RECENTLY, Engineer Jacob Mtisi’s article titled “Chartered accountants killing Zimbabwe’s companies” attracted an eye of the storm as some critics took it as an attack on one of the most respected professions in corporate affairs.
According to Engineer Mtisi, his was not an attack on chartered accountants, rather it was an expression of a matter of fact based on his analysis of the performance of some listed and non-listed corporate organisations. I would not want to weigh in on this debate or cast aspersion on any profession, suffice it to say this debate has been going on even at global level. However, I would hasten to say corporate leadership is not about being qualified in a certain field of specialty. In fact, leadership in any sector—business, corporate or politics — has nothing to do with one’s area of qualification.
Indeed certain qualifications are overrated when it comes to considering candidates for promotion to positions of leadership in the corporate world.
Many sources have attempted to ascribe a definition of leadership and, to date, there are over 350 definitions of leadership. I must from the outset refute the assumption that leadership is some sort of title, qualification or position.
The most tragic fact of human existence is that while physical maturity for normal people develops naturally and automatically with the passage of time and normal consumption of food, leadership skills do not come so easily, nor are they acquired from academic prowess and or achievements. In fact, the most dangerous members of our society are those grown-ups in positions of influence who are highly regarded on account of their educational qualifications but whose actions and responses to issues, environment and society are infantile.
John Kotter, professor of business at the Harvard Business School, at the time observes that:“Leadership is different from management, but not for the reasons most people think. It has nothing to do with having charisma or other exotic personality traits. It is not the province of the chosen few. Nor is leadership necessarily better than management or a replacement for it. Both are necessary for success in a complex and volatile business environment.”
It thus goes without saying that “leaders” who are incapable of carrying out their duties and obligations with a proper sense of responsibility are not only a corporate burden in terms of achieving set goals but are also a cause of much distress to those whom they have influence over. The same applies to those tasked with the national responsibility to lead.
Unfortunately, some of these individual are in leadership positions. At the heart of leadership is the ability to influence, motivate, and inspire others through direct or indirect ways to achieve organisational goals.This art of rallying everyone to the same destination requires the appropriate intellect, wisdom and requisite maturity.
There is no doubt that for a man to develop his mental and intellectual power necessary to lead others he must at the outset find out as much as he can, what real leadership consists of. According to Aristotle, careful thinking and observation will enable one to see that a leader is one with a keen sense of responsibility and a conscious awareness of himself, others and the organisation.
It is in these contexts (self-awareness, awareness of others and the organisation) that true leadership plays out. Equipped with such consciousness, one would be able to manage his or her affairs in accordance with explicit and reasonable criteria, the foundation of which he has examined critically and analytically. His/her upholds his/her convictions firmly because he is clear about why he upholds them.
Ability to judge
In the same vein, a skilled leader is conscious of the value of suspended judgment in certain weighty matters. He/she does this because he is aware of the complexity of certain affairs and the consequences thereof making immature decisions.
A skilled leader in this case knows that in such matters different reasonable men will inevitably come up with different opinions. Therefore, the competencies for leaders seeking to develop their teams include ensuring that the lines of communication stay open between themselves and their followers.
Objectivity and balance
In his general attitude, a skilled leader is always sympathetic but never sentimental. Like a scientist in the conduct of his professional duties, he sees the difference between objective reality and what he and others desire, or hope to be the case. He knows his weaknesses but he has a well considered scale of values.
Thus while a mature leader accepts himself as he is, and others as they are, he persistently tries to mould his character in the way he desires.
Need for executive coaching
The good news is that executives, while they might not be endowed with all these skills, can solicit the services of an executive coach who might help take them through the complex leadership journey. Executive coaching for corporate leaders is gaining recognition as an effective executive development tool which corporate leadership must take advantage of.
For high-potential individuals in both the private and public sectors, executive coaching will help unlock their leadership capacity to exceptional levels.
However, executive coaching is not only for top management but can also be used across different layers of the organisation from the C Suite to lower management levels and across individuals with differing capacity needs.
Mandeya is an executive leadership coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Institute of Leadership, Research and Development (LiRD). — firstname.lastname@example.org/www.lird.co.zw.