November 20th, 2012
National sport organisations (NSOs) are more often than not in the public spotlight. In the modern era of social media with its immediacy and interaction, the harsh reality is that sport leaders have little or almost no margin for error.Word and news get around in nanoseconds.
Even if it’s the wrong information or deliberately malicious information the bottomline is that news, views, opinions and judgments are circulated in the blink of an eye.
Fair or not is not the issue nor is it important. It is part of the modern landscape that sport is volunteer and membership based. That it is not, public or private sector in construct or operation, is neither here nor there.
Once you offer yourself up for election as an executive committee or board member of an NSO that’s the reality.
Public scrutiny—critical analysis of decisions made, actions or thoughts expressed—is part and parcel of the daily existence of sport leadership.
The days of bluff and bluster are over. The demands and expectations of stakeholders are high. It is therefore essential that NSOs and sport leaders keep on the straight road that is good governance. To deviate will result in failure. There is no hiding. Any success will only be temporary. Many have tried and have fallen by the way side or on their own sword.
Why is the straight road of good governance principles, a critical success factor if local sport is to sustainably develop? The answer is simple, sport leaders cannot survive if they are divisive and cater to special interest groups.
The modern environment demands that sport leaders see past narrow self-interest and leadership as their ticket to fame and glory.
There is a perception that leaders are experts at throwing around trite buzzwords that are meant to distract from their flawed decision making. That they prefer an entourage of yes-men and yes-women. That there is a fear of disagreements and the preference is not to seek and obtain input but rather approval.
How important is it for good governance of an NSO that no important perspective goes unheard? If the leadership of an NSO does not encourage and insist on different perspectives and options in its deliberations. Problems and crises are not far away.
It is important that persons elected to the executive committee be able to speak freely and reflect and comment on what other members of the executive committee, sub committees and stakeholders say.
It’s very hard for an NSO to overcome mistrust of its executive committee. Frustration is sure to set in as personal relationships and preferences influence policy and strategy.
Don’t misunderstand the point being made. I am not proposing that the mere presence of differing views guarantees good governance. What I am suggesting is that good governance principles do not discourage debate and that opposing perspectives facilitate good governance because it allows the broader implications of decision making to be considered and deliberated upon.
There are those who espouse that a characteristic of strong leadership is the willpower to suppress disagreement and discourage the open exchange of ideas while on the other hand the individual, who seeks consensus or the views of others, is a weak leader.
Contrast this with the view that it is a self-confident leader, who allows his or her opinions to be challenged. Effective leadership cannot be built in an environment of yes-men and yes-women.
How can an NSO ensure that its leaders do not make hasty decisions and neglect important considerations, and that there is a process that includes opposing points of view and different options before making important decisions?
The straight road of good governance structure and process can enhance decision making and minimise the chances of failure.