During these difficult times of economic hardships characterised by a liquidity crunch confronting the majority of Zimbabweans, there is a need to have a crop of leaders who can take the country forward.
Leaders who can show up and stand as bonafide businessmen and businesswomen of repute. Leaders that have the demeanor, shrewdness, prowess and business acumen to fully embrace new leadership concepts and push business forward in terms of business policy formulation.
The experiences which some organisations have gone through like struggling entities such as state broadcaster the Zimbabwe Broadcasting corporation, the Public Service Medical Aid Society, Zifa, closed financial institutions like Interfin Bank and Rennaisance Bank, indicate a failure in business leadership. Bad leadership seems to be endemic and institutionalised in some of these organisations. Moreso, a myriad of shortcomings were noted, chief among them poor corporate governance, corrupt leadership, lack of professionalism, nepotism and lack of leadership etiquette.
Recent research in Zimbabwe proved that two in five people work for someone they consider a bad leader. In contrast, only one in five workers assign only positive attributes to their leaders, qualifying them as good bosses. Workers most often identified three complaints when it comes to poor leadership.
The first one was that their leaders lack clear vision and direction (36%), while the second one was that poor leadership at work is the most stressful part of the job (33%). The last complaint was that their boss makes them feel controlled, manipulated or defensive (31%).
Additionally, one-quarter of workers (25%) feel their career progress is limited because of their boss’s poor leadership. About one in six (17%) say they would prefer a new boss over a raise.
A majority (62%) say they would not follow their boss if their paycheque didn’t depend on it.
In Zimbabwe and the world over, being a leader is no longer a position of status but the power to inspire and mobilise high performance groups, to motivate people and to achieve organisational goals and objectives. Top companies like Econet, Delta, Dairiboard and a few others are grounded on effective leadership. Leaders are not just there to give commands and instructions, but to inspire and motivate staff to perform and surpass targets.
It is common in Zimbabwe to identify some institutions by leaders that have been there for ages, yet there is little success to justify their long stint at the helm. The truth of the matter is that many of them are just place holders with nothing or little to show for what they have achieved for the organisation.
Year in and year out we hear and read stories of poor leadership for many organisations yet those responsible are not doing anything to remedy the situation.
To confirm these observations, one needs to visit such places like the vehicle inspection department, immigration offices anywhere in Zimbabwe, parastatals, ministries and other offices.
In the majority of cases the attitude, behavior and service does not inspire business confidence.
You can get high blood pressure due to the atrocious service delivery and poor leadership.
A leader is the force that stands to take anything to its limits and the understanding to facilitate groups of people to adopt a common vision to create effective results.
We don’t have enough leaders who fit in this category. Many of them behave as if they are the organisation and the organisation is them. Their way of operation depicts a military style leadership which bases leadership on absolute authority and command. These are the leaders who expect employees to jump at their instruction and do exactly what they say without any questions. If one is asked to jump, they have to ask how high not why?
That leadership style does not work in the business environment anymore. Leaders who practise that kind of style must know that their days are numbered. Of course leadership is a position of authority and influence, but that needs to be enforced in a reasonable and professional manner within the dictates of effective leadership model.
It is matter of time before such organisations disappear in obscurity. The ones that continue to exist are normally a creation of government through various statutory instruments, therefore exist and serve at the mercy of government.
Leaders represent the organisations, but to succeed leaders need the contribution of everyone. If one thinks being a leader means knowing it all, why then employ others.
The leaders who think they are the alfa and omega of intelligence, technical ability and wisdom and regard others as useless tools that can be manipulated and led without question need a mental decolonisation process of ignorance, arrogance and toxic mentality that borders on inferiority complex and fear of the unknown. Such leaders lack the basic tenets of leadership and would do themselves a big favour by enrolling for a leadership course or learn from good leaders.
