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Mastering leadership – from the inside out

Paul Whysall

In today's business environment, people - and especially those in leadership positions – can either make or break an organisation. Many businesses that fail can often attribute their lack of success to poor leadership, which emphasises the human element as paramount. In our complex business world, the human element is critical, meaning that leadership development programmes need to be prioritised. A dysfunctional management team may not fully understand the business strategy and will therefore not be able to deliver what is required of it.

Leadership development strategies need to align with the business strategy

Depending on the circumstances, the strategy can be "heavy" or "light". The former applies to a complex situation that requires a long-term view and the latter to a short-term solution.

In either case, it is vital first to look inward and understand the calibre of the potential leaders already in place, those positions for which you might need to recruit and who does not fit the profile.

When one looks into the HR pool, various tools should be applied to help a group of people to understand themselves and how they work in a team to the benefit of the organisation.

There are four stages to this process:

  • Personal mastery: Understanding and leading yourself;
  • Inter-personal mastery: Understanding how you interact with others to build strong relations;
  • Team mastery: Understanding the dynamic process of team work; and
  • Business mastery: This is driven by the business's interventions and development plan.

As far as the individual aspect is concerned, most people cannot change their preferences but they can understand themselves better and develop themselves through training.

Ultimately this programme leads to business results and closes the loop back to the starting point of the business strategy.

The tools used to achieve these results include workshops, training and psychometric testing which cross over gender, race and skills. Once again, the human element is key. Ultimately, the company resolves human dimension issues while discussing a technical or business topic.

Crucially, if a business understands its HR assets and liabilities it will contribute towards a balanced scorecard between people, process, financial and customers. People won't necessarily change, but their strengths can be enhanced in the right team dynamic, which creates the right team to drive the business forward to success.

Paul Whysall is a Director of MAC Consulting, a Johannesburg-based management consulting group focused on mining, oil and gas, financial services, and telecommunications.