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SA workers don't leave jobs they leave bosses
Wed, 21 Sep 2011 14:04
As portrayed in the recent blockbuster movie, Horrible Bosses, following years of being overworked, underpaid and harassed at work, three men decide that their lives would be much easier if their superiors weren’t around. In a chaotic and satirical sequence of events, the trio of friends conspire to kill their respective bosses.
Johan Ludik, Managing Director: OIM Leadership Talent at OIM International says that while the movie scenario is clearly not meant to be interpreted seriously, it does bring to light the extent to which leadership can influence employees in a workplace.
According to Ludik, it is often said that people do not leave their jobs, but that they leave their bosses. “This is a very accurate statement and business leaders in South Africa should take heed. The role of a leader is to work through others and to motivate them to achieve extraordinary results. If leaders do not conduct themselves in a credible and inspiring manner, employees will react accordingly,” says Ludik.
Ludik emphasises that not only are employees unlikely to perform well, costing the company time and money, but it is likely they will be driven away from the organisation entirely, resulting in a significant loss of productivity for the company and the denial of the individual reaching his or her career potential.
Ludik urges local business leaders to take this responsibility seriously as he believes that now, more than ever, it is important to have credible, steadfast leadership in place to remain competitive in the local and global marketplace.
“While the role of leaders hasn’t really changed much over the years, the context has changed significantly,” he explains. “Factors such as global competitiveness, the economic meltdown, technology, scarcity of skills and realities such as the recent drawn out union strikes affected business all around the country. South African managers are being forced to work in an uncertain environment that is both terribly demanding and chaotic. The reality is that business can’t afford not to make the recruitment and development of sound leadership a key priority.”
So what are good leadership qualities? Global research by Kouzes and Posner has shown that there are four main qualities that employees most value in their managers: honesty, ability to be forward looking (have vision), inspiration, and competence. “In general that is what will make employees happy. Unfortunately leaders also need to satisfy many other stakeholders such as shareholders who want a return on their investment,” Ludik says. “Among all these often contradictory expectations – coupled with different personality profiles, cultural and social backgrounds and the volatile economic realities - leaders still need to find a way to inspire employees to deliver on ever-increasing demands.
“The question is: are leaders equipped with the necessary skills and expertise to face this challenge successfully?”
Ludik says to equip leaders with the necessary skills, companies must move away from generic leadership qualities and develop a customised leadership framework, aligned to the company’s strategy and industry realities. It acknowledges that different circumstances require different leadership skills.
The following factors are key in developing a relevant and aligned leadership framework:• Confirm the business strategy and confirm the business culture required to execute strategy;
• Define the kind of leaders required to realise this strategy and business culture;
• Assess what the current collective leadership profile looks like, relative to the required culture;
• Put together a plan and develop the required leaders;
• Design systems that will allow you to recruit, retain and reward the right kind of leader going forward.
“In following these steps and assessing the current status, you identify the collective and individual gaps in your leadership profile in the context of your strategy,” Ludik explains. These ‘gaps’ are addressed through best practice development programmes, experiential learning approaches and company specific assignments.”
Ludik says that in OIM International’s 26 years’ of experience, they have found that the following leadership development areas and methodologies are crucial for sustained success:
1. Create shared purpose and direction – providing clear direction and focus can aid leaders in positively mobilising people. Leaders need skills such as business acumen, systems thinking and the ability to influence to create a common purpose and direction for those following them.
2. Establish alignment and focus – leaders must utilise their achievement orientation and decisiveness to ensure that systems, structures and processes are aligned to the company goals and culture in support of strategy execution.
3. Build credibility and respect – deepen leaders’ understanding of their personal style, values and preferences and how these relate to the collective values of the company. This way you increase leaders’ self-awareness, improve communication with others and build characteristics such as adaptability, resilience and trustworthiness.
4. Facilitate stakeholder engagement – leaders need to create a culture where employees are consistently engaged and communicated with. The more employees are informed, engaged and understand how their roles contribute to the success of the company, the more they tend to take ownership.
5. Enable continuous improvement - continuously challenge the workforce to improve (do things better, faster, cheaper) and learn like crazy! To do this, leaders need to create an innovative culture, promote improvement practices and build competence.
6. Facilitate continuous measurement and feedback - What gets measured, gets done! Leaders must know how to create a performance culture, establish accountability and facilitate feedback and measurement. Acknowledge and celebrate success.
The good news is that in each of these areas you can teach leaders specific skills and techniques to build capacity,” Ludik says. “It’s important to realise that this isn’t a once-off transfer of knowledge, but a process to change the behaviour and mindsets of leaders. That is why it is key for South African organisations to foster the right leadership culture, unique to the company, with the kind of leaders that will enable strategy execution and aid the company to remain competitive.”