BY DR FARAI CHIGORA
Without leadership, one home grown PEOPLE concept will be spinning out of control, jumping around like a headless chicken. This has, in most, cases led to students of business and servants of the art and science of leadership grappling with the question: Are leaders born or they are made? We in the scope of this model defer to the middle ground that leadership is a decision. Entrepreneurs must chose to lead. Yet a closer look of our own SMEs evokes a greater cause of concern as we revolutionise industrialisation through properly led workman/womenship driven by an endless determination to entrepreneurship. In the traditional and contemporary discourse globally, leadership has been the core of business and entrepreneurial development, but with limited study and understanding with the indigenous body of knowledge and home-grown start-ups and growing businesses.
The situation on the ground is that leadership has been taken as a long-term “trial version” rather than an all-rounder transformative instrument attending to both malpractices and formation of thriving enterprises. Imperatively it has even embedded in its philosophical as a dress of many colours since there is no one-size-fits-all type of leadership. It is a very delicate concept in theory and practise, yet very elusive in our local context.
My view is that those who have practiced it in its theoretical perspective have been short-changed as this pillar of the PEOPLE model permeate from theory to practise and beyond.
This is a swinging pendulum that balances many competing issues from financial resources, mental wellbeing, studying competition and remaining ahead of the curve and managing a multi-layered network of relationships. It has been tested at all levels of existence in the hierarchy from the household level, industry and national economy at large and factually proven to be broken along these linkages.
My concern is on the leadership of our home-grown start-ups, whether it is by prescription or serendipity as in many cases issues of motivating and influencing seem to be non-existing in their operations. Of worry and evident is the lack of structuring (as discussed in the previous editions) by our start-ups and growing enterprises. Structurally leadership is frustrated as the SMEs focus on the now and lose the big picture of establishing competitive institutions that outlive the owners and change the world positively. Leadership in these instances comes through hook and crook. There is no stability or a fixed position for one to mirror him/herself as the pinnacle of the enterprise, it’s jumbled if I can say. Yet at the same time as leaders who do not have such a design, they go out there and publicly announce that “I am running things”. They usually term themselves as the boss, sadly this dilutes their role to lead as most of the time is wasted bragging than rallying the troops behind an enduring and lasting vision (a mentality that has resulted in most failures). Leadership requires intentional investment into its development as we noted early on that it is a decision that has to be made. It is not a walk in the park as the adage goes, especially when one intends to formalise the way of doing business through people, technology, processes, regulations, policies and adapting to the global bandwagons. It is when we set our own vision, mission, objectives and values of operation when we can say the leadership drive has started. This should go beyond the traditions of SMEs listing things and framing them on the walls so that they are seen as fashionable and moving with the times (both in the internal and external ecology). Leadership is visionary such that all other forms of being transformative, charismatic, benevolent and their associations follows if an initial installation is well done. This goes on to matters of walking the talk, in the sense that most entrepreneurs are always in the limelight as to be directing their operations when they take it as a “pocket and cell phone” business. It reminds me of the era of “cell phone farmers, who were fixed with the attention of walking around and showcasing themselves as the new ‘shefus’ in town.” Or the age of the sprouting of indigenous banks that collapsed as narrow interests ate the bigger picture for breakfast. In another sense, they seemed not to know that their role is a shared experience that is accompanied by knowing who you lead (many are leading themselves) as they are followers in chain of operations. That is the greatest reason why there is no acceptance, detachment from the vision and mission of the entrepreneurs by many employees and partners. Most of the time we are working with subsistence-employees who do not have a sense of belonging and ownership into the vision for industrialisation. Leadership, no matter the school of thought, is involving and should therefore motivate other parties to do real business through proper ways of communication, respecting of opinions and ideas, accepting differences (race, tribe, nationality, aptitude and other matters of relations). Hence the need to deepen the roots of leadership in our SMEs through the following:
This is through putting in place structures that permit leadership to be a practice guided by the long-term vision of the enterprise rather than having no guide at all. It brings with itself a proper mode of influencing and being followed coupled with motivation to industrialise as a team not creating silos.
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Taking leadership as a win through consultation rather than one-man syndrome. There is need to tap from those who have made it in the global perspective. We lead through learning and sharing at various platforms both localised and international. A real leader should be where the same minds meet for cross-pollination and accelerated business growth, rather than blowing own trumpet in your closed ecology.
There is need to strategically position ownership through aligning all activities in practice from the overall vision to the mission, objectives and values of the organisation. As many are referring these as wall displays rather than walking the talk through taking them as embedded in leadership. All that needs to done by the entrepreneur is a practice of these on a daily basis so as to connect with drivers for success.
Room for delegation
Real leadership comes with delegation as it gives room to share through doing rather than instructive. It comes with many benefits besides reducing workload. Team members will be motivated to take responsibility and conform through accountability. It removes unnecessary conflicts, misappropriations, and hostility in a real sense of ownership. Also, the leader will have more space to connect with the greatest minds of the Silicon Valley so as to adopt complex global dynamism.
Open lines of communication
Leadership is enhanced when communication is taken as a central pivot rather than thinking that being quite is strategic. Business operations do not need surprises, but setting-up nodes of communication in which the plans and desires to be achieved are put in place. Give every member room to share views for constructivism.
- Dr Farai Chigora is a businessman and academic. He is the Head of Business Science at the Africa University’s College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance. His Doctoral Research focused on Business Administration (Destination Marketing and Branding Major, Ukzn, SA). He can be contacted for feedback at [email protected], WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.