Friends & friction: Leaders choose strong people

2015-03-18 06:00

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How South Africa is managed by government is a macrocosm of the way many organisations are managed in the country, whether they be businesses or not-for-profit entities.

In fact, this is the way many individuals manage their lives – for what is a human being but an organisation of genes and thoughts?

Our greatest misfortune is that there is nothing we want really badly; nothing we’re willing to walk through the fire for.

Leaders are concerned with tenders and our young are chasing fast cars while wearing smartwatches. Like a worm inside a relish, they have not yet realised there is a higher and better life outside of the plate.

A young person or business must follow a cause passionately.

In the Johannesburg city centre, there is a company called Calgan, and their cause is to make the hard-working man sit comfortably in front of a TV set, and so they are passionate about the recliner. That is their purpose in life.

Inside, the factory is buzzing and, like pilgrims, all 400 employees have a single purpose: to build the world’s greatest recliner for the rest of us to sit comfortably on after a hard day’s work.

Some will refer to the National Development Plan (NDP) as the one thing the whole nation should focus on. Sadly, the NDP is a victim of chronic inconsistency.

Prior to it was the now-defunct Reconstruction and Development Programme, then there was Growth, Employment and Redistribution, followed by the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of SA.

At the back of our minds we must ask: how long will the NDP last? Will the next president have a totally different programme?

Chronic inconsistency is a disease slowly eroding the soul of many organisations. In government, every minister pushes forward his or her priorities, which differ from those of his or her predecessor.

The script is now well rehearsed: stop everything the predecessor did, no matter what that means or costs the beneficiaries.

Then spend two years developing your own strategy. Before it can be implemented, there is a Cabinet reshuffle, and the whole process starts again.No wonder we complain about service delivery.

Likewise, in many businesses, a new CEO has a totally different strategy to that of his predecessor and this leads to a lack of continuity – and only helps to confuse employees.

If you met a man wearing a swimming costume in the middle of winter, singing summer songs, you’d think he was mad.

So when you tell a story that is different to the truth your employees know, they’ll think you’re mad.Mistakes will occur, and when they do, accept them and apologise. Your people will believe in you.

Also, when times are tough, paint a true picture and they will do their best to help. Tough times are as normal as the seasons.

Choose the people around you with great care.Niccolò Machiavelli put it well in The Prince: “A matter of no small importance to a prince is the selection of ministers, for their competence or incompetence will depend upon his capacity to judge.”

This was then president Thabo Mbeki’s downfall. He chose some of the worst premiers and ministers one could think of, and he had to spend his time in office worrying about them.

Who in his right mind could have chosen Ndaweni Mahlangu, who said it was okay for politicians to lie?

President Jacob Zuma is no different. His choice of officials and advisers has been his greatest undoing.

Many managers in businesses, even in family businesses, continue to make the same mistake.Always choose strong people who are confident and, above all, will tell you when you’re wrong.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive advertising agency

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