Today I revisit my article on leadership. As you know it is a topic very close to my heart. In the last few months I have met probably the only Ghanaian person who I would say exhibits great leadership skills and in a few short weeks I have learned more about it than I have probably learnt in the 6 years of being in Ghana. He is the kind of person who inspires creativity and freeing your mind. In fact I would go as far to call him a modern day hippy, he is a bit to Zen, but he has the ability to sell you his vision and want to take a ride with him and his business purely because you can see he wants you to be the best of your potential.
This man is a one man business but he has the potential to be a Global corporate God. When I look at his style and his vision, it makes me want to hand in my resignation and go and join him in his business, I would honestly rather take the risk with a great leader. At the moment, I am getting very little pay and zero inspiration.
A couple of months ago I attended a HR initiative. I believe the aim of it was to give the Work Level 1 people some hope that one day they may make it to level 2. In reality it’s corporate BS to keep people in their place for the next 20 years.
I was listening to one gentleman say that he felt that he cannot talk to his boss about his next career step because his boss would have a problem that “maybe he is after my job”. At the time I was wondering, if you can’t talk to your boss about your career steps, then maybe you should just stay where you are. After 3 months however, I am getting this young chaps point.
This company claims to encourage leadership, but the reality is, they just stick a fancy title on your payslip and make you work like a donkey without giving you the tools to grow. When I look at the leadership team, I don’t actually see any leadership.
First of all, for you to be a leader, you must have a following; Coaching and Mentoring Skills, a level of teaching skills, a strong teamwork ethic, direction and you need to lead by example. What I see, is a group of individuals doing their own thing and the “leader” just collating the information to the powers that be. For you to be a leader there must be a certain level of coaching and mentoring and leading by example. Everything I have learned up until now about the job itself has been taught to me by a lady who was just here to do her National Service. The rest, I have been told to go and find out for myself. Even when I did ask when training would be provided I was told “it doesn’t mean that you wait until training is provided”. Like how dumb do you think I must be to do that.
What I find also is that there is this “one size fits all” mentality. I treat everyone like they are dumb. Then when they all get up to scratch I push them up in order of their arrival to the team.
Then there is leading by example, well I say no more. Being the “boss” doesn’t make you perfect, especially when it is your first time managing a team, the wise would normally acquire 360°feedback and build on their strengths while filling in the gaps. However, some people feel that they have made it and so they must have everything they need, any constructive feedback from their “subordinates” are seen as a direct attack. So you as the lower down the chain, have to watch and learn whether good or bad.
So now looking at my observations, I see the bigger picture. To be led by a good leader means that you must have a good leader, and what I see is a head and the people below, but I don’t see any bridging of
My take on this is that a lot of these leaders never thought they would get to where they are. They had been doing the same old thing for many years and either was fortunate enough to bluff their way into a position outside their company or someone (normally an expatriate) took a chance on them. Ensuring that they fill their gaps and essentially yours will never be done because basically they don’t want you to ever achieve their status.
When I look at my “boss” and the way she expresses herself, I know why after many years in the same company she had to look outside. She had developed many technical skills but it was felt that with her standoffish personality, it is likely that “the peasants would revolt” had they given her the responsibility of managing a team.
Luckily, she is in a company where they don’t really care for that, they only want results and don’t actually care to look at the how and the why. I understand that there was some kind of survey done back in the day, the functional leaders did not come out looking so great, but then nothing was done about it, instead they are looking at making sure that there are cups in the canteen.
What I also see is that this is the pinnacle of their careers, why, because once again, they never thought they would get this far and are not so sure of themselves that they will get any further. Especially here in Ghana, to achieve director status, it is likely that you will have to do some time out in another country and well they don’t see life beyond the shores of Labadi.
Then there is what I call the comfortability factor, they have a car and they make good money and they are greeted as “boss” so what else do they need again. What do they care about whether the people below them do as long as they are where they aimed to be.
So what happens, the people below resign themselves to the fact that this is also their lot. The smart ones, well they make use of the resources in the company for their own aim. You will find someone in procurement who has been in the same seat for 20 years yet he drives a good car, he can afford to go on holidays (but never usually does as his on the side business might be found) and he puts all his children through the best education system money can buy. If he looks to his boss to provide him with the skills he needs to move up the ladder, well that manager doesn’t have it themselves so how will they pass it onto the person below.
Once in a while as a token, you might get one or two who managed to rise, but for the majority, it is dead man’s shoes, so if you have ambitions to come into the bottom and thinking with hard work you will rise up the ranks, well you are probably in the wrong country.
Is this situation unique to Ghana, well I have never lived in another African country so only you can tell me, but I do have a feeling that it is a large black man’s problem, we either don’t want to help ourselves, or we don’t have the skills to, and also refuse to go get them.
Why do I say it is in large a black man’s failure. Yes, there is good and bad throughout every culture but in a group of 100 people of different nationalities; you will probably point to the black more than any other.
I remember talking with my former Supply Chain Director, a Dutch man who was very tough but also had a way of bringing out the best in you. I remember we were receiving a visit from a guy high up in the group, and he said, I used to be his boss and now he is mine. I saw the sense of pride in him as he knew that he had done well in his career but he had also given someone the tools to reach even greater heights.
Now that’s what I call a good leader, and that’s someone I will take example from and I hope that one day, even though a small group (at the moment in Ghana I would say I have come across 2 excluding the Dutch man) one day I can also take pleasure in the fact that I led someone to be the best that they could be rather than the boss in the corner who gets results but will be forgotten about the day that either you or they were to leave the company, and even if you are remembered it will not be for anything positive.
Aim to make a difference, the best measure of that, is the achievements of the people you have led.