Lagos: Business leadership principles for corporate governance

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Lagos: Business leadership principles for corporate governance

By Akintola Benson -Oke

It has been rightly observed that, “at the end of the day, reforms must be informed by the expectations of citizens.” First and foremost, the overriding observation today is that citizens expect the government to comply with global best practices in democratic governance. Before embarking on such a venture, however, it is useful to bear in mind the specific practical and empirical illustrations of the expectations from the citizenry from the government. In addition, it is helpful to analyze the various theories on leadership styles that may be adapted and thereafter adopted into the Lagos State Civil Service to bring about efficiency-oriented reforms.

Generally, the citizenry expects public sector reforms that improve government efficiency, increase citizen satisfaction, create citizen buy – in, increase government transparency and accountability, engage citizens in the decisions – making processes of government and improve government responsiveness.

With these expectations firmly in mind, it is gratifying to note that in Lagos State, we have a government that has boldly embraced this challenge of modernizing governance and innovatively approaching the task of public administration. Led by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, the administration is poised to examine those areas, processes and institutions and practices that need to be overhauled or remodeled in order to achieve this end. In approving this training, the governor is espousing a vision of a state where government objectives, processes and services meet the contemporary global standards and reasonable expectations of the citizens.

In a review of the most recent developments in the field of business leadership, the number of business leadership styles and trends (informed by principles) have been noted. The first is the transformational leadership theory which is a recent addition to the literature but of which more research has been conducted “than all the contingency theories combined.” The theory distinguishes between transformational and transactional leaders. transformational leaders lead employees by aligning employee goals with the leader’s goals. Thus, employees working for transformational leaders start focusing on the company’s well-being rather than on what is best for them as individual employees. However, transactional leaders ensure that employees demonstrate the right behaviours because the leader provides resources in exchange.

This training will examine the different theories and contemporary approaches with a view to identifying the ones that will fit into our robust vision for the Lagos State Civil Service.

Making further distinctions between transformational and transactional leaders, the commentators point out that while transformational leaders rely on their charisma, persuasiveness, and personal appeal to change and inspire their companies, transactional leaders use three other methods. Contingent rewards mean rewarding employees for their accomplishments. Active management by exception involves leaving employees to do their jobs without interference, but at the same time proactively predicting potential problems and preventing them from occurring. Passive management by exception is similar in that it involves leaving employees alone, but in this method, the manager waits until something goes wrong before coming to the rescue.

Many people have opined that transformational leadership is more effective. To my mind, the key factor may be trust. Trust is the belief that the leader will show integrity, fairness, and predictability in his or her dealings with others. According to the commentators cited, research shows that when leaders demonstrate transformational leadership behaviours, followers are more likely to trust the leader.

Another theory on management is the Leader-Member Exchange Theory which proposes that the type of relationship leaders have with their followers (members of the organization) is the key to understanding how leaders influence employees. Leaders form different types of relationships with their employees. In high-quality LMX relationships, the leader forms a trust-based relationship with the member. The leader and member like each other, help each other when needed, and respect one another. In these relationships, the leader and the member are both ready to go above and beyond their job descriptions to promote the other’s ability to succeed.

The point in highlighting these theories is not just to bring them to our consciousness but also to prepare and whet our appetites as we begin this training. It is my hope that, after this training, many of you would be in a position to advise the government on the specific reform steps that are necessary to align current practices in the Lagos State Civil Service with contemporary trends in business leadership.

But, as always, we must take great pains to carefully domesticate them taking care to avoid importing practices that are not workable under our local circumstances. Beyond this, however, we must be challenged to aspire to the high standards of governance that the citizens expect from the government.

As the ones responsible for the formulation and execution of government policies, the officers of the Lagos State Civil Service will extensively benefit from this training.

  • Benson Oke is Lagos State Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Pensions.


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