Dr. Akintola, Benson Oke
Universally, public service is the institution that drives activities of government. It operates with professionals and non- professionals from whom it demands a special aptitude, training, language, discipline and culture. It is the major instrument used by government to implement its policies, programmes and plans. No wonder many refer to it as the engine room of governance! Hence, for any government to do well, it must be backed by a virile and visionary public service.
In envisioning a public service peopled by leaders, we are mindful, as Robin Sharma observed that: “Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It is about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.”
The Lagos State Government under the leadership of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode fully recognizes the enormous value that knowledge and soft skills training bring to bear on the attainment of the strategic objectives of the government and the state’s public service. This is why it has always been in the vanguard of advocating for the institutionalization of essential training programmes that benefit the most strategically-placed officers in the public service.
Indeed, it is a truism that high performances have been known to increase in organizations that expose their human capital to leadership development through training programmes that help boost the dynamism, effectiveness and efficiency of the workforce.
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 realizes the attainment of the defined mission of the institutions. In order to actualize the vision, however, leaders must be trained to possess both the hard and soft skills that are fundamental for success.
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. I also wish to briefly comment on how the possession of the right skills will positively impact on the effectiveness of institutions.
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. A good leader must understand the mission statements, objectives, action plans and goals of the organisation to be able to lead the workforce into realizing them.
Indeed, 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 organizations. 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 organization to enthusiastically buy into the vision crafted by the leadership. There is no effective leadership without a mobilized 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 realize the vision. This calls for the presence of excellent communications and relational skills in the leaders of organisations.
In today’s world, a strategic leader must be able to act as a communication champion and a sense giver rather than just as an information processor. He must be able to use key elements of effective listening and understand why listening is important to communication. He must also be able to utilize candor to appropriately improve communication effectiveness, and recognize and apply the difference between dialogue and discussion. Additionally, he 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 people’s time effectively. Being able to do so is critical when it comes to making the most of the leader’s time in the office and not becoming overwhelmed. Furthermore, it also ensures that the trained leader’s 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 view of the foregoing that the Lagos State Civil Service has always been in the forefront of innovation and dynamic effectiveness in the nation and the Ambode administration is dedicated to the maintenance of this noble position in the country. It is for this reason, among others, that diverse trainings have been approved and organized for the benefits of the critical and invaluable human resources in charge of the institution of the public service. The overall goal is to build a crop of public officials who could efficiently assist the government in proffering possible solutions to complicated problems.
At present, the state government’s focus on training and re-training of its workforce is steadily yielding results. Consequently, the vision of achieving a Lagos State that is managed by a dynamic and competent public service is progressively being attained. This is what makes Lagos a model to others and this is a convention that the Ambode led government hopes to preserve and exceed.