Dr Tiny Mona | The significance of visionary leadership in times of crisis | City Press

Dr Tiny Mona | The significance of visionary leadership in times of crisis | City Press

I believe that we are all leaders in our own right and that we are “lead characters” in our personal lives. From a tender age, we have the opportunity as individuals to make decisions about our lives on a daily basis.

Decision-making is a major part of leadership. Peter Northhouse (2010), defines leadership as “a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”

A visionary leader strives to unite their team and not divide them.

According to the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), four key elements are central to effective leadership: personal character, emotional intelligence, social intelligence and cultural intelligence.

We live in an era of unprecedented challenges and opportunities; decisive and visionary leadership is in demand. Three topical areas of leadership will be discussed. 

Training and capacity-building

Research studies have shown that training and capacity development have a direct impact on an organisation’s productivity and performance. The Skills Development Act 97 of 1998 aims to increase the skill set of the South African labour force and enhance the quality of life for South African employees.

My own observation is that exaggeration of one’s self-importance is detrimental to personal and professional development. Training and capacity building should take place from the person at the helm of the organisation to the most junior official to ensure that they are well-capacitated for their jobs.

It represents a good opportunity for employees to grow their knowledge base and improve their job skills to become more effective in the workplace, and they are constantly reassured that their contribution to the organisation is valued.

The administrative tradition and culture of the organisation are reinforced.  It also prepares them for higher responsibilities. According to Justin Hale former Forbes council member, “In 2023 compared to the years before, leaders need to be more of human experts and less of strategy experts”.

Qualifications should be accompanied by social skills for one to thrive in a professional environment. Capacitating all employees improves the success of the organisation and boosts the morale of the entire team within the organisation.

People become more engaged and develop innovative ways to solve problems. New digital technologies are constantly introduced and training and development enable organisations to adapt to new technologies and can also be delivered in a formal and informal setting, thereby making it more accessible.

Skills development programmes in the public service need to operate more collaboratively to ensure that entities tasked with human resource development provide focused quality training programmes.

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Certain sector departments have been putting mechanisms in place for addressing shortfalls in scarce skills in their sectors. Attracting and retention of specialists and those with technical skills is imperative.

“The courses offered by the NSG are in a variety of streams with a combination of accredited and blended modalities of face-to-face and distance learning through e-learning platforms”  with the intention to professionalise the public service. Capacitating employees ensures effective service delivery and enhances accountability.

Professor Busani Ngcaweni, the principal of the NSG in South Africa, is of the opinion that “professionalizing politics/politicians is of utmost importance. Public administration is highly regulated, therefore, elected officials should be able to interpret the laws and regulations and provide direction to their departments. Political leaders need to be trained and supported to enable them to govern effectively.”

Enrolling for post-graduate studies with institutions of higher learning is also crucial. I have continued to study and develop myself as a professional and encourage my team to do the same, they discuss with me about their post-graduate studies and I provide support.  Constantly upskilling yourself enhances self-confidence and cultivates a good working environment.

Providing mentorship and coaching

According to the DPSA “Mentoring involves the development of a relationship between a seasoned and wise person – the mentor – who supports a less experienced individual – the protégé – to achieve personal growth so that she/he can achieve greater efficiency, productivity and effectiveness within an organisation”.  The DPSA developed mentorship guidelines for national and provincial government departments to assist them in developing their own mentorship policies, programmes, structures, mechanisms and quality assurance standards.

Mentorship enhances sociological adaptation in the workplace. I was trained as a mentor and mentor trainer of HIV and Aids Counsellors. I have also had the opportunity to train professional nurses and HIV and Aids counsellors as mentors. I also provided mentorship to groups and individuals.

The principles that are applied in the HIV and Aids mentorship programme also apply in the mentorship programme in the workplace – pairing a more experienced, more skilled and more knowledgeable counsellor with a less capacitated counsellor.

