Reflections on the Spirit of Great Institutions

Posted on: Tuesday 10 October 2023
Author: A blog by the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Forum's Chair Dr John Ndikum

Finding Your ‘Self’ in a Target-Driven World

The corporate world has taught me more about life than I ever expected; I have heard the horror stories and lamentations about ‘sordid corporations’ and ‘exploitative companies’. I had heard it all, been warned (and belittled) about entering it and shuddered at the thought.

But what I did not anticipate was the robust implementation of effectiveness, integrity and service embodied by the leaders that I have observed, learned from and admired.

While we imagine ourselves to be logical creatures, we are usually blind to many emotionally driven behaviours and idiosyncrasies that dictate our conduct – primarily shaped by our early experiences and relationships. Sustainable institutional effectiveness, however, demands an objective appraisal of activities and each individual to add value to society at large eventually, and in this connection, generates exercises (e.g., frequent feedback with actionable workarounds) with this view in mind. Two books on this topic spring to mind, namely ‘Positive Intelligence’ and ‘Multipliers’, which emphasise a process of self-observation and iterative course correction to deliberately practice behaviours aligned with an organisation’s objectives. The same principle can, however, be applied to life by asking the question: “Do my day-to-day actions and activities align with my dreams?” and adjusting accordingly. This single example (of which there are myriad) demonstrates how the toolkits utilised within institutions applied to oneself can prove invaluable and, in some cases, so closely synergise personal and professional growth that the distinction between the two slowly disappears, echoing Indra Nooyi’s reference to ‘work-life integration’.

Therefore, institutions are the world in microcosm; what we encounter within them, we will likely confront in real life, meaning that the lessons of one – if we care to do so – are transferable to the other. This is not to say that we ignore their fallibilities – we must challenge injustice whenever it is observed, even in our own lives and conduct. But the increasing demand for ethical, compassionate governance paired with beneficial societal objectives (fuelled mainly by collective post-pandemic introspection) leads me to believe that under careful guidance and leadership, institutions can become vehicles that multidimensionally benefit not only society but also the individuals of which they are comprised.

In this early phase of my journey, I marvel at the lessons I have learned thus far. I remain increasingly convinced, however, that we as individuals and the institutions that we choose to inhabit can become – to loosely paraphrase Maryland Governor Wes Moore – bridges between our evolving capacities and the creation of a more just, equitable and harmonious world.


Dr. John Ndikum, Chair FPM EDI Forum, Senior Medical Affairs Manager.

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