INTERVIEW – Mr Godfrey Mutabazi was appointed the Executive Director of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) in 2010. He has been at the centre of UCC’s transformation and growth over the last nine years. In an exclusive interview with Isaac Ssejjombwe, Mr Mutabazi shares his leadership skills and nurturing a winning team.
Briefly, tell us about your leadership style that has enabled you to transform Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) under your tenure.
However good your leadership style is, you can’t achieve anything great alone. Therefore, our approach has always been to assemble a team of highly qualified and competent professionals who we then trust and empower to perform. The idea is to keep our team focused on specific goals and motivated enough to be able to achieve those goals. This style has served us very well and enabled us to build the great UCC you see today.
I am a visionary leader. Because of the fast-evolving nature of the ICT industry, I believe in equipping my team with technical and soft skills to foster confidence and trust as we evolve along with the sector. This has helped create an engaged team where every staff member right from top management to the support staff knows how they contribute to attaining our vision of becoming a world-class regulator.
What takes a leader from exceptional to transformational?
As one saying goes, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Articulating fancy terms per se can’t make one an outstanding leader. What makes one a leader, exceptional or transformational, is having the skills, personality, character and charisma to inspire others to buy into your vision and take it as though it were theirs. To stand out, a leader should be a change agent, a motivator of people under him or her to achieve a common goal.
A leader becomes transformational when the outcome/influence of their leadership transforms the lives of the people they lead to also become leaders in their scope. This means that the leader has taken time to study and know the members of his team, fortify their strengths and support them to improve on their weaknesses. The outcome of this is that as you push these people to get the best of them, you are making them better people altogether; transforming their lives.
UCC is at the helm as one of the best performing government agencies; what has UCC done to remain at the top?
The core mandate of UCC is to regulate the communications sector, which entails telecommunications, broadcasting, radio communication, postal communications, data communication and ICT infrastructure. In addition, UCC is an active facilitator and promoter of sustainable growth and development of the communications industry in Uganda. Our task has been to understand and stick to this mandate. If we are at the helm, it’s because we have discharged this mandate diligently.
As a regulator, we have the task to balance the interests of all the stakeholders, including, operators, consumers and the government. We have learnt along the way to balance the needs of all our industry stakeholders through continuous engagement. This has made the institution aware of the needs and vulnerabilities of the stakeholders and as such our actions are responsive to their needs.
What model do you use in measuring the performance of your employees as an institution and how effective is it?
We have a well-developed and inclusive human resource management framework through which departmental objectives, activities, processes and deliverables are analysed to track staff productivity annually. We use graphic rating scales to appraise our staff on behaviour and performance, and we have found this an effective way of going about it.
The Commission uses the balance scorecard in measuring staff performance. The scorecard depends mainly on four perspectives; resources, customers, internal processes, and learning and development perspectives. This makes our human resources responsive to the desired outcome of all our institutional initiatives; to drive the development of a robust communication sector in Uganda.
What are some of your biggest challenges in regulating the communications industry in Uganda?
The challenges we face are not much different from those faced by other countries, most especially in Africa. One of them is the communications infrastructure, which despite our best efforts is still inadequate, especially in the rural areas. As a result, teledensity, at 63%, remains relatively low. We have to bridge that digital divide. We also face the challenge of trying to maximise the benefits accruing from the social media explosion while at the same time making an effort to minimise the inherent dangers. Nevertheless, these are not insurmountable problems. We are not where we want to be, but we are not where we used to be either.
- The balancing of the needs and interests of all stakeholders is an uphill task. It is not your everyday cup of tea to ensure that consumers are protected; operators are thriving as well as government collecting taxes.
- The ICT industry is fast evolving. This requires us to always be strides ahead in skills, tools and technology. This has financial implications, and overtime creates fatigue.
- Fourth Industrial revolution: as we bask in the opportunities of the 4IR, we are also laden with the unintended consequences/outcomes of things like data protection privacy, cybersecurity, child online protection and the gullibility of our mainly semi-illiterate consumers.
In terms of succession, what strategies have you put in place?
The superstructure we have put in place should ensure that UCC is in good hands today and tomorrow.
The Commission has a top management team of the directors that head the departments. These work in constant engagement with the middle-level managers and technical staff to not only provide leadership but also mentor and as such, we have created a pool of talent.
At UCC, what separates leadership from management?
As one famous author Peter F. Drucker once said, management is doing things right while leadership is doing the right things. What we have at UCC is a good dose of both management and leadership. We don’t have to separate the two; we have created an environment that enables our managers to be leaders and our leaders to be managers.
In the Commission, we have nurtured leaders at different levels of management. What I mean is that our staff has been nurtured to not only excel in their technical competencies but also in things like respect, integrity, commitment and excellence. These are what make good leaders, and when we put them in functional systems, we then create robust management.
Where do you see UCC in five years from now?
We see our role in the communications sector as that of creating an enabling environment for other sectors to leverage communications services to play their part in Uganda’s socio-economic transformation.
As of today, more than 90% of the population is accessible through a basic cellular network signal; in five years we shall have achieved 100% coverage, and we’ll be considering national roaming to further improve communications services across the country. Meanwhile, broadband connectivity will have grown from the current 40% for urban areas and 15% for rural areas to 100% and 50% respectively by 2020.
An institution with fully digitalised internal business processes
An institution with a pool of well-trained highly motivated and competent staff members
A responsive and adaptive institution fully collaborating with all its stakeholders on all available medium of communication.
This interview was first published in Daily Monitor on Monday, 30th September 2019