Integrity and Morality in Governance
I begin by saying that there is no infallibility in governance, but there are leaders whose style of governance would try the patience of a saint. For the ease of clarity and understanding, I would like to advert our minds to the meaning of these three words: ‘integrity’, ‘morality’ and ‘governance,’ which have come together to form the nub of this topic.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines ‘integrity’ as ‘the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles,’ while it defines ‘morality’ as ‘principles concerning right and wrong or good and bad behaviour.’ It further defines it as ‘a system of moral principles followed by a particular group of people.’ Hence, ‘governance’ according to Huberts, ‘is about addressing collective problems and interests, possibly by one actor but also by a network of public and private actors.’
Drawing from the clear expositions above, integrity and morality in governance refers to the overt and covert quality of acting in accordance with relevant moral principles, ethics and values worthy of a conscientious leader in a society. This is why Anand Inamdar defines ‘moral integrity’ as ‘doing the right thing when no one is watching.’
Hence, a leader with integrity and morality is a leader with social conscience. Such a leader does not act to be praised, he feels duty-bound and rather acts in good conscience, just to maintain the integrity of his society which forms the crux of his governance.
There is integrity and morality in governance when a leader pays adequate attention to the moral values and principles of policymaking and implementation. A leader with integrity and morality acts ethically and morally. He does not on his own adjudge himself as one with integrity. Hence, if a leader is one with integrity and morality, it is mostly adjudged through the lens of the mass of the people of a society. Rather than praise himself and his abilities, a leader with integrity and morality always respects and praises the efforts and contributions of the people working under him.
A leader with integrity and morality is always conscious of what is right or wrong, good or bad. Such a leader is always open and ready to welcome constructive assessment and criticism of his style of governance. A leader with moral integrity always warns himself against problematising those who hold opinions that are antithetical to his. He does not portray himself as a viscous masquerade, or allow himself to be seen as the only cock that crows in his government. A leader with moral integrity is always neighbourly, open-minded, accommodating and accountable.
Integrity and morality in governance equally entails the sense of wholeness, unity and incorruptibility. A moral and ethical governance is one that maintains social justice; one that is impartial; one that maintains moral sense, moral responsibility or duty. Hence, a leader who maintains integrity and morality in governance is one who maintains an examplary behaviour; one who does not only give an example, but strives always to be an example, because, according to Mother Teresa, ‘it is very easy to give an example, but very hard to be an example.’
Integrity and morality in governance entails honesty, fairness, courage and wisdom. A leader with moral integrity does not allow himself to be swayed unjustly, by the people around him. He does not allow himself to be tilted back and forth or surrender to undue influences or any act that will lead to the violation of his integrity. A leader with moral integrity is one with a human face; one who does not keep mum in the face of injustice; one who stands his ground and maintains his moral and ethical opinions, against all odds.
Most importantly, a leader with moral integrity is not a brute of a man. He is a leader with free-mindedness, who follows the process and procedure deserving of a moral and ethical governance; he maintains a behaviour that is worthy of emulation. This is why according to Huberts, integrity and morality in governance ‘concerns behaviour, process and procedure.’
Owing to the aforesaid, integrity and morality in governance agrees holistically with the principle of natural justice, equity and good conscience. A leader with integrity and morality calls a spade a spade. He does not allow power to blindfold him, neither does he allow material gains to becloud his thought. Hence, in moments of transgression, a leader with integrity and morality corrects more than punish.
While we do not expect a leader to be perfect, we expect a leader to behave and live simply so that others may live. This is why a conscious reference will always be made to Nelson Mandela and Amino Kano as leaders who had social conscience and maintained social justice in their governance. A leader who is maintaining integrity and morality in his governance is one whose overt and covert behaviours are in line with the values, principles and norms of his society; and who strives hard never to compromise same.
Arinze J. Oduburu
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: +2347053971323
- Inamdar, “The Importance of Your Leaders Having Moral Integrity”,(4 August 2019)<upraise.io/blog/moral-integrity>accessed 19 November 2020.
- W. J. C. Huberts, “Integrity: What it is and Why it is Important”,(18 July 2020)<https://doi.org/10.1080/10999922.2018.1477404>accessed 19 November 2020.
- Deuter, ed., Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, New 9th Edition,(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)pp. 817 and 1006.
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