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Of visionary leadership and institutional effectiveness 

By Akintola Benson
13 February 2017   |   3:55 am
The term leadership is a concept that is as old as when man woke up to the need to organise himself and to take charge of his environment in pursuit of ordered existence on the planet earth.

PHOTO: cfoinnovation.com

The term leadership is a concept that is as old as when man woke up to the need to organise himself and to take charge of his environment in pursuit of ordered existence on the planet earth. It is, therefore, no surprise that it has always been of tremendous interest to classical thinkers  as well as contemporary political and management scholars as our world continues on the path of evolution from communities to nation states and the global village we proclaim today.

The need for ensuring and assuring the efficiency and effectiveness of public institutions has never been greater than now. In a dynamic age of constant changes, it is widely agreed that institutions must have clearly-defined missions that are relevant to the needs and aspirations of its stakeholders. Following this, the human capital at the helm of leadership in these institutions must have the courage to envision a future that realises the attainment of the defined mission of the institutions. In order to actualise the vision, however, leaders must be trained to possess both the hard and soft skills that are fundamental for success. This is where training becomes quite germane.

The Anglia Ruskin University clearly articulates the benefits of strong leadership skills as follows: In order to make the most of your proficiency in the workplace, it is important to develop your leadership skills. Whilst talent and a good work ethic will take you to a certain level, learning how to lead will get you to the top of the tree. If you can demonstrate that you know how to lead, you will often be rewarded with a position that carries more responsibility, the ability to delegate and, of course, a good salary. Those who can lead know how to make important decisions that affect both themselves and people across the business, without deferring to anyone else. This is an absolute necessity for getting ahead within business as long as you can prove the decisions you made were the right ones.

That observation is profoundly true as it relates to the benefits of leadership skills for the leader. It is also crucial to briefly comment on how the acquisition of the right skills will positively impact on the effectiveness of institutions. One of the foremost business strategy thinkers in modern times, is credited as profoundly observing that leadership is the most influential and critical element of all businesses. Effective leaders have the necessary tools and skills to inspire and impact their teams allowing firms to run competently and smoothly. As a good leader, you should understand the mission statements, objectives, actions plans and goals of the company to be able to lead your workforce into realising them.

This is pretty true. Only strong and trained leaders can envision the right and appropriate future for organisations. Where leaders do not possess the attitude, aptitude and skills that are relevant for the times, they become fundamentally flawed in any attempt to craft a beneficial and compelling vision for their organisations. And, as we all know, in the absence of vision, the people perish as the institutions become rudderless and their journey becomes one without a map.

Trained, visionary and, therefore, strong leaders will also beneficially impact their organisations by being able to inspire the people in the organisation to enthusiastically buy into the vision crafted by the leadership. There is no effective leadership without a mobilised and enthused followership. A strong leader who resolutely believes in the vision of the organisation will magnetically attract followers who will join the movement to fulfill the mission and realise the vision. This calls for the presence of excellent communications and relational skills in the leaders of organisations.  Acquisition of these skills will stand leaders in good stead in their commitment to ensuring the effectiveness of their respective organisations.

In today’s world, an effective leader must be able to act as a communication champion and a sense giver rather than just as an information processor; he/she must be able to use key elements of effective listening and understand why listening is important to communication; he/she must be able to utilise candor to appropriately improve communication effectiveness, and recognise and apply the difference between dialogue and discussion; he/she must be equipped to incorporate metaphor and storytelling into leadership communications, select an appropriate communication channel for the message and effectively use social media and non-verbal communication.
Furthermore, and perhaps, most essentially, he/she must be able to effectively communicate during times of stress or crisis.

Trained leaders also know how to manage their own and other peoples time effectively. Being able to do so is critical when it comes to making the most of the leaders’ time in the office and not becoming overwhelmed. Furthermore, it also ensures that the trained leaders’ team completes everything it is supposed to do.

Furthermore, benefits that leadership skills can bring include the ability to resolve conflict, the ability to negotiate effectively for the benefit of the organisation, the aptitude to innovate and the skill to communicate quickly and effectively.

It is in order to ensure that competent, visionary and effective leadership continue to abound in huge measure in the Lagos State Public Service that the state government has accorded sufficient attention to leadership training. No matter the profundity of any government’s vision, without a competent and professional public service, it will amount to nothing.

Dr. Benson is the Commissioner of the Lagos State Ministry of Establishments, Training & Pensions.

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