Integrity in leadership is obligatory, not for cosmetic purposes
The campaign season leading to next week’s election is nearing the end and political temperatures are at fever pitch! One of the aspects that should reign supreme in the elections is integrity, which remains elusive especially with regards to some of those seeking elective seats.
Chapter Six, Article 73(2)(a), of the Constitution; the Leadership and Integrity Act, 2012 and Public Officer Ethics Act, 2003 are all clear on the requirements of leadership—the require leaders to be of high personal integrity.
Leadership is a process by which a person influences followers to accomplish an objective and directs the entity led in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Leaders carry out this process by applying leadership attributes such as beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge and skills. Leaders makes followers want to achieve high goals rather than simply bossing people around.
The basis of good leadership includes honourable character, selfless service with the express knowledge and conviction that they hold the offices they occupy in trust; they are respected having earned it and have a clear sense of direction—conveying a strong vision of the future. Trust and confidence are the most reliable predictors of followers’ satisfaction in the leadership.
In advanced democracies, leaders of president’s stature have been removed from office and others with questionable integrity barred from contesting for elective positions. In 1974 President Richard Nixon of the US was forced to resign from office rather than be impeached for engaging in unethical activities to push for his re-election. In 2021, Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of Australia’s biggest state economy, New South Wales (NSW), was forced to resign due to graft allegations. She was investigated by NSW Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) for breach of public trust.
Examples abound around the world on intolerance to breach of integrity but with our focus on Kenya, the disregard for this crucial pillar in leadership is essentially deep-rooted impunity! What is one left to make of aspirants who have been convicted of corruption insisting on vying for elective positions in spite of the stipulations of the law?
There is, however, hope that institutions such as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission continue to push for recognition of the essence of leadership with integrity as has been witnessed when the matter found itself in the corridors of justice for determination. The Supreme Court in a recent ruling to affirm a previous ruling on impeachment firmly stated that “Chapter Six of our constitution is not there for cosmetic and aesthetic purposes!’’
According to Ernest and Young Global Integrity survey this year, a record 97 per cent of the respondents strongly agreed that integrity is a very important ingredient for organisational success. This proofs the cardinal fact that integrity is an important trait of leadership because people will not follow someone unless they have established trust with them.
The Machiavellian doctrine that says, “Acquiring a state and maintaining it requires evil means” is one whose time is fast running out. As time goes by, rising to the pinnacle of leadership will be solely based on personal integrity. The collective think should embrace constitutionalism and ethical leadership. Short-term gratification should and must not blind the electorate into choosing aspirants who should never occupy public office. This is the mindset we should all go to the polls come Tuesday.
— The writer is HRM expert and a governance commentator