CEO Huub Dekkers on how to become a great university

And how Hawassa University Ethiopia is achieving this

16 September 2019

Good leadership can make or break education. During my visit to Hawassa university in Ethiopia to provide 17 university leaders with a leadership program, the importance of good leadership once again became crystal clear.

The key to success

We discussed how hierarchy clashes with innovation. Hierarchy makes employees scared to make mistakes, it makes people point fingers and neglect their own responsibilities. Also it makes projects dependent on the capacity of a few people instead of a team. It results in an unsafe work environment where employees will choose to benefit their own interest over that of the company and their co-workers. In the end, this creates an environment that easily stagnates in results. To move from being a good university to becoming a great university, one must acknowledge that the key is in inspirational leadership. Embrace the diversity in your workforce, look for the critical opinions, and stimulate an environment that fosters innovation and creativity. We as leaders of education must not forget that lifelong learning applies to everyone, even ourselves.

Theory into practice

It was admiring to experience a group that, even though highly academically trained, are still open to learn more. That is a mind-set that many leaders forget along the way. When the Netherlands decided to lose their hierarchical structures, the country made great leaps in the quality of their education system and is now considered one of the best in the world. Ethiopia is going through a similar process, one in which meta leaps are being taken as we speak. This is because of these leaders. It is an honour to be part of such an inspiring historic effort. Immediately after the training program we could see great results coming to fruition. For example, a problem in Ethiopia is over-academization and high unemployment rates. To tackle these issues, the leaders immediately suggested to start engaging and researching the labour market to match their supply to the demand of society. To me, making the decision to involve these opinions, is good leadership.

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The trick to good leadership is to known how to build the bridge between you and your employees, to know that you need each other, and that open and honest communication is essential to achieve your goals. Without, bridges do not hold.

Huub Dekkers

Doreen and Carmen on inspirational leadership in the field

Being the fresh wind in an organization is both challenging and rewarding at the same time. It requires courage and well-founded arguments to question the status-quo, suggest new ideas, and to be the critical note in a conversation. Often your ideas lack experience and do not touch base at all, but more often your ideas make people think, improve their work, and inspire creativity for better results. Hierarchy is a barrier to this. It leaves little space for mistakes and continuous learning. A good leader recognizes the need to look out for the creators, the critics, and the pushers. They know how to make these people reach their potential. Ultimately, the people who get the best results are the ones that keep pushing for quality, make mistakes, and learn from these benefitting not only themselves, but their organizations.

Doreen about Nejimu Biza

We meet Nejimu Biza, who coordinates one of CINOP’s projects on behalf of Semara University in Ethiopia. He cares about the objectives of the project more than his own needs. He wants to ensure that his staff becomes equipped to train high quality midwives, that once they graduate they can be an asset to their local communities.

’He always asks for what more is possible within the projects, how things can be improved, and become more cost efficient. He takes the initiative to use limited resources to their full potential, and to me, that’s good leadership’’

Doreen Verbakel

Carmen about Ishak Shaibu

While strolling down the hallways of Kwadaso College in Ghana, we find Ishak Shaibu. He is an ambitious go-getter who is skilled in bringing all stakeholders for our project together, ensuring they maintain the same vision to reach their goals, and enabling them to carry out their complementary roles in the partnership.

He ensures all partners continue to be motivated for the longer-term, and he continues to remind them why their work matters: to enable current and future students to thrive in their education, become agripreneurs and earn a decent living wage after graduation

Carmen Kurvers

It is very refreshing to note that, after two years of implementation of the NICHE-GHA-270 Project in Ghana, Agric College trainees whose initial ambitions were to seek for public employment after graduation are now desirous of creating their own jobs after graduation

Ishak Shaibu

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