COVID-19 SHOULD NOT BE A CATAYST FOR ENCOURAGING UNETHICAL LEADERSHIP

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By Juliet O. Nyangái

In the awake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenyans have taken to social media in protest to alleged impunity by leaders in the implementation of the rules set by government in containing the virus.

In the quest of battling the pandemic, the Government of Kenya passed various directives and legislation to aid in combatting COVID-19. This included; adorning of face masks, avoiding overcrowding including social and political gatherings, quarantine and lockdown.

There has been talk blatant flouting of the regulations by the country’s leadership from hosting of social and political gatherings to disregard of the lockdown regulations. This is a clear depiction of unethical leadership.

Governance of Double Standards

The current Law Society of Kenya President, Nelson Havi stated that the political leaders’ actions reek of impunity and hypocrisy and seemed to have rubbed feathers the wrong way when he blatantly said it is time we called out Kenyan political leaders for the fraud that they are. He lamented how the same leaders who declare a curfew demand that we obey but they continue politicking and flouting the set regulations.

The general public seems aggrieved that there seems to be a two sets of laws; for the haves and the have nots, for those in position and those in not. What such a perception then does is that, it paves way for a resentment towards our leaders and even the laws themselves. When the masses sight unethical leadership and bear the brunt of selective application of national laws, they lose respect for their leaders.

Obligations of Ethical Leadership

There are primary responsibilities of leaders, which include; leading by example, holding everyone to the same standard and making expectations clear.

Dr Thomas Ngui, a Leadership and Governance Specialist states that it is critical for leaders to lead by example. He emphasizes that an ethical leader must demonstrate appropriate behavior and practice what he preaches, he or she must be an effective role model as leadership is best exemplified through exposition.

Dr Ngui further opines that an ethical leader holds everyone to the same standard. He goes further to highight a scenario of a manager being inconsistent and not holding everyone to the same expectations, this unethical and unfair behavior could result in staff members losing respect for their leader and the boss then loses authority as a boss and may end up having to deal with angry and piqued employees who may retaliate. Our leaders may want to take into consideration that like the Constitution, ethical leadership holds everyone to the same rules and consequences.

Consequences of Unethical Leadership

There is nothing positive or progressive about unethical leadership. Yes, unethical Leadership could be beneficial to a select few mostly the perpetrators of the same and their ilk but unethical leadership has serious negative consequences on both individuals, organizations and the society at large.

Unethical leadership breeds disharmony and conflict. Whether in an organization or within a society, when the leaders seem partisan and impartial, it paves way for disgruntlement, feeling of alienation and set-up for toxic divisions and warring factions.

Unethical leadership encourages disfranchisement warring factions. Favoritism, open bias and prejudice, triggers rivalry and hostility between the perceived favored and not favored and thus disunity between the people.

Unethical leadership impacts negatively on progression and development in society. It brings about legal issues, unfavorable perception and loss of credibility towards the leadership and loss of morale and a decline in productivity thus negative impact on development. Research indeed shows that people are more productive when motivated.

Coupled with the above, consequences of unethical leadership including abetting legal complexities, the arena is ripe for commission of crime. If leaders’ project behavior or conduct that violates the law, their followers are motivated to follow in the same footsteps or as retaliatory, the public is motivated to go against the set standards.

Way Forward

It is easier to deal with unethical leadership within a private organization than dealing with unethical behavior amongst state leaders. Within an organization, the same can be remedied by creation of a code of ethics, establishment of protocol and a continuous reviewing of the code.

It is more herculean dealing with the top echelons who show no regard for the Constitution or our national laws. Any leader who wantonly, brazenly and publicly flouts and disregards the law is undeserving of being a leader. Impunity should not be applauded and every citizen can play a role by bashing and demonizing unethical leadership. Even amidst the pandemic, there remains a need to hold our leaders accountable.

The Author is an Advocate of the High Court, Principal Partner at Juliet Nyangai & Company Advocates, Social Commentator, Consultant, Researcher and a student of Leadership and Management at the Management University of Africa.

Ms J.O Nyangái can be reached on:

Twitter: @nyangaij  Email: nyangaij@gmail.com

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