Leadership

When I reflect on where I have been in my leadership journey, I realize that the many unintentional mistakes I made along the way were set up by our Heavenly Father. My leadership training began as a senior social worker with a number of student and qualified social workers reporting to me; thereafter I was a group executive at a bank. Later I became CEO and Executive Chairperson in an infrastructure development organization specializing in engineering, development finance, and social development activities. All these people who came across my path as a leader taught me a lot of things.

I learnt that a leader has to be ethical, people focused, inspirational, resilient, passionate and healthy. I was exposed to situations where I had to be consistent, fair and polite, yet take difficult and sometimes unexpected stands when required. I had to allow people in my business to go, whilst training and empowering those who stayed. I learnt to be patient and to accommodate some people’s slower pace, to let go of perfectionism, and allow innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.

I had to practice to listen attentively and not speak until someone had finished speaking. I learnt to think in terms of macro and not micro situations and strategies, to execute plans that were developed by others, and share all of my knowledge with my team. I learnt to work as part of a team and to move at the pace of the others, sometimes sitting back and watching. I learnt these characteristics the hard way. I chose to learn because I believe in doing the right thing, forgetting about myself and focusing on others and on the bigger picture.

What I did not know is that to be a leader requires ethical thinking. Most of my actions may have been ethical because of how I was raised, who I am, and my belief and values system, but I still learnt a lot from being an ethical leader.

The environments in which I live and work challenge me every single day to remain ethical in all I do. Is it easy? NO. It is extremely difficult especially in situations where bribes and corruption are the order of the day. I continue making ethical choices only through the grace of God.

Are you an ethical leader? So much theoretical information has been written on the topic of ethical leadership that I do not need to rehash that. I say, when you become a leader, choose an ethical path. What then is an ethical path? What is your ethical belief and understanding? Is what you are doing helping others to become who God created them to be? When in your leadership position, are you thinking and acting to improve the quality of life of others? If yes, please share with us what you do and how we can share your knowledge and experience with others. If not, what makes you decide not to live by ethical principles? Do you want to but need help in this regard? Let us see how we can support you. We know a number of people who can guide and coach you in your journey.
Be a leader who is not just successful but significant.

Please share your story with us so we may encourage others in faith.

I believe the more we share, the bigger the difference we can make in other people’s lives.

Some of our shared stories

  1. THE LEADERSHIP RESPONSIBILITIES

    One of my favourite quotes about leadership is by Max Dupree. He said that “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the leader is a servant”.

    According to Dupree, the first leadership responsibility is to define reality. In other words, as a leader, while it is important to cast a vision of the future, you need to help people understand where they are. Without a firm understanding of your current position, future plans are not anchored on solid ground. Every leader should make it clear to his followers where they are, and then paint a clear picture of a preferred future. In his great book “From Good to Great”, Jim Collins calls this “accepting the brutal facts”. Accepting brutal facts is not accepting defeat. It only means that before we go to where we want, there is need to understand where we are so that we can have the right strategy, and know what resources we have, and what we need to get there.

    Dupree also mentions the fact that leaders should learn to say thank you. This is a tough one. Most leaders live with an illusion that the success of the organisation is solely dependent on them. The success of every leader depends on their ability to rally people around a cause and inspire them to achieve results. Great leaders know that their success depend on how well they lead the people towards a cause. Therefore, because people are not machines that you just use to do things, they need appreciation. As a leader you need to say thank you. Like Oprah would say, “we all need validation”.

    In the quote we started with, Dupree says that, between defining reality and saying thank you, a leader is a servant. I had a problem with this “servant leadership stuff” before I knew what it was all about. It was until I read Kenneth Blanchard’s books called “The One Minute Manager” and “Lead like Jesus” that the concept finally made sense.

    Like most people, I thought to be a servant leader you needed to be a walk over and please everybody. My misconception of servant leadership was influenced by my lack of understanding of the meaning of serving in a leadership context. I later understood that servant leadership had nothing to do with being weak or nice. When we talk about servant leadership, we are referring to a leadership style that does not depend on title or position to lead. A servant leader is one who, if we were to use a chase game analogy; we would say he or she is one of the pieces on the chase board. A servant leader rather uses his or her position to empower others to do their jobs or perform their responsibilities better. He or she is always on the lookout for opportunities to empower someone they lead to perform better.

    My best example of a servant leader is Jesus. When I studied the leadership life of Jesus some time back as a book project, I stumbled on something I had never seen to be of any significance in the activities leading to His arrest before the crucifixion. The man, Judas Iscariot, to identify Him, told the people who wanted His blood that “The person I kiss” is Jesus. On face value, this statement may not mean much. But if you dig deeper, the kiss was meant to identify Jesus because, without it, the people arresting Him would not have known who Jesus was among His disciples. He looked like them.

