The workplace environment is constantly evolving, and in order for businesses to remain competitive and thrive in this changing environment, effective leadership is vital. This is according to Hennie Heymans, managing director of DHL South Africa, who addressed the attendees of the 2013 DHL Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention, a gathering of South Africa’s leadership alumni, which took place on Friday.
He says that leadership is described as a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. “Without effective leadership, South African businesses are doomed.”
He explains that there are generally two types of leadership: Process Leadership, which is the use of skills and a knowledge base to influence or accomplish a goal; and Trait Leadership, which is the use of influence to inspire others to want to achieve common goals.
He says that due to the constantly changing environment, leaders need to continually assess their leadership attributes and skills. “Businesses need to assess the most influential factors, which range from business operations and how the impact of climate change is influencing behaviour, to the environment around us.”
Heymans refers to a future study, The World in 2050, which reveals five possible scenarios on how the logistics environment may look in 2050. Although the study refers to five different scenarios, the reality in 2050 may well be a slightly more chaotic environment, due to rapid urbanisation, an ever increasing customer demand, an environmental decay, macro-economic turmoil, increased natural disasters, high levels of corruption, and complex cultural and economic trading environments.
Heymans says that all these changes require leaders to evaluate in which direction they are going to take their team and organisation. “The challenges leaders are likely to face won’t fit the traditional mould that was learnt while in university, which means that there will be an even bigger call on leaders to stand up and make the right decisions for their team. As a future leader – someone who wants to lead and inspire people going forward – you sometimes need to take brave steps and make bold decisions.”
He adds that leaders need to have various attributes in order to succeed in the constant changing work environment. “Every leader needs to be courageous. Leaders need to be able to face up to all these challenges and understand that, in order to be successful, they have to also lead each day with an absolute passion as courage, without passion, is not going to be sufficient.”
Another necessary characteristic for leaders to succeed is the ability to be a short-, medium- and long-term strategist. “Leaders have to be able to adapt a business’s strategy as the environment changes.”
Selvin Govender, divisional marketing manager at Mercedes-Benz South Africa Cars, also speaking at the event, gave his insight as to what the workplace environment will look like in 2050. “Africa not only has the highest population growth, but also the highest proportion of young people in the world.
“By 2050, Africa’s working population, which in 2010 was 54% of the continent’s total population, will climb to 62%. In contrast, Europe’s workforce will shrink from 63% to 51% in 2050. We will have the workforce needed to power our economic success. While this poses us with many challenges that come along with the threat of overpopulation, it also gives us an advantage over developed countries. The onus is on us, as business and government leaders in Africa, to ignite leadership in our youth so that they are empowered to step into that space of opportunity. We need to speed up our strategies for education, training, and job creation.”
Heymans says that a critical skill needed to be a successful leader in 2013 is effective communication. “It is vital that leaders ensure their company’s strategy is understood by the whole company and that each employee understands his or her role in accomplishing that strategy.
“There is no substitute for connecting with your employees. A successful leader needs to truly connect with their staff as, when you have connected with them, you are in a position to inspire them,” he concludes.