Articles

The Issue of Legitimacy

February 06, 2021 - By Stefaan van den Heever, Associate, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration; Professional Certified Coach (International Coach Federation)

With the change of presidency in South Africa, I have been fascinated with the number of people calling into radio stations about the question of “legitimacy” of leadership. This has generally been in the context of politics – but there have also been examples where this question of legitimacy was raised in relation to organisations.

The Legitimate Leadership framework can offer a perspective on what constitutes legitimacy when it comes to leadership. When leaders are seen to have a sincere and genuine concern for the people they lead, and when they enable their people to realise the very best in themselves, then people willingly follow leaders. Another way to say this is that people willingly follow leaders who are there to care for them and who are there to grow them.

When Legitimate Leadership does work across the world, we always get these same answers to the question, “Who would you willingly work for?” People from China to Canada, from miners to executives, all say they will willingly work for someone who cares for them and who grows them. This is, then, a universal expectation we have of people in authority.

When leadership is seen to be legitimate, it does have a significant impact:

When people are convinced that leadership has their best interests at heart, they do place their trust in leadership.

People are then more committed to the organisation’s objectives and therefore are prepared to make an above-and-beyond contribution to realising those objectives.

When leadership is legitimate, mediocrity is not tolerated, and people are held accountable for realising the best in themselves.

What are the indicators that a leader is seen to be legitimate?

When employees have work-related issues, where do they take their problems? A leader has legitimacy when employees come to them for assistance.

When management walks around in the business, they are welcomed.

When employees are disciplined, they might not like it, but do they do accept it.

Other indicators in organisations can also be issues like productivity, staff turnover, and absenteeism.

We are often faced with leadership challenges in organisations. But we believe that this can be rectified when leaders make a choice to engage with the intent to give or contribute to those around them.

In fact, we all can make the choice daily to be legitimate as leaders, as parents, as teachers, or wherever we find ourselves in society.

Stefaan van den Heever
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