GOVERNOR AS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER (CEO) OF THE COUNTY
Since the promulgation of the new constitution, things have started to change at all levels. I know the business of government at country level will become more technical, more complex and more competitive and political success will depend as much on managerial skills as on personal charisma. In such environment therefore, the challenges that will confront the governor of the county will not be very different from those facing the Chief Executive Officer of any major organization.
Irish philosopher Charles Handy once said, “It is one of the paradoxes of success that the things and ways which got you there are seldom those things that keep you there.” Therefore, people seeking for the position of governor need to understand that although this is an elective position it is going to be different this time round. It will require an interested person to evaluate himself/herself because it requires serious technical skills befitting that of A CEO of a company.
I know most political leaders may not be amused by this analogy (governor vs. CEO) and may argue that the bottom line success for a political leader, in this case a governor is not defined primarily in monetary terms like that of a CEO. But let me say that the similarities are not that farfetched either. There are for example stakeholders (citizens or members of the county) to take care of and the governor must have both a managerial and a fiduciary responsibility towards them.
There is also a need to understand the competitive environment (counties and markets) to decide how best to make use of available resources (land, raw materials, labor and social organizations) and to trade. At the end of the day, there is also a need to account for one’s performance and seek a mandate to continue (elections).
Important though this analogy may be, in my view there is one area where the governor differs significantly from the CEO or a corporate leader. And that is in his/her treatment of intangibles. The dynamics of county building consists of two aspects. One can be termed as “hard” part, and this concerns issues affecting the county economy and associated problems of growth and development. There is also the “soft” aspect of county building, and this involves history culture and values of that specific county.
“Hard” issues tend to be quantifiable while soft issues are intangible. The CEO or a corporate leader may acquire a good handle of the former. The governor must in addition, have a firm grasp of the latter and this additional requirements makes the position of the governor very technical and challenging.
But regardless of whether building or developing a county is viewed in terms of attempting to satisfy the “hard” and “soft” demands of change and modernization, the basic task of the governor and the chief executive officer is the same and that is to translate policy into action.
In the light of the foregoing, if any county has to succeed, it must have a governor who has capability of executing multi-faceted roles and he/she must be a strategic leader, a motivator, a creator and builder, an agent of change, a manager of limited resources and a master strategist and planner.
The governor should be a man or woman who shall come up with strategic concept after becoming a governor that will cause a strategic shift in mindset.
No much development can be achieved if people in the county cannot have a mental shift in terms of thinking, beliefs, attitude, behavior and performance. Professor Michael Dynamite Munkumba wrote: “when you change your thinking, you change your beliefs, when you change your beliefs; you change your expectations; when you change your expectations; you change your altitude, when you change your attitude, you change your behavior, when you change your behavior, you change your performance; when you change your performance, you change your life.
In this regard, the governor should be a man or woman who shall initiate such transformation. For him or her to be able to do this, he or she must have a thought pattern that is transformative. His or her mind must think in terms of forms and not just motions. I say this because our country has been taken round and round through motions mistaking it to be progress.
I wish to emphasize the issue of differentiating motions and progress by using ‘Henry Fabre’ experiment. John Henry Fabre placed caterpillars in a circle. For twenty-four hours the caterpillars dutifully followed one another around and around and around. Then Fabre placed the caterpillars around a saucer full of pine needles (their favorite food). For six days the mindless creatures moved around and around the saucer, dying from starvation and exhaustion even though a abundance of choice food was located less than two inches away. They confused activity with accomplishment.
Counties will require governors who will implore people within the county to have a abundance mentality. Just as abundance of food was located less than two inches from the starving caterpillars, so is the potential and power of county members not a head of them, but within them.
As a strategic leader, he will be required to introduce many new ideas and campaigns to educate the county and its people that the world is dynamic and is changing. After giving an advances test to a graduate class of physics students at Princeton University, Albert Einstein was on the way back to his office when one of his graduate assistants reminded him that the exam he gave the student was exactly the same as the one he had given the previous year.
Dr. Einstein nodded and said, ‘Yes, it was the same exam as last year. The graduate asked the great Nobel Prize winning physicist, “But Dr. Einstein, how could you give the same test two years in a row?”
“Because,” Einstein replied, since last year, the answers have changed.
In the same way, counties need to have governors who are capable of teaching people that answers are changing today at a more rapid rate than ever before and the only way that a county can be assured of developing and staying on the top is by continually taking new ideas and knowledge.
As a motivator, the governor will be expected to inspire the people within the county. To inspire is to activate, to mobilize, to make others internalize your decisions, your values or your goals. In fact the meaning of the word inspire comes from Latin for ‘’ inhale.” In this case the governor will be required to ‘inhale’ into people’s hearts his values, goals, plans and strategies.
As a creator and builder, the governor has to undertake strategic projects and willing to experiment with new strategies and fresh approaches as well as to take risks.
Peter Drucker in his book innovation and entrepreneurship writes that the greatest business breakthroughs take place as the result of “either the unexpected success or the unexpected failure”.
When an experiment in growing bacteria failed because a mold had blown across the laboratory and landed on the Petri dish, killing the bacteria, a bacteriologist, Alexander Fleming became curious about a mold that was so powerful that it would kill such strong bacteria. His research led to the discovery and development of penicillin, which saved millions of lives in World War II and won him a Nobel Prize.
Similarly, the governor should be a leader who is not afraid of shaking up the status quo. As an agent of change, the governor will be required to give the county a sense of direction and a sense of purpose in the context of vision 2030. One who should realize that Kenyans are ethnically divided, underlying social tensions, has pervaded the whole society and politicians are championing narrow sectarian interest!
One who should ensure that the ethnic, clanism or nepotism bogey is no longer used to get a head in politics within the county. One who should be able to bring people together to look at the bigger picture of striving to become a fully medium developed county by the year 2030, a shared vision and a common goal.
One who will bring about a fundamental shift in clan or tribe relations in the county. One who should not be afraid to attack extremism from all sides.
One who should teach his people how to dream. One who should teach his people like Dr. Benjamin Elijah Maitz did to Martin Luther Senior’s son.
In July 1944, Martin Luther Senior approached Dr. Benjamin Elijah Maitz requesting him to teach his fifteen year old son how to dream. Dr. Maitz wrote four teaching notes statements which went as follows:
It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie on not reaching your goals; the tragedy of life lies on not having a goal to reach for.
It is not a calamity to die with your dreams unfulfilled; it is a calamity not to dream.
It is not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideals; it is a disaster to have no ideals to capture.
It is not a disgrace not to reach to the stars; it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for.
In the light of Dr. Elijah Benjamin’s teaching notes, whoever wishes to be a governor must take note that the highest assets of the county lie within the skulls of its people. For now that is a graphic way of putting it. It is up to the governor to inculcate a culture of dreaming and hard work and remember the general saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” In other words, if the government of the county becomes casual, there will be casualties.
Therefore, if any macro-economist, investment banker, teacher, scholar, lawyer, accountant, doctor, engineer, editorial writer or any other person thinks he or she can do a better job as a governor of holding a complex multi-ethnic or Multi-clans County together in relative peace in a county stained by clanism and nepotism, please step forward.
Mr. Joseph Nyanchama is a member of ICPAK, member of Institute of Directors (Kenya) and a Motivational Public Speaker on Transformational and Servant Leadership.