by Lathasha Subban

EMBRACE IT

Embrace Leadership Now

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For centuries, the term “leadership” has embraced the many chapters of history, where we have witnessed leadership “greatness” and “disaster”. Oddly enough, the world seems to never completely be satisfied with the various definitions of leadership, and as the years go by we see new and different leadership styles that never seize to amaze us.

From the legends of King Arthur, to the legacy of Nelson Mandela; from Mother Theresa to Princess Diana; their leadership style changed many lives and was globally embraced. The search for one’s authentic leadership is usually where the journey begins, and the circumstance one finds themselves within is also a defining leadership factor. However, many experts are drawing on the relevance of the “now”. What type of leader do we need now?

In the article by Sangeeth Varghese, “Embracing an open Leadership Style,”1 the author talks about the leadership evolving from past to present, and gives a few tips on embracing leadership of the present time.

An open leadership style, means collaboration and shared leadership vision from the team. “In King Arthur's Round Table, Harvard professor David Perkins uses the metaphor of the Round Table to discuss how collaborative conversations create smarter organisations. The Round Table is one of the most familiar stories of Arthurian legend since it’s meant to shift power from the King who normally sat at the head of a long table and made long pronouncements while everyone else listened. By reducing hierarchy and making collaboration easier, Arthur discovered an important source of power - organisational intelligence - that allowed him to unite medieval England.”2

Varghese3 continues to encourage the drive for the development of a present time leader with the following tips:

  1. Empower to challenge and develop people: Leaders should let go of their authority and hierarchy, and allow their team to make informed decisions. This requires their involvement, commitment and complete understanding of their responsibility and accountability.
  2. Mentor and Coach to ensure success: Use these techniques or approaches to encourage development of strengths, support growth, and work on weaknesses.
  3. Encourage risk taking: Innovation has a strong element of risk, and leaders must trust ideas from their team especially if they are well informed and evidence supported. Support of great ideas encourages trust and success.
  4. Learner’s Licence of Leadership: In the words of John F Kennedy “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

In every era, a leadership trait or approach emerges for all to adapt and use. The idea of being a particular type of leader for our current times is not cast in stone. In fact, I believe it takes a combination of traits and approaches to survive the leadership role. In South Africa, we are in need of leadership that is:

  • ethical and drives transformation, equality and fairness;
  • colourful, adaptable and astute as our Constitution;
  • strong in the face of adversity, resilient like the spirit of our forefathers and a visionary that created our democracy;
  • authentic in thinking, action and words;
  • innovative, open and forgiving;
  • the eyes, heart and soul for a nation and by a nation.

It is imperative that we get our leadership right, as our future generations have their eyes on us. As HR professionals, we build and encourage leadership, we drive the leadership culture and models within our environments. That therefore makes us a “Knight” at the “round table”, with the responsibility to ensure the proper guidance and deliverance of leadership to the employees. A good place to be, with great worth and responsibility.

In the spirit of embracing leadership now, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) is in the process of developing a national standard on leadership to guide leaders with the requirements of good leadership practice. For more info contact me on lathasha@sabpp.co.za and follow SABPP on twitter @SABPP1 for daily updates as the process unfolds. Become part of this process in enable you to embrace leadership as a key success factor of your HR professional practice.

Lathasha Subban is Head of Knowledge and Innovation at SABPP.

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