning with the abuse and misuse of good governance by, first, the ignoramuses, and second, the imperialist expansionists. Professors are cunning people – they always search for something catchy and unique in their bags of tricks to win you over to their side. 

There is no doubt that the successes of organisations in Namibia, Africa and the whole world depend on upholding the principles of good governance. By organisations here I restrict myself to higher education institutions. I leave governments to political scientists, who are more qualified to analyse the political malaise in some of our African countries as a result of bad governance. A follower of this column last week asked me why I do not comment on political issues. My short response was that that in academia we have specialisations.

It is often asked how organisations can achieve satisfactory and later superior levels of performance. When we talk of big universities like Harvard University, Oxford University or Cambridge University, we must acknowledge that they started small, but because of good governance, they grew over the years to become juggernauts of tertiary education. It was through strategic leadership that these and other world-class universities became colossal giants in tertiary education. 

 In one workshop in which I was one of the presenters on good governance in higher education institutions, I stressed the fact that strategic leadership is the bedrock of the effectiveness of organisations. I added that leaders had to uphold openness, accountability, integrity, honesty, fairness, effectiveness, selflessness and objectivity, among other principles of good governance. Additionally, I suggested that over and above following the principles of good governance, all people in leadership positions in organisations should take a “Hippocratic Oath” like doctors and nurses. The oath would act as a pledge or promise to uphold all the principles of good leadership and the values of the organisation. In other words, the oath would be an initiation into the organisational saga of the organisation. It was understandable for some participants to be uncomfortable with the suggestion of making them take an oath as they thought this would infringe on their academic freedom or democratic rights. 

Suffice to say that for organisations to be effective, good governance must be practised as a process and not as an event. Good governance must develop into a culture or a way of life of the organisation from stem to stern, that is, across the board. Once good governance is practised haphazardly or as a once-off happening, things will definitely fall apart with disastrous consequences. 

*Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his own accord. Email address: kjairos@gmail.com

Staff Reporter
2019-05-10 09:45:01 | 1 years ago

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