A video circulating on social media showing Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha insulting a ministry official as “a fool” has infuriated many Kenyans.
Magoha is captured dressing down the elderly official who we have since learnt is a county director for education who has a doctorate degree.
At the same function, the minister reportedly ordered teachers to collect litter alongside pupils during his impromptu inspection tour of a school in Uasin Gishu county.
While the Minister could have been dissatisfied with the director’s conduct, a number of Kenyans felt the way he reacted went beyond the limits of decency and bordered on disrespect.
There is no doubt that Magoha is highly educated, a known performer, a strong personality and a no-nonsense administrator. He is credited with taming student riots when he served as vice-chancellor of the University of Nairobi.
Kenyans also celebrate the CS for cleaning up the mess at the Kenya National Examination Council where he served as chairman by coming up with tough measures to protect integrity of examinations.
But his tenure at the helm of the Education ministry has elicited murmurs from officials who now describe him as condescending, a poor listener, a lone-ranger and a bully.
Magoha’s dismissive attitude is said to have poisoned his relationship with ministry officials and lowered their morale.
While we appreciate that every leader has his own individual style, we dare say that Magoha can achieve the same results without needless aggression by enhancing his officials’ self-esteem, training to fill any competence gaps, recognition, reward for performance and better communication.
Human resource practitioners have long discarded performance models that emphasised the application of science in the workplace, to improve productivity that viewed individuals as machines.
Instead, they have shifted to models which recognise that organisations and leaders should treat people as individuals with needs and dreams – and not machines.
Indeed, studies have shown that workers achieve higher performance when they feel recognised and valued and when they are persuaded that the organisations they work for share in their dreams.
This is achieved through effective communication and empathy. It can be argued that Magoha’s outburst did not instil confidence and self-worth in the officials who work for him.
Instead, it helped to deflate their self-esteem and demotivated them.
We encourage the CS to be a leader who inspires those below him—not a ruthless manager.