South Africa’s top business and sports leaders weigh-in on the three top reasons successful leaders build great organisations.
According to Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, leadership is a choice, not a position. Are you choosing to be the best leader you can be?
1. Honesty and commitment are integral to success
One of the biggest leadership lessons that Gary Kirsten learnt while coaching the Indian cricket team to their 2011 World Cup victory was that commitment is the guiding force behind success.
“Once I focused on the commitment I was making to the team, and got each individual team member to do the same, the team started functioning as a unit. We were all open about our commitments, which meant we were holding ourselves and each other accountable for them,” he says. “It takes courage to make the right commitments and then follow through. To help people do this is the greatest call of a leader.”
David Morobe, regional general manager of Business Partners, agrees with the sentiment. When his team assess whether or not to grant a business funding, they always look at how reliably the business owner meets his obligations.
“Business commitments range from delivering what you promised to clients to looking after your employees. We’ve learnt that how well the leader of the organisation meets his or her commitments is a good indicator of success, and therefore a good investment for us,” says Morobe.
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2. People don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it
“A leader has to have a big vision; the ability to communicate that dream to managers, staff and customers in such a way that they’re so captivated that they want to be a part of this journey; but most of all a leader has to have the ability to act and lead by example,” says extreme adventurer, motivational speaker and philanthropist Braam Malherbe.
Finding a higher purpose has become a modern leadership mantra. Leaders cannot grow successful organisations alone, and so the support of stakeholders, from employees to customers, is a key success factor.
“Genuinely care,” agrees Soccer Laduma founder Peter du Toit. Soccer Laduma is the biggest single-copy-sale weekly publication in South Africa, and du Toit believes that much of its success is the result of the fact that as a leader he takes a genuine interest in the people who work for him and who buy from him. “You have to find your higher purpose,” he says.
3. Leaders embrace change
“As a leader you are challenged in new ways as your business grows. When this happens and your market shifts or changes, you have a choice to make: Do you die, or do you face those challenges?” says Nonkululeko Gobodo, co-founding partner of SizweNtsalubaGobodo and current founder of Nkululeko Leadership Consulting.
“If you want to survive and grow, you need to read the market, respond and change. Size will never be your protection either. Every single company in the world faces the danger of becoming obsolete.”
Investor and serial entrepreneur Vusi Thembekwayo agrees. In fact, he warns that the Achilles Heel of many leaders that rise through the ranks is that they think that the world they rose through is the world they are now called to lead. “Why do you think many businesses are recruiting leaders externally these days?” he asks.
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“What is needed is objectivity and the ability to see things as they are, and not as they used to be. When you hear people say things like, ‘this is how we do things’ or ‘what has worked in the past is…’ you know that people are using the past as a reference for the future. The challenge with this thinking is that it makes the assumption that the forces acting in your industry are exactly the same forces today as in the past.”
Braam Malherbe is a firm believer in the power of change as well. “Leaders have the power to embrace change,” he says. “It’s about how we face a crisis, because there will always be crises. A leader understands that in every crisis is an opportunity, however. Yes, there’s also danger, but this can be harnessed.”
Former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar believes there are four key pillars that drive strong leadership: Ambition with hard work; Passion with discipline; Courage with honesty; and Confidence with humility. Are you displaying these traits within your organisation?