The severe breakdown in many facets of life like violence, kidnappings; extortion; people taking the law into their hands and attacking persons and property, including Police stations and the serious problem of drugs and general criminal activities, all reflect serious deficiencies in the decision making processes, judgments as well as performance, a top retired civil servant has said.
These comments were made by Dharmasiri Peiris, a respected and now retired former permanent secretary, speaking at the Convocation of the Faculty of Management Studies and Commerce, University of Sri Jayawardenapura held in Colombo recently.
Addressing the newly, passed out graduates, he said as professionals, they are called upon to set high standards and assist in the task of stabilizing society. “Your individual and collective contributions will be important. Your leadership will be important. Beyond all, a strong base of morals and values will be important. I am sure that you will have the strength and the capacity to rise to this challenge,” he said.
Mr Peiris said professionalism is not only about knowledge and skills but very much about attitudes and values, and one of the foremost values is a sense of gratitude and a realization that very little in life can be achieved alone, and without support and comfort from others.
He said good management is not about solving problems. Good management is about having the foresight and the skills to prevent problems from occurring. Crisis management is also a form of management. But very often crises occur due to negligence, inattention, poor oversight and lack of anticipation. Under these circumstances, crisis management may be necessary, but not always praiseworthy, he added.
“In my view, professionalism, values and leadership cannot be disaggregated. They constitute a dynamic whole. Professionalism is not only about knowledge and skills. It is not only about experience. All these have to be grounded on a value base. We talk about business ethics. We talk about transparency and accountability. We speak of good governance. None of these is possible without a solid base of values.
You have to work out what your own bottom line is. You have to determine the line that you will never cross, whatever the incentives, whatever the blandishments, whatever the temptation. Your professionalism, your capacity for leadership and indeed the quality of your leadership will depend upon that. I myself have determined this line for myself. On one occasion, I turned down a very lucrative offer of both position and wealth, because my sense of values did not permit me to accept a post in an area which I thought would be ultimately detrimental to people and to society. This is where you draw a distinction between what is legal and what is moral,” he added.