    In spite all the miracles, Jesus didn’t use his position, or power to distinguish Himself. He led together with everybody. He only used His power and position to empower others to perform their duties. That is why when He was with his disciples, to distinguish him, Judas had to kiss Him.

    I pray that we will have more leaders who will observe these three responsibilities. They will accept the facts of where they are, before they paint a picture of the future. They will say thank you. And will lead like Jesus did, by being a servant.

    Kenneth Mwale
    Author. Public Speaker. Pastor

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  2. Dear Elizabeth, thank you for commenting on my blog posting on ‘is corporate leadership a calling?’ I appreciate your confirmation that indeed leadership is a calling. Your questions are very important and I will attempt to answer them as much as I can taking from my view of what I have seen some of the leaders do. It is my prayer that other readers will also join me to answer your questions too thus help close the gap where I did not fully answer your questions. Here are my answers:

    Question 1: Other than praying and asking God for guidance, what else can help us to know if we are called?

    I believe that other than praying and asking God for guidance, few things we can check by asking ourselves a few questions such as – ‘are we fully convinced that we would be able to lead given who we are e.g character, temperament, social conditions we live in and our physical and mental health?’ and ‘will we be able to give our full attention to the requirements of the roles we are given?’ In short, ‘is our inner being ready to lead and to give our all to the organizations?’ The second view is – ‘do we have the required support systems outside work such as our family situation, environment and culture of the organization?’ Are these support systems conducive and helpful enough for us to lead? And, ‘what are the external pressures (e.g. socio-economic and political conditions) around the organization and its mandate?’ I think in most cases leaders who are aware of what they are capable of or know their strengths and weaknesses will thrive in harsh internal and external shocks.

    Elizabeth, if you take the socio-economic and political pressures in your country – Australia versus what is happening in my country – South Africa, there is no doubt that leaders in both countries will lead differently recognizing the pressures around their organizations. Take for example, the socio-economic challenges of poverty, unemployment and corruption in my country. A leader who is called will lead to ensure that there is job preservation ensuring that there is no unnecessary lay-offs. S/he will create more jobs through organizational financial astuteness and being incorruptible for example. The called leader, will ensure that developmental impact issues such as poverty eradication for example, would be one of the measures the organization would work towards. I am saying this because I believe that all organizations/companies in our economy should create jobs thus help the country to reduce unemployment and poverty. Let me stop here and answer your second question.

    Question 2: Should a leader ask for demotion or resign when s/he fails to lead?

    I would say YES! I have seen leaders who asked to be demoted mainly because they are not coping in their positions because of e.g. they underestimated the requirements and pressures of the job; or because of poor health or mental incapacity; or because they are going through family challenges such as divorce or death of a loved one and so on. I respect such leaders because they are selfless as they want the best for their organizations. These leaders would then after demotion be prepared to work towards addressing these challenges through further training and development, coaching and mentorship, getting counseling and taking time off to recuperate etc. In some cases, where the reputation of the person has been tarnished or damaged or where the leader believes that the reputation, culture and environment of the the organization clashed with his or her belief or values, I have seen them resign. I believe that strong leaders resign where required. They don’t wait to be pushed. They know it is time to go for their own and/or organization’ sake. I truly respect such leaders because they are doing the right thing for the benefit of all concerned.

    In short, other than than asking God, check your inner being in truth that you personally have what it takes to lead. In addition, ensure that the type of the organization, its work culture, values and the way it does business fit yours. Check the socio-economic and political pressures around the organization whether they are conducive to support you or you are able to cope with. In short, remember that the internal and external pressures are crucial to help you succeed as a leader.

    I call upon you as readers to please help us complete answering Elizabeth’s questions by sharing with us your experiences. May God Almighty bless you abundantly as you encourage, inspire and give hope to others. Shalom!

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  3. Dear Dr Khoza, indeed your blog on ‘corporate leadership – a calling’ is a difficult read but I must say a mind challenging question. Given how difficult leadership is, I want to believe that indeed looking at your life where you come from to where you are today, it can only be a calling for you. Many of the various leaders that we have seen across the world who led well in politics, business, communities and families, I would like to believe these people were called. I think they succeeded because they continued to remember that they were called to these positions and they had to execute their leadership mandates well according to their calling. At the same time, other leaders who were called lost their path and ended up failing those they lead. Yes, they knew they were called but they forgot themselves in these positions thus they ended up failing.

    Is there anyway other than praying and asking God if He called us as you practiced, that we ordinarily can use to check if these people were called or even for those who are not leaders to know what to do to ensure that indeed they are or were called? If we know that we’re not called but we like the positions because we know we meet the requirements, are you suggesting that we should not take up these positions? What should I do if I took the position and only later discover that I did not hear God right or where I realize that my qualifications and experiences are not helping me in this position? Should I resign or ask for demotion? I don’t believe that it is wrong to accept my failure and ask to resign or be demoted. Please answer my questions. Thank you for this platform to interact with you. God bless you always!

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