Vote for strong leadership

2013-11-12 00:00

ITOOK my 18-year-old son to register to vote this weekend. He asked me (rather facetiously) who we were going to vote for. I told him that voting was a serious matter and that he should vote with his conscience for a better South Africa, and that who I vote for, should have no influence on his choice.

He said: “Ag mom, it’s just one vote, what difference will it make?”

His flippant remarks started a conversation about issues facing our country, the various political parties and the need for strong leadership.

It reminded me of how important it is to unpack what “good leadership” actually means.

I was given an exceptional book on the subject, written by Dr Mark Manley, called The Leadership.

In it, he makes the point that if leaders are to be defined by their followers, then followers need to be led and not simply managed.

Today, with so much access to information and knowledge, followers are more informed and they are also more discriminating. This means that the world needs leaders who are better than ever before.

As Manley puts it: “Leaders are no longer able to be successful if their leadership is built on a ‘slightly better than’ skills set or knowledge base”.

While these are important ingredients for leadership, they are no longer enough for success.

He explores the difference between management and leadership. So often we confuse the two. While managers administer resources to achieve results, leaders plot the way forward. They “plot the course and navigate adversity,” says Manley.

In other words, they create the vision, give direction, motivate people and ultimately, bring about change.

Management and leadership are equally important, and both necessary. In fact, they have a symbiotic relationship, but they are not one and the same thing.

Various types of leaders and managers are discussed in detail in the book, and he unpacks just what is required to be a great leader. Effective leaders, he says, “have a high concern for efficacy while pursuing meaningful progress”.

They aspire to produce results efficiently and effectively in a manner that supports progress. Their ultimate goal is to bring about change, by developing a vision and implementing strategies to attain that vision.

So, to be a great leader, you need to increase followership and “bring about positive future-focused change”.

Using the analogy of a “leader ship”, he goes on to unpack six structural imperatives that form the “leader ship”, which are vision, passion, communication, power, consistency and self and social management.

He allocates to each a corresponding component on a ship. Vision is aligned to the rudder, because it gives direction and keeps the ship on course. Passion is the fuel that keeps the engine going and helps the ship move forward. Communication is aligned to the bridge, while power and influence are represented by turbo-boosted rockets. Consistency and integrity are the hull (the most significant part of the vessel), while self and social management (which includes emotional intelligence) constitute the bow, visibly depicting purpose.

These six structural imperatives, he says, are the “must have” for solid leadership.

Embarking on a leadership voyage is a daunting process.

As Manley says: “The ocean has many moods, as does the social and organisational world around us. Deep and turbulent waters conceal life forms, dangers and even exotic mysteries, and despite our best efforts, we are still not the masters of the seas. Fear of the unknown or the challenge of unchartered waters make it essential for every leader to have an understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses, the character of the sea, and the design elements required to build a worthy sea vessel.”

Great leaders don’t only rely on their natural abilities, they understand what is required of them, and they concentrate on improving areas of weakness. They understand their operating environment as best as they can, and they build a good leader ship.

Good leadership is what South Africa deserves and the power to achieve this rests in the hands of her people.

Let’s hope that they realise how important their votes are.

• Melanie Veness is the CEO of the Pietemaritzburg Chamber of Commerce.

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