Author: Dr Jopie de Beer, CEO of JvR Africa Group
For many, the title of manager or leader means that you earn a significant salary and have absolute control, while delegating the work to others. But, this is not a sustainable form of leadership, particularly not in the modern workplace.
Leaders must be facilitators, people who can empower others, yet manage to maintain focus, discipline and respect. Successful leaders work harder and for longer hours than others in the company. They carry the ultimate responsibility for the success of the business. Real leadership is therefore not about the title, it is an incredibly important position of responsibility.
Much of a leader’s responsibility comes down to how employees are managed. This is possibly the most crucial test for the quality of leadership in a company.
Leader responsibilities in terms of managing people:
1. Acknowledge the impact your behaviour has on others in the workplace
The behaviour of a leader serves as an example to others. If the leader procrastinates, is lazy, abusive, absent, arrogant, or corrupt, it will provide a model of behaviour that others will follow. The best leaders tend to show humility, productivity, fairness, respect and ethical behaviour, and they understand that they need to create a work environment where people can flourish. To be a good leader therefore requires so much more than technical skills.
2. Create an environment of care, fairness and respect
Leaders who care about their people and who are as even-handed and fair as is humanly possible, more easily earn the respect of employees. Douglas McGregor’s Theory Y leaders believe that their employees are talented and have much to offer the workplace. These leaders create a much more positive work environment. Such a positive environment has a direct impact on productivity, creativity, and even interpersonal relationships.
3. Create an environment where people can learn
This can be formalised learning such as internships, or being sponsored for training courses or qualifications. Valuable learning could however also result from practical and onsite learning, or articles made available on a company intranet, to mention just a few. In many workplaces there are ample opportunities to learn, particularly when employees use some of their own initiative to learn about the job, the company, the industry or projects.
Good leaders are often good at storytelling and teaching. They play the role of coach, sometimes connecting their employees with others who can best teach desired skills.
4. Create an environment where people can innovate
Innovation does not only refer to technological or disruptive innovation. Smaller innovations can also have immense value to the organisation. By creating an environment where employees can suggest changes and innovations to existing ways of doing work, can be of immense value. For employees to do so, they must feel confident that they will be “heard”. Their ideas need not always be accepted, but it at least needs to be acknowledged, respected, and considered. You know you’re doing a good job as leader when your employees feel safe enough to share new, untested ideas, even if there might be a risk of failure or rejection.
5. Create an environment of integrity and trust
Trust cannot be demanded - it must be earned! Trust takes a long time to be established and it can be broken in a single irresponsible, angry or impulsive moment. Leaders cannot be successful if employees do not trust him/her. It takes consistent trustworthy decisions and actions from a leader to be trusted by employees. For people to trust the leader he/she must be honest, “keep their promises” and “do the right thing”. Once the leader is branded as unreliable, it becomes nearly impossible for a leader to earn trust from employees again.
6. Create an environment where consequences and discipline can be accepted
The workplace is not always a positive and happy environment. Contracts may be lost; the economy may make doing business very difficult; or there may be corruption or sabotage.
It is the responsibility of the leader to implement corrective actions when something in the business goes wrong.. Good leaders are able to fairly deal with consequences, hold others accountable, and through it all remain positive about the future.
A leader is the person that must keep “everything together” whether it is the people, the product, the client needs, the need for governance, and of course the finances. The character of the leader and the quality of the decision he/she makes, creates the atmosphere within which people work. Leaders therefore have complex responsibilities, and how they conduct themselves has a big influence on the nature of the workplace.
It is a big job! Are you still sure that you want that promotion?
ABOUT JvR Africa Group:
JvR Africa Group of companies consists of JvR Psychometrics, JvR Consulting Psychologists, JvR Academy, and JvR Safety. With its head office situated in Johannesburg, the group conducts business nationally and across Sub-Saharan Africa. They work with test developers, consultants and academic institutions all over the world, and support a range of development opportunities and host events around.
