Today I am thinking about leadership. Amonga list of quotations from which I drawguidance are two that are relevant. Anineteenth century French philosopherobserved that “men are governed only byserving them; the rule is without exception.”This was way ahead of his time (but not inrespect of gender equity, of course). Thepreference for servant leadership has gainedtraction in recent times, although it is oftenhonoured more in the breach than theobservance. I don’t think that it is a commonperception that the leaders who commandour headlines are service-oriented, eithertowards the organisations which employthem, or the community at large, or thepeople who they employ in turn. Rather,they are often portrayed as being self-serving.This is media construct, I’m sure, because aman’s good works are of far less interest tothe public than his dirty ones.What also occurs to me is that modernappraisal practices, with their focus onmeasurables, place emphasis elsewhere. Aleader, held accountable to the achievementof targets, which may include the attainmentof targets by employees, must, perforce, giveattention to his or her management ofstructures and performances and, in theprocess, lose sight, perhaps, of the fact thathappy people work better. Motivation hascome down, it seems, to the means of drivingpeople to meet a specific goal, and this isfrequently done by the introduction ofincentives. The engagement of the humanpersonality to bring about a desire to do well,for the personal satisfaction of achieving this,is infrequently part of the deal. Moresignificantly, it is the promotion of the ideathat we can do well together, because thisgives mutual satisfaction, which is oftenmissing. Another favourite quotation is aChinese proverb: “Not the cry, but the flightof a wild duck leads the flock to fly andfollow”.I think of a rugby team (the Sharksis anappropriate example) which is sometimeswoeful, and sometimes sublime in itsperformance. These are substantially thesame players with constant abilities, hearingsimilar motivational talks from the captainand coach, following the same broad tactics,but offering different levels of competitiveperformance in their matches. How is it thatamong fifteen people, they can either allspark on a particular day, or play as if they arestrangers on another? A champion golferwill have a wretched off-day, but fifteenpeople simultaneously? This is a teamdynamic which I don’t claim to understand.What I have learnt over a long time is that it isthe leadership of people, not themanagement of targets, which poses thechallenges over which one most loses sleep.In a large organisation, there is a HumanResources department to which this problemmay be delegated. In some cases, themanagement of the people is outsourced
even, as if it is not core business. I have alsocome to realise that the people who presentthe most difficulty are sometimes those withthe greatest potential to contribute towardsthe organisation’s success. That they don’tdo so might result from a concept ofteamwork which favours conformity andexpects a degree of uniformity in attitude andapproach which is strongly at odds with theone who prizes individuality. Of course, therewill be no success in a collective environmentwhere every person expects his or herindividuality to prevail unconditionally andconsistently. Thus, leadership is the processof building a team in which people arecomfortable in their own identity, butperform, together when required, to thebenefit of all. I have not seen this as ameasurable KPA in a performancemanagement system. The reason for this isthat it is believed that the success orotherwise of this leadership will be reflectedin statistical outcomes. Well, it may be, but,I suggest, it also may not. When theexecutive is assessed to have done wellenough to earn the incentive bonus (which isoften – in the public sector particularly -related simply to the achievement of what thejob requires, rather than any improvementbeyond this) there is no test as to the extentto which he or she would have failed but forthe people who have done their jobs.Andrew Layman, CEO – Durban Chamber ofCommerce and Industry/durbanchamberIf you have any comments - please SMS themto 44854 (our COMMENT LINE with thekeyword LEADERSHIP). Standard Networkrates apply.