Mentorship in the workplace is also about—pairing a more experienced, more skilled and knowledgeable employee with a less qualified employee. Coaching often consists of a session between a manager and their coach. Regrettably, the discussions about mentoring and coaching in the workplace have been battling to progress beyond astounding presentations about the two concepts at strategic meetings.

Many organisations, therefore, miss the opportunity to capitalise on the experience, knowledge and skills more experienced employees can transfer to less proficient and younger employees.

Both mentoring and coaching are an approach to management and help to nurture employees to deliver results. They are learning and developmental activities that help build trust among employees.

Intellectual debates about the meaning of the concepts amongst professionals should be lessened to focus more on implementation. Younger women’s confidence in an organisation is enhanced by receiving support and guidance from female mentors.

Providing support for employees in the workplace is very important. According to the Capacity Development Programme (C.AP.E), mentoring has always been a crucial organisational strategy to develop professional capacity, improve practices, and consequently strengthen organisations.

For employees to be productive, they have to strike a healthy balance between work and family lives. Various scientific investigations have revealed that mentoring is often confronted with a range of challenges.

Some of the challenges include a shortage of trained mentors, a lack of mentoring capacity with regard to competence and experience, a reliance on traditional approaches that may not be productive, uncertainty about working with different mentees, structuring the mentoring interactions and working with the younger generations. 

Coaching and mentoring can inspire and empower employees, build commitment, increase productivity, grow talent and promote success. Managers need to be capacitated in providing mentorship and coaching.

Succession planning

According to Bill George (2003), the former CEO of Medtronic, “One of the most important things leaders do is to prepare for their own succession.” Succession planning is therefore a process that is put in place for executives, senior managers and employees to prepare for their retirement from a job.

Proper planning enables the organisation to ensure that there is sustainability and continuous effective management upon their departure. The process enables the organisation to identify key positions and support that such posts be filled.

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Suitable employees for the roles that are being vacated are identified during the process of preparing for succession, which needs to take place a few years in advance.  Therefore, successors should be chosen based on merit and integrity, proximity to the establishment should not give certain individuals unwarranted advantage. Research studies have shown that many organisations struggle to ensure that there is collaboration between the older and younger generations in the workplace.

Diversity needs to be appreciated and collaborations among the generations need to be promoted to develop younger employees for quality leadership. Skills audits assist the organisation to identify the gaps to develop appropriate intervention strategies.  

The Baby Boomers are retiring and in many instances, they leave with their institutional memory.  Thorough preparation prevents the creation of a vacuum. Scientific investigations have revealed that both public and private organisations are affected by ineffective succession planning. Succession planning should be incorporated into the organisational strategic plans. Generation X and the millennials need to be thoroughly prepared for leadership roles.

Employee Health and Wellness units need to be well-capacitated and adequately resourced to put measures in place for the preparation of employees’ retirement. Preparation should take place at all levels for them to be able to continue leading productive lives beyond retirement. (Stoewen, 2017), “Wellness encompasses eight mutually interdependent dimensions: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial and environmental.”

Retirement from work is a major life change. Lack of preparedness for retirement has far-reaching negative implications for the organisation, the individual, and the people around the individual. This needs to be explored further through research. An effective communication strategy is required to ensure that everyone in the organisation is prepared and that the business of the organisation continues beyond the departure of an individual.

It is important to assess the skills and experience of potential successors carefully and ensure that the person has what it takes to lead, motivate and manage others. Proper succession planning decreases apprehension.

Ideally, a leader should always strive to transfer skills by demonstrating how the work should be executed. They can also learn from their team authenticity is paramount. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way” – John C. Maxwell. A leader should aspire to bring out the best in their team by constantly providing constructive feedback, this enables the team to excel and exceed expectations.

*Dr Mona holds a PhD in Sociology. She is a published author and writes in her personal capacity.

Source: https://www.news24.com/citypress/voices/dr-tiny-mona-the-significance-of-visionary-leadership-in-times-of-crisis-20231125