Governance and Public Leadership: Bundles of Democratic societies?

Article Authors: Professor Benon C. Basheka


Like an elephant being described by blind men differently depending on where each of them touches, governance and public leadership are concepts prone to different interpretations by different people. Some commentators would even uncourteously question whether a certain theme falls within the scope and intellectual boundaries of Governance and Public Leadership. Yet Governance and Public leadership are themes that have walked the practices and theoretical debates about running of society and ought to have a certain degree of uniformity in their understanding. Governance and leadership have solved problems of mankind but they have also in innumerable ways contributed to creation of problems of mankind. As such, they are concepts whose significance to the management of societal affairs ought to be appreciated and understood. A failure in governance and public leadership affects every person in society.
When man started living in organized societies, the subject of governance and leadership emerged (Ball and Peters, 2005:3). As soon as people began to live together in groups, there was a need to find ways to govern the emerging societies and some members of society who had certain credentials had to take on leadership roles. What is known today as government did not start today. Governmental institutions of whatever form and nature have existed for a reasonably long time. Ancient people had their own governance and public leadership systems and those who had a duty to be in leadership positions were required to demonstrate qualities of a good standing. Understandably, the governments of those times are different from those of the later periods. Subsequent governments tended to demonstrate some degree of complexity and so became public leadership. Modern governments are faced with more complexities never known to the governments of the past.
Within the African governance architecture, there were pre-colonial governments and these were based on indigenous systems and practices. Then came the colonial period with what perfectly fits to be colonial governments) and subsequently the post-colonial governments both immediate post-colonial governments and the contemporary governments. One theme that connects all forms and types of governments is that of public leadership. For better governance to exist, as viewed in Montesquieu’s “The Spirit of Laws” (1748), there ought to be a government that works for all.
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