In a world where the line between corporate governance and ethical leadership has become blurred, it is important to revert to the fundamentals. In the political sphere, good ethical practice has had its ups and downs, but there is a direct link in the practice of ethical leadership and transparent and representative governance. Self-seeking leadership places individual interests above those of society and makes us liable to pursue ill-gotten wealth and fall into the trap of corruption and greed. Self-centred leadership is an indication of unethical leadership that has forgotten its primary responsibility to the electorate, shareholders and ordinary employees. Where do we go from here? If we want to survive as a nation we have to get serious about training in character and governance first principles: principles important to your business as a civil servant, your integrity as a manager of public trust, and to the future of our youth.
When the state of Kaduna, Nigeria asked us to do a workshop, I was puzzled. Why me? Where should one start and what should be the objective and deliverables?
I started off by explaining that for a workshop we had to objectively examine the impact of sound governance, governance practices in the workplace, and character-based failures, in order to develop appropriate leadership strategies to combat this phenomenon, and to go back to 100% compliance with implementing an integrated, comprehensive character-based culture in the workplace. I thought that was perhaps asking too much, but I soon received confirmation to go ahead and provide a theme for a three-day workshop.
I then played around with the concept of Yes We Can! Inspired by Barack Obama’s political campaign theme, to help motivate the workshop participants to believe they can attain world-class status in their corporate governance and character development journeys, regardless of the challenges in their professional or personal lives.
Two things were clear: We had to establish the context of corporate governance and character by explaining what these meant from a global perspective and in the Nigerian context, and had to identify the strategies and best practices that could be applied by anyone (including Kaduna State civil servants) to be an effective leader who is continually developing his or her character.
The challenging task was putting the modules together and we used the following framework:
1. Foundations for the Future: The first session of the workshop covered the context of corporate governance and character by examining national and occupational challenges, the global leadership crisis and its root cause, as well as the benefits of character and governance development.
2. Establishing a Character-based Culture: The second session examined 49 character qualities, as well as various leadership styles, including visionary, servant, provider, organiser, idealist and cautious leadership together with the clusters of character qualities that drive these leadership styles.
3. Seven Courageous Conversations: In this session we explored the concepts of career direct, emotional intelligence, career success, key performance indicators, moral intelligence, finishing well, every individual identifying his or her unique design, as well as other important subtopics.
4. Character + Competency = Sustainability: This session focused on the C1+C2=C3 principle, arguing that character plus competence will result in sustainable programmes and departments in the Kaduna State civil service.
5. Starting with the Fundamentals: In this session the emphasis was on the power of individual recognition and appreciation, conducting character-based meetings, and how to effectively use character bulletins (which contain the 49 character qualities).
6. The Root of Riches: This session examined how our beliefs are the foundation of our behaviour and the outcomes of our lives, just like the roots of a trees are the ‘foundation’ of its trunk and branches. It also discussed how character is the root of sustainable wealth.
7. Character-based Team and Performance Evaluation and Corrective Action: This session explored the reality that most teams have three kinds of people, namely, energy givers, energy wasters, and energy takers. In addition, it explained the importance of developing a healthy relationship between an employee and supervisor before conducting a performance evaluation. The value of setting clear expectations at the beginning of an appointment, as well understanding the true nature of a failure, was explained.
8. Seven Deadly Work Habits and Dealing with Character Flaws and Correction: In this session the seven unhealthy work habits of foolishness, inconsistency, anger, injustice, infidelity, envy and desperation were discussed. In addition, how to restore relationships between colleagues, deal with an offender, deal with bad attitude, and deal with problem employees, laziness and disloyalty was explained.
9. Leadership Coaching and Building Trust − The Crucial Elements of Self-governance: This session examined the value of coaching, mentorship and developing new leaders. Furthermore, it explored the importance of emotional intelligence and developing coping skills. It also discussed the idea of whether Africa is the so-called, ‘dark continent,’ or the ‘heartbeat’ of the world.
10. Best Practices and Governance Audits: This session examined the importance of establishing appropriate standards, communication, and proper audits.
11. Facilitating Change without Compromising Ethical Standards: This session explored the factors necessary for change to happen, popular responses to change, and the value of taking a stand for ethical behaviour.
12. The Strength of Character Communities, Schools and Families: Arguing that character building begins from infancy and continues to death, this session examined the importance of developing ethical leaders within each family as well as at schools and in the workplace.
But have you made an impact and exceeded the objectives? I believe so. See the comments from the delegates below.
1. The organisation of this workshop is commendable. Please extend this training to most chief executives of parastatals and thereby make it mandatory as some of them lack leadership qualities, resulting in the folding of governmental agencies.
2. Strong Message Consultants: Honestly, you’re the best among the 12 workshops I have attended. Yes you can!! Keep moving and also advise the permanent secretary of establishments to conduct a workshop for executive officers.
3. In fact, this is the best workshop I have ever attended. Dr Mario and Mr Henry Gwani have delivered a good and clear message for changing attitudes. We need to have more lectures/workshops with you.
4. It was thought provoking. It was down to earth. It was timely. There is a need to cover a wider spectrum of our society. The challenges are enormous.
5. From day one of this workshop to the last, there was never a dull moment.
6. This workshop has been highly educative and participants are now positioned to make remarkable changes in the services we render to the development of our dear state. However, I would have loved the duration of the workshop to have been extended.
7. The programme is very interesting and I look forward to more of it. I strongly suggest that this training be given to members of the house (policy and law makers), permanent secretaries, and commissioners in the state for better service delivery.
8. The workshop is a real morale booster. I appreciate the opportunity and privilege given to me to participate. I’ll recommend the consultants to the Kaduna State government for further training outside the country.
My overall message: Strive towards zero tolerance of bad behaviour and think back about the legacy that you will leave behind. You can make a difference but be respectful and relevant.
Mario Denton, MBA, PhD and Industrial Psychologist, holds a doctorate in Organisational Behaviour and Business Administration. He uses his strong academic and corporate background and his uniquely effective coaching skills to help organisations tap into their potential to make a difference in the workplace. You can contact him at email@example.com