FIVE LEADERSHIP TRENDS FOR 2012: Leadership through cooperation

The following is the first in a four-part series on leadership trends for 2012.  We hope that you will find the articles enlightening and that you will be able to apply these strategies to make your business more ‘sticky’ to your employees!

Talent retention through ‘soft’ skills

Holding onto talented staff is a key factor in the stability and growth of any business. This should be one of the top three business priorities for 2012. A startling survey of 2 000 employees conducted by the Hudson Institute in 2000, found that one-third were no longer committed and planned to leave their jobs within two years, 39% were uncommitted but planned to stay anyway and only 24% were committed and intended sticking around for another two years.

Most retention strategies fail because they predominantly or exclusively focus on money. What people want is revealed in why they leave. Studies show that employees don’t resign from organisations – they resign from bosses. People are likely to respect and stay with sensitive, competent leaders who have strong interpersonal skills. One tends to work with, rather than under, such a leader.

Dynamic, mature leadership will go a long way to ensure effective talent retention but must be supported by carefully thought out strategies that will engage subordinates on a personal and business level and give them inspired trust in the organisation and the confidence that they will grow and prosper within it.

 Leadership through cooperation

The African concept of ‘Ubuntu’ means to share and care through principles of harmlessness and unselfishness. Nelson Mandela explained it this way:

‘A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. . . the question therefore is: are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?

‘These are the important things in life, and if one can do that, you will have done something that will be very appreciated.’

This philosophy contains a positive aspect of leadership. Emerging leaders in South Africa are now using it as a powerful and magnetic means of creating unity among their subordinates. One such leader is the chancellor of Limpopo University, Dr Reuel Khoza.

Khoza rose to leadership on the back of humble beginnings. ‘One of the core values I have carried from a young age is industriousness as a virtue. I have (also) learnt the importance of sharing, caring, cohabitation on a large scale, and taking care of others.’

Khoza, the author of Attuned Leadership: African Humanism as Compass, believes that only through wisely-led cooperation will the planet be saved from destruction.

‘This is ubuntu-based leadership. Such leadership comes about through a value system that emphasises sharing, communally agreed use of resources and, above all, respect for human dignity.’

African humanism pervades Khoza’s thinking and leadership style:

‘The ultimate responsibility of leadership is to ensure the organisation is permeated by humanness. Management is a systems function which, in the final analysis, makes it morally neutral – not primarily concerned with rightness but with efficient performance.’

As the old African saying goes: Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu - a person is a person through other persons.

What do you think of the idea of Ubuntu-based leadership? Can Africa lead the way in employee retention strategies through cooperative leadership?