Buyani Zwane is a Breakthrough Development chief executive. Picture: Supplied.
Buyani Zwane is a Breakthrough Development chief executive. Picture: Supplied.

Effective leaders demonstrate love and empathy to those they lead

By Time of article published Aug 30, 2021

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Buyani Zwane

Much has been written and commentary given on the failure of leadership that has influenced destinies on ensuring succession and grooming next generation leadership who in any case will be in the prime of their respective lives in the next 20 to 30 years. Our previous treatise was on crisis distinguishing leaders from pretenders. We understood that effective leaders demonstrate Love for those they lead, show Empathy towards others, Anticipate future before others (leaders see further than those they lead), and define Destiny.

A study of leaders – effective and great ones versus the mediocre ones that plunge organisations – reveals, among others, that leadership determines the quality of followers; the mentality of followers; the followers’ morality, attitude, commitment and destiny. Followers that challenge versus those that march to the leader’s tune. The ones that raise level of debate and discourse versus unquestioning. Those that justify conduct they would not want members of their family to know about versus promoters through conduct of model behaviour. Those who seek out opportunities for betterment while others constantly blame – victors and shapers of own futures versus victims of circumstances, constantly scapegoating than taking ownership. Those who will not rest until set task is accomplished and promise fulfilled versus those that will pass the buck and quit midstream. And those that are clear about where they are headed and take others with them versus their clueless counterparts.

Knowing that Vision is more important that who is in Position of leadership poses a challenge to pretenders – What do you see? How far do you see? Are you ready to get there? Have you prepared yourself to get to next destiny? And prepared others for the journey? Do lieutenants share the picture? Do you have lieutenants? Is the picture of the future compelling and strong enough to move followers to keep moving towards it regardless of obstacles/hurdles?

Leading to the Key of E makes Extinguishing mediocrity imperative. We have witnessed and tolerated mediocre performance – read non-performance – in institutions established to serve citizens deserving of dignified professionalism for almost three decades. And keep hoping for change after each election in the political space. Organisationally non-performers continue to sap energy of those giving themselves to fulfilment of mandates without fear of reprimand or even docking of pay. They threaten union representation or the CCMA and get away with murder. Singapore made it clear that mediocrity would not be tolerated and upward movement and remaining employed in government position would be merited and not taken for granted on basis of who one knew.

The MPH policy demanded observance of Meritocracy, Pragmatism and Honesty moving from Third World developing country status to a First World developed country. MPH became the secret formula for the country’s success. Tough on mediocracy. Insist on merit – selecting the best people to run the country, and never hand out positions to friends and relatives when they are unsuitable for task at hand! Deployment is misunderstood to place loyalists into roles of influence when the word means to “bring into effective action”. If the deployee is ineffective, they bring shame to the person who deployed them. When no corrective action is taken the deployer is/should be held accountable. Deployment differs in kind from employment in same way that work is polar opposite to job.

Enabling delivery is next in line. Situational leadership practitioners believe in progression from telling to selling to participating and ultimately delegating. For over half-a-century this framing has been employed in business management in particular. However, there is a need to take the process one further. And that is developing sustainability through succession.

Lorin Woolfe stated: “The ultimate test for a leader is not whether he or she makes smart decisions and takes action, but whether he or she teaches others to be leaders and builds an organisation that can sustain its success even when he or she is not around. True leaders put ego aside and strive to create successors who go beyond them.”

That requires leadership development that is beyond the leader where first, the leader does what must be done. Then leader has another observe and copy what s/he does. And then has the second person (understudy/protégé) do what is required with the leader by their side. At fourth stage the protégé performs the task by themselves. Delegation of authority students would consider this apex. But it is not. The distinctive action is the fifth – the protégé performs task with another by their side. The latter is afforded chance to observe and learn. The opportunity to replicate and improve on the first and second leaders are encouraged, recognised and celebrated. Genuine legendary leadership is cultivated. The success of leadership is in succession. Thus, enabling effective delivery that benefits many requires deliberate nurturing.

Energising progress with mentorship and coaching and cross-functional placements deepen the talent bench affording the leader options when circumstances require adjustments. While knowing and singing the national anthem at start of international games is a must during play Shosholoza and “vuvuzela” are sung and blown to urge players on. Same is needed at work – in commercial and government business. Periodic reviews with feedback for improvement and continuation of very good performance stir up the drive among performers that they will go the extra mile without expecting or demanding compensation necessarily.

Eliminating unethical behaviour provides necessary refuge for right standing employees/person to blow the whistle on what contradicts governing values all sign up to at the start of their placement in roles they play.

Or adjusted to suit the dynamic operating environment with eye on still being distinct offering a value proposition that would attract others to the organisation and retain those already within when tempted to go elsewhere.

Honesty in the Singapore MPH Secret code resulted in the arrest of a deputy minister at an airport on return with their family from a holiday paid for by businessperson. Jailing that deputy minister sent a clear message to all, not only in government but also in business, that corruption would not be tolerated in founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s government. For every corrupted official there is a corruptor. There would be no need for forensic audits and commissions of inquiry that have already cost the country close to a R1 billion in search of those who conducted themselves improperly if we chose to be tough on corrupt officials in business and government.

Even at the expense of delivery of basic infrastructure and services to communities after 27 years of political freedom and democracy! Consulting firms returning improperly gained fees from state-owned enterprises would not be celebrated without implicated officials exchanging their suits for orange overalls. Instead of rhetoric and pronouncements, read promises, of rooting out corruption effective leaders would activate the fifth Key of E - Exemplify Excellence by living the founding values of Batho Pele (people first) and honouring all with dignified and respectful professional service delivery they would be proud to have published in all media forms. Excellence that would have elected representatives and officials want to enjoy in the era of Employee Experience replacing employee satisfaction.

Africa is home to best precious stones, fauna and flora. South Africa boasts Unesco World Heritage Sites. Should the country and continent not also boast best leadership! As we enter Heritage Month and the dawn of spring in September we could commit to the belief of one South African leader whose passing 44 years ago robbed the country of model, courageous, principled leadership "We believe that in the long run the special contribution to the world by Africa will be in this field of human relationships. The great powers of the world may have done wonders in giving the world an industrial and military look, but the great gift still has to come from Africa – giving the world a more human face." The 21st century world demands a human face and leadership that will enable such nurturing environments. By design. And deliberately.

*Buyani Zwane is a Breakthrough Development chief executive.

**The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.


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