The role of leadership in institutional excellence

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Today I want to talk to you about something that is not entirely divorced from statistics but does not present statistical figures or data: Leadership. This is because without sound leadership you cannot have sound statistics. It is said that success and failure begin with leadership. This is true on both individual and institutional level.

Institutions do not function on own neither do they excel by chance. The success of any institution is proportionately linked to its leadership. If you have good leaders the chances of success are higher than if you do not have good leaders. So, let us look at what makes a leader of an institution great.

An institution is run on principles. In most cases you have strategic plans, annual plans as well as operational matters that dictate what is to be done and how this is to be done.

There exists, for example, a certain culture or certain procedures that have to be followed for things to be in place.

Hence, one of the necessary qualities for a good leader is the ability to run and manage an institution effectively.

Effective management of an institution is often related to proper organisation and planning. Marcus Garvey once opined that one of our greatest challenges is proper organisation and planning.

This means there must be well-established criteria on the operations of certain things. This includes regular meetings, checks and balances as well as mainly ensuring that there is institutional excellence.

The other important criterion of a sound leader is the ability to work with people. You can be the most gifted, smartest, hardest working and intelligent leader; however, if you do not have the ability to work with people, you and your institution, will fail. This is so because institutions are run by people, and for people to excel at their work they have to be inspired. Another reason is that nothing great has ever been achieved in isolation. When we look at history and the role of great leaders, it becomes obvious that they had a team that felt appreciated, loved, cared for and inspired to excel. I think this, and operational excellence, is one area where many of our institutional leaders fail, or can do better. Indeed, they have to if they want their institutions to succeed.

One of my favourite philosophers, His Imperial Majesty, cautions that leadership does not mean domination. In his view the world is always well supplied with people who wish to rule and dominate others. The true leader, in his words, is one who inspires others to follow in his path with the aim of realizing the aspirations of the institution.

In a nutshell, I believe the words that say the art of true leadership lies in the ability to make people want to work for you when they are really under no obligation to do so. That is very important to note.

Do we lead people in such a way that they would even willingly come to the office on a Sunday, or off day, to finalize their work? I once had such a boss who could make me do that and I hence believe, and am certain, that such leaders exist.

However, I have also learned that such leaders are scarce. If you happen to be led by such a leader, cherish it, it is not common. If you are a leader and you know that you cannot inspire people to willingly go the extra mile, then your challenge is to address this. You will have no choice because the performance and excellence of your institution depends on it.

That’s it for now, the statistical update continues next time.

• Iipumbu Sakaria is the Deputy Director for Strategic Communications at the NSA.

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