Since I became an adult many moons ago I have always been fascinated about why people would inflate their importance by claiming false status be it academically or professionally.
So while reviewing postings on the World Bank Institute Alumni Network I came across some interesting responses to the questions: What needs to be done when a leader’s academic record was misstated?; Is there a lack of integrity and honesty?; Does effective leadership require high standards, etiquette, moral values and ethics?
The views of the contributors who located in Malawi; Nigeria; Ghana; South Africa; and the Philippines etc. variously argued that although we should not rule out the value of academic qualifications it is more important that we have leaders untainted by corruption and who can deliver on their mandate.
One alumnus stated that the issue of comparative weight of qualifications should be a consideration in terms of the ranking of the academic institution. However the intentional misstating of qualifications to gain an advantage for selection to a position brings the factor of integrity into the equation since if someone is willing to intentionally claim undeserved academic status there is the nagging thought of what would s/he not be ready to do to advance themselves in other matters.
Another challenge relates to acceptance by one’s peers when they realise (and trust me they will find out) how the job was obtained. And therefore the importance of background checks and references cannot be understated.
It is an established convention that anyone who is found to have deliberately misstated or falsified his qualification with the intention to deceive faces appropriate sanctions.
Another comment said that if a leader has no high standard worthy of emulation, lacks etiquette, moral values and ethics, s/he is failing as a role model and will not command the respect of others.
The argument concludes that that leader is more than likely to be a failure in family and business matters since it is the lack of integrity which brings don systems. It is not unknown that there are leaders possessed of a passion to achieve which drives them and who cannot be faulted for their effective and efficient leadership; these are the people who have made their mark and for whom qualifications are a plus.
But let’s not restrict ourselves to leadership behaviour but take in the wider society. On the other hand if you look at some people who obtain the highest qualifications but sadly they have nothing to show for all their knowledge.
The argument that the end justifies the means will not wash in circumstances of falsification since there is no guarantee that such duplicity will not happen on a grander and more expensive scale in the future. Yahoo’s CEO Scott Thompson is alleged to have quietly allowed people to believe that he held degrees in accounting and computer science – a claim which was repeated in a conference speaker’s biography; on the company’s website; and in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, when in fact he only had an accounting degree.
Patti Hart, who led the search committee that picked Thompson, in her résumé filed with the SEC stated that she holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing and economics when in fact her degree is in business administration with a specialty in marketing.
Some people crave the recognition of having attended certain schools and possessing certain qualifications since this paves the way for acceptance in circles to which they would not normally be invited; and it is not unlikely that some such claims would be false.
I don’t think that having attended Charlestown Government Secondary School – which was arguably among the top schools during the sixties and seventies that I would lay any false claims to Queens. Of course it has been argued that – like some associations in the post colonial West Indies, Queens College because of the contributions of its alumni, should share some of the blame for some of the conditions of post independence Guyana. Editor we are at the crossroads where for some strange reason we seem to accept daily media reports on ethical misconduct as being the norm and not an aberration suggestive of the loss of our moral compass.
Patrick E. Mentore
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