It has been observed that what lacks amongst the majority of business leaders in Zimbabwe is to harness the effort, energy and rally everyone to achieve a common goal. How can a leader harness the effort of other team members when their business is always attending meetings. From Monday to Friday, some leaders will be attending meetings. How on earth can someone be employed to attend meetings.
I have never seen anywhere in the job description of a CEO, MD or Minister for that matter, the main core function of such role as being attending meetings.
They are important but jumping from one meeting to the other is not what one is paid for. Those with such a luxury of getting into one meeting after the other are investors, shareholders or owners of the business.
This alert is very important for business leaders. It helps to recognise that despite most of the teachings about leadership, being an effective leader is about who you are, what you believe, what is important to you and what you do. The other part is the environment around you, other leaders, employees, competitors, customers, investors and so on. The Zimbabwean situation could be a little bit different, but the fundamentals are still the same.
The country needs leaders who know the purpose of leadership. The purpose of leadership depends on the environment, the nature of the business, the pace of organisational change, specialisation in markets, new technology, looming crises, etc. These, in turn, help to determine the business’ objectives. The few corporate organisations around must engender a successful, professional and winning mentality amongst the employees. That is purposeful leadership.
Followers can sense when a leader has self-confidence which is a trait consisting of self-esteem and self-assurance in his ability to effect change happen and his ability to motivate followers to change. Adding to this thought, followers who experience effective leadership can recognise it. Followers feel calm, confident, have faith in the vision, are willing to help, feel that the task is not difficult, when the leader acts with common sense, decency and intelligence. Exhibiting too much self-confidence or arrogance has the opposite impact.
Many leaders have dictatorial tendencies. They instill fear and earn results by commandeering. Leaders must create an environment that fosters collaboration and open discussions. Going it alone all the time without an input from other team members compromises the quality of the outcome. One or two ideas from others make the job perfect.
The other good thing if this approach is taken, is that followers will willingly head towards change because they have ownership in and understand the vision as well as trust the leader.
In other words, the leader is able to influence others to accept change based on perceived leadership traits such as intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability. If a leader has self-confidence, is comfortable listening to critical feedback from his followers, making the necessary changes, he/she can examine his/her leadership style he/she will probably receive a greater degree of cooperation in accepting change. A motivated follower will feel compelled to help.
Poor leadership does not just hold employees back from reaching their full potential, but actually sends them in the wrong direction and seriously impacts morale, employee retention and financial performance.
Leaders who are admired and respected have earned that admiration and respect.
Respect is given to others only when they are deemed worthy of receiving the honor. For that simple reason, leaders who demand respect from others will never get it, because respect must be given. Leaders must not demand respect. It is not a right to be respected, but a privilege.
The leader must possess strong beliefs, values and positive attitudes, otherwise the followers will stop relying on him and from that moment on, he will no longer be recognised as a leader, even if he is a leader by delegation of power. It is advisable that leaders learn to earn respect not to demand respect.
Today’s leadership is totally different to the one practiced in the past, where power was sustained by fear imposed on the workers. This is one of the reasons why there are so many companies with poor leaders, where the notion still prevails that we can control people, just because they are afraid to lose their jobs in a world that is becoming more and more competitive. It is not by these means that a leader will obtain an efficient collaboration from his followers to attain goals or renovate work processes that will sustain a company’s competitive position.
Power sustained by fear is a demonstration of impotence, not leadership. The true leader does not have to create fear in his subordinates to make them do their best. In today’s world we must consider that leaders and followers depend more and more on each other.
Leaders exist to orient the followers and to take out of them the best that each one can give. It is the sum of different ideas that gives a meaning to an end and it is the leader’s responsibility to use this information with honesty and wisdom.
Leaders cannot exist if they do not have followers and the success of any business depends on those that are able to motivate people in a work environment.
Kwaramba is a leadership, organisation development, management and labour relations expert. These NEW PERSPECTIVES articles are co-ordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; cell: 263 772 382 852.