Monday, July 15, 2024

Batswana Deserve Strong, Good and Honourable Leaders

Over three years ago I reflected on the public office responsibilities and the honor those holding these jobs are often offered and sometimes even referred to as honourable. In that piece I explored the meaning and implications of what been called honourable should entail in the public domain. I wish to revisit this very issue in light of what I sometimes hear in public debates in our country, about the calibre and character of our leaders, especially those in the public service. I am going to assume that leadership is mostly about building excellence within the parameters of pursuing the right ways, processes and systems to bettering public organizations. In this regard the saying that “leaders do not command excellence, they build excellence” becomes an appropriate expression of what we should expect from the honor that our leaders are supposedly are. This is because excellence in public offices is inherently a function of the existence of leaders with good and strong characters who, continually exhibit embrace their roles as people with honourable characters.

Experts in organizational theory and leadership features often speak of how the character of our leaders is a reflection of processes within a socio-cultural setting, that develops certain traits that position us to be either strong or weak or even good or bad leaders,when we assume positions of power and authority in public organizations. It is this very process that builds a leaders following or lack of it, on the basis of their levels of energy to drive and pursue policies of public interest. The extent to which leaders possess the energy and determination to sacrifice their own personal preferences in pursuit of that which has potential to build and drive the public good for all to thrive and internalise as accepted practices and socio-cultural and political values.

These are leaders who exert their willpower and self-discipline to actualize the citizens’ dreams of being better individuals and groups in a national setting such ours. A nation like ours deserve leaders whose character fits well this strong character of a honourable leader, because this is even far much better than having just strong leaders, afterall gang leaders are known to be some of the strong willed characters you can come across. Honor in public office requires leaders who are both strong and possess good characteristics that allows them lead the pack to a brighter and sustainable future.

An old generation leader of the past once said “courage-not complacency-is our need today. Leadership not salesmanship”. Often when you listen to our leaders talk and debate issues you cannot help but feel they are selling themselves as “the leaders”, hence the salesmanship expression. Today’s debates on a number of public issues seem to portray a declining sense of trust by citizens on our public leaders and yet one of the hallmarks of good, effective and honourable leaders is that they must command the trust of their followers. Citizens as individuals and groups must warm up to and embrace their leaders actions as they pursue laid out visions, missions and set goals for the development of a nation. These pursuits must be conducted and undertaken in the most ethical way of wining trust and loyalty of the public not a select few who may have short changed and betrayed pursuit for public interest for their own personal gain. It is of outmost importance that those who hold public office are indeed people of honor, who have over the years nurtured characters that rests on beliefs, values, skills and traits that society embraces as a depiction of their inner fibre and moral perfection.

I have heard of concerns that sometimes the public’s reactions to issues of public concern are either based on ignorance or just deliberate speculative overtures intended to deliberately misinform those who lack access to the truth, assuming that truth is in existence somewhere away from the public domain. The plausible reason this could be, is that we often encounter policies that are disconnected with what citizens often consider to be the moral fibre that defines views on life, death, what is good or bad and largely our whole beliefs system. It is also a reflection of the extent to which certain decisions by public officials contradicts those set of values that society embraces as defining the worth of citizens. These are critical because we assess the worth of possible alternative policies on the basis of our value systems and therefore public decisions by public and honorable leaders must show respect to these values. In the absence that respect, decent, mistrust and speculative reasoning becomes a culture in public debates.

The above matters in our interpretation of the kind and types of traits we appreciate in our leaders and how we judge them as either good, strong or honourable leaders or not. There are quite a few known traits of good leaders that experts in leadership theories have posited over the years and I will just refer to a few of those that are a must for honourable leaders. It has been said over the years that the hallmark of a true honorable leader lies in his/her honesty. The extent to which our leaders relate to their fellow citizens with outmost sincerity and levels of integrity and candor in how the act in serving the public defines the honor in them. In all outcomes that are results of public policies dialogue and deliberate budgeting and planning processes, the citizens must believe that they are not short changed or taken for granted as docile recipients of public policies. The quality and range of diversity of services rendered to citizens must also point to a very thorough indulgence by competent public officials whose policy choices are derived intelligently and in a fair minded way that has no prejudice to certain individuals or groups of society.

The environment within which the above issues are actualised by honourable leaders requires that within the public service and among the public officer, there are those who define the ethical framework of public service conduct. These standard bearers inculcate commitment to public service climate and culture that must permeate the public office structures. These instil the nerve centre of honor with discernable traits and expectations acceptable to those who judge the honorability of leaders, citizens.   
*Molaodi teaches public administration at the University of Botswana


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