Leadership deficit: A moral, ethical dimension

MUCH of the institutional failures experienced in the past decade in Zimbabwe both in the parastatals and some private organisations owed most of the failures to poor corporate governance.

People Management Issues with Robert Mandeya

The recently launched National Code on Corporate Governance Zimbabwe (Zimcode) is indeed a welcome development given the sad state of affairs in the running of our state and non state enterprises. This document is richly researched and is expected to provide the necessary guidance in the running of business in Zimbabwe.

However, the most worrying factor is whether our leadership in the various sectors has the requisite moral and ethical grounding to implement this well thought out, elaborate document in letter and spirit.

To support the successful implementation of this code there is an urgent need to interrogate and review our procedures in the selection, appointment and subsequent development of those we entrust with the responsibility of running these important institutions.

A little candid introspection is required here. I will explore a few of these moral and ethical issues.

Because many organisational leaders are elected either because of popularity or politics, it is common that some of these leaders act expediently rather than always doing the “right thing”. Since most organisations have not taken sufficient steps to properly qualify their leaders, nor to professionally train them, there is often not only a dearth of qualified leadership, but even more so, there are moral and ethical leadership issues that are also never properly addressed by these “leaders”.

It goes without saying that moral and ethical organisational considerations require leaders to always put their organisations’ best interests ahead of their own agenda. In addition, leaders must avoid even the appearance of any conflict of interest, and thus, if there is anything that anyone might misinterpret, a leader must disclose any potential conflict up front and completely.

While we all agree that the past decade was a difficult period of economic hardships which necessitated a rise and “growth of unethical corporate leadership” practices, this trend has persisted and has almost become the norm with most leaders taking advantage of the volatile situation. Consequently this period has been characterised by massive abuse of privileges by a few in authority.

For instance in the parastatals we have seen “unconscionable remuneration packages for executives.”

Equally the banking sector has had its fair share of failures owing to “insider loans and involvement in non-banking business using depositors’ funds” which inadvertently have led to the collapse of a number of such institutions. These scandals and corporate failures also arising from unjustifiable loans given to directors have nothing to do with the poor performance of the economy but have everything to do with a serious moral deficit by those in leadership.

The initiative and effort taken by some individuals under the banner of National Code on Corporate Governance Zimbabwe (NCG), to come up with a national code of corporate governance (the code) will come to naught if the necessary infrastructure to support the implementation and adherence to this is not put in place.

The insatiable appetite for a quick buck has gripped many a leadership today. This has meant throwing away all moral and ethical standards of doing business in pursuit of cheap and easy money. There is an urgent need to deal with the moral and ethical challenges facing the current crop of leadership.

Unfortunately, these circumstances will continue to prevail at the majority of organisations, until and unless an organisation decides it can do better, and should do better. If organisations generally continue with the status quo, of simply electing or selecting their leaders based on unprofessional criteria they will continue facing operational and viability challenges.

Organisations that wish to excel and evolve, and truly want to accomplish their mission, understand the significance and need to develop both better qualification criteria for potential leaders, as well as professionally designed and administered multi-tiered leadership training programmes for those in leadership already.
Organisations must always ensure that their leaders are equipped and knowledgeable regarding all the basics and needs of leadership training, including the necessary skills, and the methodologies required in running entities.

We must begin by acknowledging that becoming a leader is difficult in itself. Hence, becoming an effective leader is a huge task. Leadership training and coaching is a fast growing phenomenon which Zimbabwe cannot afford to ignore and in view of this development the implementation of “the code” must be supported by serious training and coaching programmes of those in leadership if we are to realise the benefits of well placed efforts by the people behind the production of the Corporate Governance Code.

Morality of leadership also impacts on attributes of integrity.

Leaders should not be two-faced. In the couple years of involvement with numerous organisations, I have come into contact with numerous leaders who are extremely two-faced. These are leaders who lack consistency in their decision making processes and implementation thereof. They are always giving conflicting signals to their subordinates giving rise to an atmosphere of mistrust and speculative behaviour.

Such an atmosphere triggers unnecessary conflict which ultimately impacts negatively on production.
Besides obviously being disingenuous and dishonest, these leaders will be acting unethically, because leadership is not about being popular, but rather about setting an example of service, direction, and openly addressing the needs of the organisation.

The issues of accountability and transparency in the running of entities as they are extensively explored in Corporate Governance Code cannot be over emphasised.

Leaders must possess moral and ethical behaviour and qualities to successfully spearhead their organisations to greater heights.
Robert Mandeya is a training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development.

Email: mandeyarobert@yahoo.com, mandeyarobert@gmail.com.

One thought on “Leadership deficit: A moral, ethical dimension”

  1. kwv says:

    There is a widely held misconception that to succeed in business you actually have to be unethical. If you want to be in business long-term, nothing could be further from the truth. To succeed long term you MUST have an ethical approach to suppliers, customers and your staff. An old but immensely instructive book is Up The Organization by Robert Townsend. This should be required reading for everyone in management.

    You need to have an ethical and honest relationship with your suppliers because without them your business will struggle. This means that creditors should always be paid on time, or if you know you are going to have cash flow problems, you should tell them ahead of time.

    You also need to treat your customers ethically, especially in a small country like ours because a bad reputation will get around very quickly indeed and you could rapidly find yourself with no customers at all.

    Another very short-sighted attitude is to view a business as a battle between Management and Staff. Not only is this distressingly common it is also exceedingly stupid. I have always seen business as a team effort between Management and Staff; one cannot prosper without the other. The Japanese attitude that all are one “family” has been proven to work well. Where there is conflict a business cannot flourish and grow. Arrogance can be a huge problem in this area. Fair and just pay for all is also an essential; the staff will not work effectively if they believe their managers are unfairly rewarded.

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