Go forth and preach the gospel; if necessary use words.
These words, from St Francis of Assisi, were a theme in the “graduation” ceremony in Legitimate Leadership’s Advanced Leadership Module for nine general managers of Africa Tikkun, one of South Africa’s largest NGOs (non-governmental organisations).
The graduation ceremony was held on 24 November in Johannesburg. The group had completed a total of 22 days of training and development in the Legitimate Leadership Model over three years (since 2013), culminating in a series of Advanced Leadership Modules.
Afrika Tikkun is a community empowerment organisation which develops young people in a “Cradle to Career” model. It employs over 550 permanent staff and its services reach over 20,000 direct beneficiaries and 100,000 indirect beneficiaries. Five of the nine general managers manage service centres in various townships in South Africa; the rest are subject-matter experts.
At the graduation ceremony, members of the group related aspects of their understanding of the model and gave examples of how it had changed their management styles and practices.
Some quotes from the group …
On enabling employee contribution:
“It is important that as a leader your intentions are correct at all times. Constantly engage (your subordinates), give them one-on-one time. It is not about you, it is about the staff members … In our centre, we had someone who was outshining and outperforming in her role, and was assisting the principal. When the principal resigned she was the obvious person to appoint. But we must always watch the game – I take full responsibility that this did not happen in the beginning, because I thought she was a superstar. But her performance fell behind. Eventually we had to talk. We examined means and ability issues and found they were not lacking; accountability was where it went wrong. This required a serious conversation, including asking her whether she was still willing. She could hear herself and see a picture of herself. We brainstormed a solution, then secured commitment from her. We are still sitting together and monitoring the improvement.” – Pat Ledwaba.
“When I arrived at my centre I emphasised that the success of one is the success of all. Therefore, in our team there are no super chickens. We collaborate and support each other, we have cultivated collaborative teams. Now when we have a weekend function, we find all the staff there.… But we are also finding that the general managers are collaborating horizontally more, and people are noticing it.” – Manny Mlanga.
“We had an issue with an early childhood development employee. She was not conforming, or adhering to instructions or deadlines. The barrier I faced was fear – fear of being judged that I had not been doing my job, and fear for the consequences for the employee and her family. But I took courage and the supervisor and I had a serious engagement with the employee. She was given standards and instructions, with support. There has been a marked improvement, because of the act of courage.” – Vanessa Mentor.
“Courage is a matter of will, it is not an ability issue. So you need to introspect.” – Ziyaad Jina.
“We had a talented individual but he was having difficulty with change. We wanted to keep him on the bus and we thought he was coachable. When we were training in dealing with victims, we realised there was no other issue with him except of willingness. He was also starting to influence other people. So we had to do some serious performance management.” – Thomas Taole.
On dealing with and leading change:
“In my centre, people were complaining about the cleanliness of the toilets and saying the cleaners were not doing the jobs properly. I decided to take a day to do a cleaner’s job, in order to understand the problem. I mopped the floors and cleaned the toilets. I heard from the other cleaners that users were not looking after their toilets and they needed to change their attitudes to the cleaning staff. That allowed me to implement change in that area, particularly around people’s attitudes to the workplace.” – Lizo Madinga.
On growing by growing others:
“When we focus on what we are giving versus taking, we always learn. I was told to go and meet Leonie (the chief operating officer) in her office. I was very afraid; I prayed. But Leonie said she wanted me to become a general manager. When I expressed doubt about my abilities to do so, she said I should fake it until I make it. I had never thought about being a general manager. In my first meeting I told my staff, ‘I am empty, I have been tasked to lead, help me’.” – Belinda Nehwoh.
AFRICA TIKKUN’S LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY
Africa Tikkun has been one of Legitimate Leadership most loyal clients. Leonie van Tonder, its chief operating officer, agreed to her appointment to that post three years ago on two conditions:
When Van Tonder was appointed chief operating officer of Africa Tikkun in 2013, the organisation was in turmoil and disorganisation – even though it was still managing to do good work. This was admitted by Marc Lubner, CEO of Africa Tikkun, at the graduation.
Lubner thanked Van Tonder for turning the management of the organisation around and for implementing the Legitimate Leadership Model.
Lubner said that when he came into the organisation 10 years ago, he envisioned that its focus should be inverted from a top-down pyramid organogram then (with the founder, the late Bertie Lubner, his father, at the top, and the service centres at the bottom). This has now been achieved, he said, with the head office increasingly serving the service centres.
Van Tonder said that the initial employee engagement study by Mindset Management Programs indicated an employee engagement rate of 27%, which was even lower than the low South African national average of 29%. A year after that, following the initial rollout of the Legitimate Leadership Model, a re-survey showed a stunning improvement to 59% engagement.
She said that, being an NGO, it was essential for Africa Tikkun to be able to measure and evaluate everything it did – to ensure effectiveness of practice and to give adequate feedback to all donors on how their money was being spent. It was also important to understand what the purpose of all interventions were – what the endgame looked like and what the company would need to do to achieve that.
But, she said, “working with people is a journey where you never arrive. As soon as you have one group up and running, they move on and the next batch arrives and you start all over again.”
Essentially the model had helped make Africa Tikkun managers and general managers into legitimate leaders who can insist on contribution and accountability from their subordinates, she said: “Trust is the currency by which you buy Legitimate Leadership.”
WHAT A LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP INTERVENTION SEEKS TO ACHIEVE
Wendy Lambourne, director of Legitimate Leadership, spoke about what a Legitimate Leadership intervention seeks to achieve. In essence, she said it seeks a specific transformation – namely, a change in motive or intent from being here to take to being here to give at the level of the individual, the team and the organisation.
Organisations which are here to give have a noble purpose, referred to as its “benevolent intent”. They exist to serve their customers and to add value to people’s lives.
Leaders (those in authority) in organisations who are here to give understand that they are here to serve their people, not the other way round. What serving their people means boils down to two drops of essence: to care for and to grow their people.
By “care” is meant to have their people’s best interests at heart and to have a sincere and genuine interest in them as individuals, as human beings. By “growth” is meant to enable them to realise their full potential, to be the very best that they can be.
Employees who are here to give come to work concerned with what they can give or contribute rather than with what they can get while giving as little as possible.
Employees who are here to give are committed unconditionally to going above and beyond in pursuit of the organisation’s objectives. They are actively engaged at work and come to work to do the best job they can do.
Although Legitimate Leadership often starts off an intervention by conducting leadership audits in order to provide leaders with individual and collective diagnostic information on their strengths and weaknesses, in Africa Tikkun’s case it was felt that a leadership audit would not be particularly helpful since it was clear that those in leadership positions were generally not doing well in terms of both care and growth. There were many indicators in 2013 that this was the case.
Lambourne said that in the past three years, Legitimate Leadership had: