“A man of absolute integrity, complete determination, great humility, a fine team player and an all-round exceptional individual” were the words Ulster Rugby club CEO, Shane Logan, used to describe Nevin Spence, the 22-year-old Irish rugby player killed, along with his brother Graham and father Noel, in a slurry tank accident at the family farm. How many people in leadership positions can be described as men or women of absolute integrity? In recent days here in T&T, if one is to judge by overwhelming public opinion, the answer may or should be an embarrassment to those who hold office be it public, private, corporate, sport, community or non-governmental. Some of us will say we are blameless, honest, incorruptible and above reproach. But are we really? Can every leader and organisation stand up to an independent audit and examination using good governance principles as the scoreboard? Or is it an idle boast at best or a deliberate deception at worse?
Ignorance of the law is no excuse. By the same token ignorance of good governance principles is not an excuse. Knowledge of good governance principles is expected. It should therefore be of concern when the perception of the ordinary man and woman is that leaders govern without integrity. Perception is reality. That the perception of leaders and governance is at such a low ebb should be taken as a wake-up call. As far as the public is concerned clandestine governance and leadership is more the rule than the exception. National Sport Organisations (NSOs) should take note of the reputational damage that can accrue from failure to meet high standards of governance and leadership. Trust is a basic tenant of good governance. Any appearance real or imagined of a betrayal of trust cannot be simply brushed aside.
It is not being naive or idealistic.
Executive members who operate and conduct themselves as “Lords and Masters” should not be left unchallenged. Undemocratic behaviour should not be tolerated. Blind loyalty leads to negative issues to the detriment of an organisation.
Good governance leaves clear clues and positive outcomes. Poor governance and its unacceptable outcomes are always obvious. No amount of wishful thinking can or will change the perception. NSOs can learn from examples of poor governance and the less than satisfactory results. In an environment where poor governance is the normal standard it may seem painful and difficult to adhere to good governance principles. But the pain of not adhering to good governance principles is far greater than the pain of acting in accord with good governance principles. Given what has transpired in recent weeks NSOs need not look far to see the results. NSOs must ensure that its membership—individual clubs on the whole have good management and well-structured transparent governance structures.
It is crucial to the long term survival of sport here in T&T. However any organisation and its elected or appointed leaders not serving its participants first and foremost will soon flounder. Questions to be answered must always include: How does this action or decision align with the organisation’s values, mission and vision? Is this benefiting the greater good? How is this benefiting the sport? How is this of benefit to the young and old who play, coach, referee and watch sport at all levels? Good governance principles cannot be sacrificed. The consequences include betrayal of trust and confidence, loss of creditability and legitimacy. The notion of “Lord and master” is not good governance behaviour or conduct. Adhering to good governance principles requires discipline. Like every other endeavour in life attaining success requires discipline and dedication. Good governance is no different.
Brian Lewis is the Honorary Secretary General of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee http http://www.ttoc.org/. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the TTOC.