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Practical leadership: Changing leadership: Driving organisational change
Posted Fri, 11 Nov 2005

ESKOM Leadership for Transformation Conference
Tuesday, 1st November 2005-11-01

Practical leadership
Breakaway Session 2
TOPIC: Changing leadership: Driving organisational change

Moderator: Dr Malcolm Ray

Speakers: Ms Ntombifuthi Mtoba (Chairman of the Board, Deloitte)
Dr Mamphela Ramphele (Chairperson, Circle Capital Ventures)
Dr Pat Utomi (Director, Lagos Business School)

Ms Ntombifuthi Mtoba

African business leaders face vastly different challenges to those faced in the West. Two unique characteristics differentiate them: 1. The African continent has 54 countries, with a multitude of different languages, cultures, intricate networks and diverse economies all posing varied challenges. 2. The environment in which business operates is characterised by extreme poverty, lack of resources and lack of human capital.

Effective leadership requires the efficient management of the people, keeping their best interests at heart. Leadership change requires the integration of various models: 1. Identify the special capabilities which African leaders need to have and select the leadership style that harnesses the best of the various leadership styles, e.g. a. Eurocentric - Power- based b. Afro centric - Humanistic philosophy, creative The argument is that all leaders can only see what their cultural lenses allow them to see. Different business cultural paradigms must be explored. The leader needs to understand the unique culture and values of all the stakeholders so that he/ she is flexible in the approach used.

2. Look at the genius characteristics of the various traditions, for example: a. European - Planning, Innovation, Individualism b. American - Entrepreneurial, Bias for action c. Asian - Process Innovation leading to maximisation of Quality d. African - Interconnectedness, interdependence of human beings The dominant leadership style in South Africa is Western. However, South African countries are in a unique position to merge various leadership styles. One needs to emphasis behaviours that suit the local situation. Skills such as empathy are crucial in a cross- cultural environment such as South Africa's.

It is fundamental that macro- socioeconomic challenges are addressed. Profit- maximisation is still the key to business. Profit measures the viability of the business model. However, in Africa, a business cannot be sustainable if profit is its only focus.

Business should be assisting Government with service delivery. Poverty can be addressed through innovative business practices. ".business is a community in its own right." Keeping its nose to the ground allows for the discovery of new markets. For example, the "Mzanzi" bank account has been offered to the lower end of the market in South Africa, and is offered by all the major banking institutions. The question must be answered as to why it was necessary for Government to forcefully drive this initiative through the Financial Services Charter, rather than the bank account being part of a natural evolution in the banking strategy.

Many leaders have witnessed the effects of hardship first hand, so it is merely a matter of looking to ourselves. We should lead by principles and acknowledge that African businesses are agents of change.

Dr Mamphela Ramphele

Africa displays a lack of urgency. It runs the risk of being the loser in a global competitive environment.

The challenges that we face are:

  1. On all measures of competition, we lag every other region in the world.
  2. Our richness of resources has yet to translate into human and intellectual capital. We are net exporters, rather than importers or retainers of talent.
  3. When considering Demography, Development and Democracy, Africa has negative dynamic that encourages a brain drain.
  4. The low penetration of science and technology, coupled with the lack of appreciation for the scientific field has left us with little visibility at policy making mechanisms. It must be acknowledged that this is a legacy of our past. However we cannot afford to keep lagging behind in terms of science and technology.

Leaders who are able to multi- task are needed. The current ones think sequentially. Inclusive leadership is needed which allows for different ideas to finding a solution. It must be acknowledged that leadership is limited to its domain or context. Technical ability is needed in addition to the ability to inspire others.

Leaders need to lose the tendency to "shoot the messenger". One needs to look at traditionalism as a burden. A freedom- fighting tendency is to close ranks when it appears that there is an onslaught. However, in Government, closing ranks acts as a barrier to accountability. This in turn does not allow for correction. The question can also be raised as to whether African exceptionalism is strength or a danger, as it makes us unable to learn from others. It is important for us to root ourselves while learning from others.

One needs to acknowledge the gaps that exist. We speak of "Ubuntu", whilst the horrifying reality is that the abuse of women and children continue. Rewards from pursuing the "Struggle" must be separated from those for good governance. A separation is needed between person and post.

The challenge for Africa is: Institutionalise leadership and de- personalise it!

Dr Pat Utomi

The key to the discussion is that the most constant theme in life is change, BUT people fear change. "Special" people are needed to help people to overcome fear, a case of "the leader versus the led".

Transactional leaders engage in transactions. However also requires transformational leaders who will make the quantum leap in human condition, changing the way in which the world is viewed.

What are the change drivers to economic progress?

  1. Globalisation
  2. State of well- being of the poor
  3. Civil Society - political leaders often see them as a threat
  4. Environment
  5. Conflicts in Africa
  6. Corruption
  7. Trade Flows, etc

The Growth driver's framework focuses on:

  1. Human Capital
  2. Culture
  3. Institutions
  4. Policy Choice, and
  5. Entrepreneurship.

How does transformational leadership emerge? There are three main activities:

  1. Preparation - a great deal of failure comes from here
  2. Visioning - a transformational leader usually feels a burden that his whole being will only be righted by a radical change
  3. Execution - this is usually challenged by how the process is articulated, the purpose or focus, the ability to guide and inspire, and the ability to communicate.

A transformational leader must be courageous and compassionate. Compassion does not equate to weakness. He/ she must be a master communicator, a skilled negotiator, a bridge builder, a careful delegator, and focussed, not sacrificing purpose for power.

The "big man" challenge, i.e. the leader knows all the answers, is a major problem for leadership in Africa.

People need to be soaked in history as a driver for change.

Discussion
Africa is filled with communities dying of HIV AIIDS and Poverty. Part of the problem is that Africa is filled with transactional leaders. One can't have a huge continent led only by men. The "small" people (women and children) are not represented in any of the decision- making models. We need to look at ourselves and challenge our leaders to become more transformational.