Leadership in changing business environment!

Robert Mandeya

People management issues

Given the volatility in the Zimbabwean business environment currently, the need to introspect on the best strategies of running business has never been more compelling. Whilst Leadership is not management and Management is not leadership, it is important to closely explore the link between the two so as to appreciate the importance and “complementality” of the two personal dimensions in dealing with current volatile and fast changing business environment.

Unpacking leadership

However, leadership is the first creation whilst management is the second creation. What it means is, leadership deals with the top line where as management is a bottom-line focus. Simply put, leadership concerns its self with “What are the things I want to accomplish?” whilst management is preoccupied with the “How can I best accomplish certain things?” So we can safely say “Leadership is doing the right things whilst Management is doing things right.”

Taking from these observations, it means leadership is about initiating and coping with change, which is now a vital factor given the significant and frequent changes in technology, competition, regulations, changing consumer demands, economic instability and now the Covid-19 challenges

A scenario of management

At this instance, let us take management as a situation consisting of a group of producers cutting their way through the jungle with machetes. In this scenario, they are the producers, the problem solvers, who are cutting through the undergrowth- clearing out. The managers are behind them, sharpening their ‘machetes’ by writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programmes, bringing in improved technologies and setting up working schedules and compensation programmes for the machete wielders.

In the case alluded to, the leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong jungle!” But how do the busy, efficient producers and managers often respond? “Shut up! We are making progress.”

As individuals, groups, and businesses, we are often so busy cutting through the undergrowth not realising at times that we are in the “wrong jungle.” Therefore, the rapidly changing environment in which we find ourselves now, makes effective leadership more critical than it has ever been.

The need for vision

In Zimbabwe currently, we are more in need of a vision or destination and a compass (a set of principles or directions) and less in need of a road map. We are in a situation where we do not know what the terrain ahead will be like or what we will need to go through it; much now depends on
our judgement as and when the situation arise.

What is needed is that inner compass which will always give us direction.

Effectiveness in business no longer solely depend on how much effort we expend, but on whether or not the effort we put is applied in the right direction and right task. The changes taking place in almost every industry and profession, demands leadership first and management second.
Leadership is about vision, inspiration, influence and direction

Leadership, changing market forces

In business, the market is changing so rapidly that many products and services that successfully met consumer tastes and needs a few years ago are obsolete today. In Zimbabwe today the products which were almost a basic necessity in the yester-year are almost like luxuries today as the liquidity crunch bites the consumer. The spending patterns of people have completely changed, more so in this Covid era.

Proactive powerful leadership must constantly monitor environmental change, particularly customer buying habits and motives, and provide the force necessary to organise resources in the right direction. If industries do not monitor the environment, including their own work teams, and exercise the creative leadership to keep headed in the right direction, no amount of management expertise can serve them from failing.
Efficient management without effective leadership is, as one individual has phrased it. “…is like straightening deck chairs on the Titanic.” No management success can compensate for failure in leadership. It goes without saying that most of us are caught up in a management paradigm when in fact we are supposed to provide leadership. We are so deep into management, pre-occupied by day to day pressing challenges of logistics
and other urgent matters.

Creating a leadership culture

If today you look at your role as the chairman or director, you will realise that you are not into leadership but deep into management issues. Increasing change in organisation’s environment implies a need for creating a leadership culture. Often too, at family level, parents are also trapped in the management paradigm, thinking of control, efficiency and rules instead of direction, purpose, and family feeling. Thus leadership is even more lacking in our personal lives.

We are into managing with efficiency, setting and achieving goals before we have even clarified our values. Individuals who wish to be successful in creating change need to be aware of how the complementary skills of management and leadership interrelate. Both are necessary but whereas management is about coping with complexity leadership is about coping with change.
Mandeya is a certified executive leadership coach, corporate education trainer and management consultant and founder of Leadership Institute of Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw/ or info@lird.co.zw, Facebook: @lirdzim and Mobile/WhatsApp: +263 719 466 925.