The president of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Koroma has been receiving very good reviews from all quarters both within and outside of the country, with his powerful agenda for change program that is pushing his country men and women to embrace a change in attitude and behaviour to meet and actualise his development aspirations for an impoverish country. I, like most others living and working in the United Kingdom ( UK), see a determined president with a coherent vision, working flat out to convince his people. However, I see fundamental challenges with the management of this change program.
Sierra Leone is one of the few countries in the sub-region were the political leadership has failed over many years to create a vibrant and thriving middle-class, that would have been the backbone and moral guarantor of the Sierra Leonean society. Successive leaders have indeed undermined the fledging middle class left by the colonialist and ensured a vacuum with no bases for patriotism, morality or the concept of shame. Our leaders have over the years, lay emphasis on an acquisitive and thieving mindset, devoid of any semblance of shame or love of country in their dealings with their citizens and foreigners alike. A popular paradigm in our country is love of money above all else, think of all the popular sayings in the local parlance, Krio that extols the triumphs of money over learning and patriotism and serving selflessly for the general good.
The question that now begs for an answer is how do we as a people shift this paradigm? How do you change an attitude that has been cultivated over a sustained period of time? These questions can only be answered by first defining what an attitude is. An attitude is made up of many things, most important are your gene inheritance from both parents, your upbringing and environment, your history, the culture and perceptions within such and of course a host of other factors that I can go on and on to mention, the list is endless. Attitude therefore drives the way we behave, it is that simple. If someone is late all the time, behaviour is exhibited, but driven by a lazy attitude. Failure to stand in an orderly queue, behaviour displayed is jumping and shouting to avoid order, the attitude is an ingrained and entrenched dislike of law and order. There are of course many examples of this sort of attitude that needs to change to bring about a decent way of living amongst ourselves in Sierra Leone. I believe that behaviour modification is what needs to happen rather than attitudinal change. Whilst it is important to talk about attitude, I believe that for now the president should tell his managers to create a set of tangible and effective behaviours for all good citizens and all living in our country to exhibit. Through a sustained period of education, directives and law enforcement, an acceptable series of behaviours will be forged to eventually bring the ultimate vision of attitudinal change in our country. Those managers tasked with this agenda should be men and women with a proven track record of honesty, trustworthiness, reliability and a love of our country. In other words these are men and women who should be at the vanguard of the change agenda and must be the role models for all to emulate. Africa and Sierra Leone in particular have a very poor history and track record of producing skilled and effective managers. The dominant wisdom in our country is that any one with a high sounding university degree is fit to manage, even when other societies are changing such an erroneous mindset. Take the UK as an example there are prestigious professional bodies that give accreditation to managers and not an over fixation of sometimes worthless paper degrees. Examples are the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), Institute of leadership and Management (ILM), Chartered Institute of personnel and Development (CIPD), to name a few of such bodies, which are major players in raising standards in management across the country. In Sierra Leone a graduate with no track record of having worked before not to speak of managing can easily be given major responsibility of leading key institutions of state without first been given the right management skills to perform effectively. To manage the change we must see a sustained period of training in all institutions of government, so that everyone will understand the president’s message and how it should be explained and actualised in manageable objectives that can be monitored and subsequently evaluated. There should be a co-ordinated and joined up thinking between ministries and other state institutions, putting the major emphases on better communications and training even at grassroots level. All managers must buy-in to this agenda and training should start at the highest level, from ministers to cleaners and across the country a sustained period of engagement with the general population through radio and television and local means of educating people. The president has done well in thirty-six months and must now attract and bring in men and women of proven track records in administration and management. The main thrust of such a program should be in managing people, assets, time and process. New behaviours should be clearly defined and explained in simple terms for all that inhabit our country to understand. The president has set his agenda and showed us all a tangible vision by setting performance targets for his ministers and those entrusted with state institutions and public agencies. The police must be seen by all citizens to be above corrupt practices and so too our judiciary. The courts must be strengthened and examples set by dispensing stiff sentences to corrupt state functionaries and such cases must attract the widest of publicity to act as a deterrent to those who may wish to follow their bad example and betray the trust of the our laws and the sanctity of our rights. Today our blessed nation is about to celebrate fifty years of gaining independence, it is time for all our leaders to start investing on people especially the army of unemployed young people. A concerted effort must be put on creating sustainable jobs for our young people, a decent standard of existence must be affordable for all Sierra Leoneans and a hygienic and clean environment fostered in all our communities. That is what attitudinal change means to me and I hope to all decent folk in our treasured land.
Al-Hassan Kargbo Bsc, Dms, Mcmi
Member Chartered Management Institute.
The author is currently working as a Training Specialist, Transport for London (TfL).
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.