A mind for leadership
I recall the euphoria and optimism in South Africa during the Nelson Mandela presidential era. Most South Africans expressed pride and the country was set for thriving. Mandela’s passion and humanity radiated to such an extent that it calmed the rampant racism that had held South Africans hostage for so many years.
Since his departure, these positive attributes dwindled to perilously low levels. Even, racism, like in many other countries, rose again.
Mandela’s’ leadership made a positive difference to most South Africans and what a dramatic implosion Zuma’s leadership heralded?
Whilst he too had detractors, Nelson Mandela’s legacy provides lessons in good leadership. Starting with, a leader is accountable for making the organisation successful and significant in the minds of the majority of its stakeholders. In business, it is easy to define success as profit and growth. Significance, however, is a consequence of the contribution the organisation makes to stakeholders as well as the environment in which it operates.
In my opinion, leaders need to:
- Get to know stakeholder’s views, using their inputs to develop a wiser perspective.
- Devise a strategy with a uniqueness that creates new value and makes the organization remarkable and extraordinary
- Align the strategy with stakeholders through participation without settling for a diluted, democratic solution
- Clearly communicate it so that it is understood
- Drive its implementation
- Be an authentic example of the culture of the organization. Promote a positive sum mindset, maintain a moral compass and create followers
- Do not pick unwinnable fights that create rouges who engage in retaliation
- Identify and nurture credible and reliable partners outside the organization that share the intention
- Continually ensure that the product is irresistible and the service is heartfelt
- Contribute to stimulating a herd instinct and queue mentality for the product. Never hide behind policy
- Use change, problems, pressure as an inspirational jolt that prompts new knowledge, innovation and adaptions to the strategy
- Embrace game changing technology and systems, balancing developing with delivery
- This must bring the future forward enabling staff to ultimately do more with less, be better informed, make quicker decisions and disrupt the opposition
- Create a dashboard for working “on” and “in” the organization – monitor and act timeously ensuring organization is on an even keel. Able to “zoom out” (see the organization contained in a larger perspective) and “zoom in” (see the finer details of the organization)
- Develop teamwork in the organization and with partners. Drive towards creative solution of tensions through collaboration. Ensure teams are disruption friendly, value diversity and embrace multiple perspectives
On reflection, these qualities are for leadership 101. Former leaders like Hitler, Amin, Mugabe and many other despots, could lay claim to these attributes. Therefore, I add, as a caveat, they are passionate and compassionate – have a fertile yet disciplined imagination, develop moral authority and intellectual humility, retain a common touch.
Suffice to say, leadership is tough. Journalist Michael Calvin writes in the Independent newspaper about the role of an incoming leader, “The bristles of a new broom are supposed to scour; if they are too soft they merely add sheen to failure” (Calvin, 2015).
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