The recent behaviour of leaders in the private and public sectors greatly harmed the already unsteady foundation of trust that South African citizens have in those who claim to have their best interests at heart. Suddenly it is not only government that can be blamed for the state of affairs.
In fact, several corporate entities have also gained first-hand experience of the devastating impact of what Warren Buffet positioned as: "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.". South Africans feel betrayed, deceived and manipulated like never before by those walking in front.
When one analyses this more closely, it is clear that some of these leaders displayed narcissistic characteristics by being self-promoting, having a sense of entitlement and not owning up to and taking responsibility for their role in authorising poor or unethical decisions.
The Tarzan leaders
Renate Scherrer‚ MD of JvR Consulting Psychologists, says many narcissists are charming and seem visionary, but they also have a false sense of importance and are self-serving and entitled. It does not take long before the trust people have in a leader, who is overly preoccupied with him- or herself and their own interests, disappears.
“They never own up to mistakes, never apologise, are quick to blame others and to praise themselves. In fact, such a person does not shy away from taking the credit even though it is not due.” When things are running smoothly their language is lavishly sprinkled with “Me” and “I”, but when problems arise the conversation becomes a finger-pointing exercise of “You” and “Them”.
This Tarzan-like behaviour (declaring himself the king of the jungle) is however often a mask or persona to compensate for a deep sense of insecurity.
The Humble leaders
Scherrer says mature leaders have a large dose of humility. They do not put themselves above what needs to be done. President Cyril Ramaphosa eloquently demonstrated some of this when he referred to the words of the Hugh Masekela song, Thuma Mina (Send Me).
“A humble leader takes responsibility for his actions, admits when he has made a mistake, and does not only focus on his own interests,” says Scherrer. In fact, a humble leader looks to himself first when trying to understand when things go wrong, but reflects on the actions of others when credit is due.
Humble leaders do not abuse authority and are willing to serve others first. Their language has phrases such as “We” and “Us” and they insist on honest and direct conversations with clear commitments to a shared vision.
Former president Nelson Mandela remains an impeccable example of a humble leader. He is quoted as saying that “there is nothing to popularize a person. Only humility, which is the ability to remain in the background and to put others in the front light”.
The Complex leaders
South Africa requires “complex” leaders who are Competent; innOvative; Mature; emPathetic; ethicaL; connEcted and fleXible. True complex leaders have an acute awareness of their limitations and do not try to disguise it for the benefit of the audience. They realise that ignoring their own weaknesses will lead to inevitable failure. In the VUCA-world we live in, the complex leader will ensure organisations and state entities answer volatility with vision; uncertainty with understanding; complexity with clarity; and ambiguity with agility.
Getting it right
According to Scherrer it is difficult to rebuild trust in an organisation or state entity if the leader displays narcissistic tendencies. Trust is based on integrity and strengthened when leaders admit and take ownership of mistakes, something narcissists do not even contemplate doing. Therefore, it is necessary to get it right from the start.
“When appointing people, make sure the charisma is not narcissism in disguise. It is essential to implement a scientific selection process and validate references,” says Scherrer. Listen for clues in the examples used in interviews, and to what extent organisational achievements and success are attributed to the self.
She adds that when people are promoted from within the ranks it is critical to continuously evaluate performance in an objective manner and not fall into the trap of ignoring the “red flags” that are inevitably already visible, even if perhaps well managed. Having more power will expose true character, so if someone is already entitled, self-centred and arrogant when they are supposed to follow, don’t be fooled to think it will become less when they lead.
MEDIA CONTACT: Idéle Prinsloo, 082 573 9219, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.atthatpoint.co.za
ABOUT JvR Africa Group:
JvR Africa Group of companies consists of JvR Psychometrics, JvR Consulting Psychologists, JvR Academy, and JvR Safety. With it’s head office is situated in Johannesburg; the group conducts business nationally and across Sub-Saharan Africa. They work with test developers, consultants and academic institutions all over the world and supports a range of development opportunities and hosts events around People Development in Africa, a cause they feel is extremely important to the future of our continent.
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