Friday, April 22, 2011

Being in a position of authority - a note to my International Development class

Dear International Development Class Members,

One of the things I particularly appreciate about members of this class is your tolerance of my mistakes, confusing communications and oversights. The most recent example is my leaving two names off the oral presentation list. I don’t seek to justify these shortcomings - far from it - but they - along with your gracious responses - do illustrate principles of effective governance that I presented last class session. The principles are also relevant to effective management and effective development, I believe. They are these:

[1] Mistakes, oversights, confusing communications, misunderstandings, etc. are likely to occur in any process where human beings are involved.

[2] Those in "positions of authority” need to be realistic in acknowledging their own shortcomings. They need to create an affirming - even loving - organizational culture where those subject to their authority feel comfortable in pointing out mistakes and shortcomings, including their own. The communications will be most effective if given with civility, grace and forbearance.

[3] Those subject to authority also need to feel empowered to communicating about areas where improvement is possible.

[4] Where shortcomings are identified, on the part of those “in authority” and those subject to it, they need to be acknowledged and corrected. Lessons need to be learned from the experience and put to good use.

[5] The organizational culture these principles creates fosters an environment that encourages creativity and risk taking that can be mutually affirming - even joyful.

[6] None of the above is inconsistent with setting high standards and demanding high levels of performance. In fact, precisely the opposite is the case.


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