HomeAnalysisZim’s leadership challenge in a disrupted environment

Zim’s leadership challenge in a disrupted environment

I am a little obsessed with the present as it determines the future. I write this as the fuel price has just been increased. As I muse at the implications of this development, I cannot help but wonder the leadership in various sectors’ response to this.

Whilst the rest of the world disruption is mainly as a result of massive technological advancement and\or progress, in Zimbabwe it is necessitated by massive economic upheaval mainly attributed to a leadership crisis. Whatever the circumstances of this economic downturn, the situation calls for particular calibre of leadership in business and otherwise. It calls for a leadership with character.

Essence of character in leadership

Whilst some leaders are naturally endowed with this quality, others have to work on their personality to develop the requisite character. And yet the more I observe the actions of most leaders in Africa and Zimbabwe in particular, the deeper I plunge in some sort of apprehension. I am apprehensive of the quality of leadership entrusted to stir this nation, let alone organisations, out of the economic quagmire. On the other hand I feel optimistic and emboldened by some among the crop of leadership, who have demonstrated the character appropriate to ameliorate the current situation, turn it to one of prosperity.

Developing a leadership character

Ask any leadership guru around and they will be quick to tell you that not all leaders are born. The majority of the most respected leaders are those that were able to develop themselves in order to become who they are today. This goes beyond just gaining educational knowledge and years of experience in the workforce. In fact, one of the most important attributes that an individual must possess is not the position title, a great office or an impressive set of credentials. It is character. The character of an individual is basically who the person is.

Leadership gurus all over the world would agree that the main thing that separates a true leader from the rest is the character he or she possesses. The situation such as is prevailing in Zimbabwe will put to test many a leadership character. I consider character as one of the most important – if not the most important – attributes that a leader must possess.

Building character

Despite the excruciatingly difficult economic environment, there are some positive indicators that we are currently experiencing. For instance we see some growth and intense competition particularly in the food and telecommunication industries. We also still see some companies still trading positively on the stock exchange.

We look to success stories in the West and Asia in driving economic growth and prosperity and think that similar success awaits those who emulate those policies. Only character will help us deal with issues currently facing our nation, from education, healthcare, business or corporate world.

Knowing your core values

We know that in order to be a leader you need to know your people: who they are, what drives them and what makes them click. As you need to know your people, you also need to know yourself. What makes you click? What drives you? We need to take time during our careers and our lives to sit back and think about what and who we are and as importantly.

Without this base knowledge of ourselves, it is very difficult to drive our careers and businesses forward, to drive ourselves day-to-day and especially to work with others.

To understand ourselves at this level, we are challenged to understand our core values! Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong; they can help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their business goals; and they create an unwavering and unchanging guide. Core values should become the guiding principles for each of us personally and for our organisations.


Character will give us the mindset not to look in the rear view mirror. With that said, however unemployment now exceeds unprecedented levels. Many experts predict the recovery will be slow and arduous at best. We all hope for a better future. But I think we also know — regardless of how the future takes shape — things will never be the same again. To quote the popular cliché these days “its not business as usual.” For business leaders, the critical new skill set will be the ability to lead courageously in a challenging economic environment. Survival in a deeply recessionary economy and building for a healthy future requires leaders to take on two important tasks. The first involves stabilising the current situation.

The second involves adapting to a new and uncertain future and seizing opportunity wherever it presents itself

The down economy has very understandably caused businesses to focus attention on the immediate task of survival. Research shows that both people and organisations are far more highly motivated to take action by the possibility of loss than by the prospect of gain.

The risk in undergoing this kind of crisis-mode analysis involves the inclination to slow down and wait out the storm once near-term steps are in place. All of us as leaders have a tendency to rely on skills and abilities that have worked for us in the past.

We look for recognisable patterns so we can respond to them just as we have successfully done before. We want to be able to reassure our teams that things will return to normal soon. But there is great danger in this mindset because the future that we face will be unlike anything any of us have ever previously experienced.

Robert Mandeya is an executive coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Leadership Institute for Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw, info@lird.co.zw or +263 772 466 925.

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