By Prof Fred Otieno, FAAS, PhD, MSc, MBA, BSc (Hons) (Civil Eng), FSAICE, PrEng.


Vice Chancellor, MMUST

Over the years, there has been debate on whether leaders are born or made. Two opposing schools of thought on this matter have argued, in equal measure, of success for each side. What, however, is not in contention is that poor leadership at all levels is costly to any organization and MMUST is no exception.

In any society where there are many competing needs for limited resources ( MMUST is ideally starved for resources), leaders from all sides ( unions, students, staff and management) need to rise to the occasion and place the institution's and, thus, society interests ahead of individual interests. This is not an easy task but certainly this is what, in many schools of thought, defines a good leader from the rest.

A good leader is one who appreciates that they are there to serve and not for self enrichment. Too many so called leaders abuse their positions for self enrichment. A good leader would act ethically by serving the public. The second area is you and me, namely civil society. There is generally, in Kenya and many African countries, outrage about corruption. Unfortunately, many of us play along with it by bribing our leaders or those who are employed and paid to serve. The way in which we conduct ourselves sets the foundation for the type of society that we wish to see. This also defines the type of leaders we nurture.

In situations where command and control still delivers results, the people would have resigned themselves to the idea that they are basically either weaker or stronger instruments of power and such leadership does not, in many instances, produce sustainable high quality results. Workers, therefore, fear or respect power for the sake of power. This type of leadership does not seat well in a world where optimum learning and flexibility are important success factors. Academic institutions, like MMUST, must embrace learning and flexible cultures for maximum success.

The cost of poor leadership, but more so when leaders are poorly aligned with societal changes, can be high. Today’s knowledge workers express themselves better when they enjoy the freedom to be creative and enterprising. In a regulated environment, they feel inhibited and frustrated and their real potential is seldom realized. It has been pointed out that in such cases, workers often withhold critical information, which ultimately comes at a cost to the organization. Essentially, the workers do not grow the cake for all to enjoy a bigger slice.

Another cost element to the organization is that when such workers are frustrated, they sit out the rest of their working lives or contracts and they add little or no value to the organization. This frustrates not only the leaders, but more so, workers who in an economy that is not growing, find it hard to move elsewhere and thus remain holding onto whatever they have with little or no hope for a better life. A true and good leader (from all levels and angles) should always work hard to prevent such a situation from being the norm in their organization.

We hope that all leaders at MMUST will become true and good leaders and help MMUST grow its cake without destabilizing it for the sake and good of all our workers, students and other stakeholders whose livelihoods depend on a prosperous MMUST.

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