Windhoek-There are a number of reasons why leaders lose their moral compass, one of which is the more successful they become as leaders, the more temptations come their way.
“As a leader in business or in public service, there will always be those who would want to tempt you to do the wrong things,” said Minister of Economic Planning, Tom Alweendo during last week’s Corporate Governance Seminar at the Namibia Institute for Public Administration and Management (NIPAM).
“There will always be those who will offer you inducements in exchange for what seems, at the time, to be a career-enhancing opportunity. It is therefore important – as a leader – to always be on the outlook for what could turn out to be career-ending. As they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Alweendo noted that another aspect of ethical leadership is that of examining the motive of wanting to be a leader. “There are wrong reasons why someone may want to become a leader; and there are also the right reasons to become a leader. It is therefore very important to ask yourself the question – why do I want to become a leader?” said Alweendo.
During the seminar, Alweendo – a former governor of the Bank of Namibia – questioned why people are attracted to the positions of CEO, asking if it is because of attractive compensation packages or the desire to lead successfully.
“And a number of CEOs certainly do have attractive remuneration packages and I guess we all agree that having money is a great feeling. Do I want to be the leader because of the prestige that accompanies the leadership position? We all know that when you are the CEO or the minister, most people tend to be polite to you. They even forget that you have a name and only call you ‘Sir’ or ‘Honourable’; they will even stand up for you when you enter the room; they will insist to carry your bag even when it is empty. Do I want to be the leader because of the power attached to the leadership position? Some leadership positions are indeed very powerful where the leader decides who leaves and who stays; who gets promoted and who gets demoted; sometimes even who lives and who dies. It feels rather invigorating or does it?” Alweendo asked.
He further noted that there are also cases where successful leaders fell from grace not necessarily because they did something wrong. These are leaders who year in and year out deliver great results. These include corporate CEOs who have made their shareholders wealthy, political leaders who won elections with huge margins and in the process making their political parties symbols of success, he observed.
In the process such leaders become famous, receive accolades and become sought-after keynote speakers at important events.
“Unfortunately for some such leaders, the success becomes an end in itself. They start to desire more and more success, in the process becoming addicted to the prestige and the fame they have obtained. When that happens, such leaders start to believe that they are the alpha and omega – and nothing can happen without them. It is when they start to lose their moral compass,” Alweendo warned.
He continued that the challenge to all leaders will be to master the necessary self-discipline to always do what is right and to do so even when it is not a popular thing to do; and also to do so irrespective of the consequence. This, said Alweendo, is not easy and requires great courage, but this is what it takes for leaders to leave a lasting positive legacy.