Africa’s new leadership

2018-08-10T12:25:34+00:00

The partnerships that drive growth require different models of leadership

The African market is constantly changing with numerous opportunities for growth. Rapid adoption of technology, coupled with ongoing urbanisation, has poised Africa for significant expansion across multiple sectors. Organisations are increasingly challenging established business models and disrupting competitors, as evident in the fields of mobile money and digital finance working to create financial inclusion. Africa’s CEOs rank technological advances (75%), demographic shifts (52%) and a shift in global economic power (58%) as the top three defining trends that will transform their businesses over the next five years.

The basis for this surge in growth is collaboration – people working together to create change. Partnership is fundamental to capitalise on new business opportunities. Different enterprises, joint efforts of the public and private sector, and diverse institutions are coming together to tackle social and economic development issues. This gives developing economies the opportunity to attract new investment, introduce innovation and make a leap forward.

Foremost in this process are new models of partnership to facilitate diversification, innovation, and to leverage catalysts like talent and technology. In building up new sectors and systems, Africans are adopting the latest innovations, partnering with cutting edge organisations, and incorporating best practice, often working with international partners from across the globe. This is shown in the rise of exciting collaborations, such as the rollout of 4G across Africa; joint academic ventures for higher education; enterprise accelerators across East Africa; off grid solar energy ventures and digital finance partnerships with technology firms.

Business requires new leadership

A fast-paced, changing environment also requires agile models of leadership. New leadership is based on inclusiveness and collaborative networks, as opposed to fixed or rigid hierarchies. This approach prioritises networks over hierarchies and enables more democratic forms of leadership. Emerging leaders have a responsibility to model ethical, transparent leadership and to build management culture that creates a community through shared values. Increasingly people want to be engaged, not led. Leaders need to bring together their organisation for optimal performance.

The role of purposeful leadership to drive economic growth was highlighted at the 2016 Uganda CEO Forum, which Creative Metier CEO Glynis Rankin attended. Glynis spoke at the conference, and stressed that economic growth cannot be achieved without principled and visionary leaders. Keynote speaker Dr James Mwangi also emphasised the role of leadership to spur growth, giving an example of Kenya’s former President Mwai Kibaki and his “defiant” nature to bring change. Sometimes you need to be a disruptive leader to bring change to an organisation. This new leadership requires upgrading skills and building competencies locally, shift management approaches, and focus on values driven leadership development.

Talent remains scarce. Creative Metier carried out research with global CEOs over the past five years to find out what keeps them awake at night, 56% talked about succession and talent issues. Availability of key skills stands out as key concern for CEOs in Africa. As the market becomes more competitive for talent, it can be more difficult to find the right people. As our previous article explored, the need to develop human capital is a critical issue that gets more challenging as organisations grow in scale.

Organisations have a responsibility to develop their own individuals. This can be done by working to create a structure where everyone has the potential to be a leader. Trust and ethics have emerged as an important differentiator of leaders. The most successful organisations, create collective leadership through shared values and relationships. This type of organisation puts in place the tools to build the talent pipeline and to foster the strength for leadership capability.

Effective leadership tools can help businesses to identify needs and develop tailored solutions, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. Creative Metier draws on more than 50 years of academic research to understand the complexity of decisions required at different levels within an institution.

Creative Metier pioneered the Career Development Diagnostic (CDD) to understand the current and future potential of staff to take on senior roles in their organisation. The particular value of this methodology is that it enables the identification of leadership potential, irrespective of whether the individual has had the opportunities to develop and apply it. With this insight, any organisation can ensure that development opportunities are made available to build individuals for future leadership. The methodology also enables us to ensure a good match between the requirements of the most senior roles as strategic complexity increases and the potential of leaders to fulfil those roles.

Having identified potential, there is a need to proactively and strategically develop a pipeline of future leaders. Our Leading for the Future (LFF) programme develops the capabilities that allow high impact potential leaders to deliver business strategy. Our proven approach focuses specifically on a values driven model of leadership, as required to shape ethical leaders. Leaders must be equipped to make appropriate strategic decisions and resolve complex business challenges in response to their changing external, demographic and technological environment.

Executive Coaching can also make an essential contribution to leadership development and performance. Creative Metier’s previous research in 2015 has demonstrated that Boards and CEOs sometimes do not see the need to invest in the development of senior leadership. Creative Metier has been proud to partner with FSD Africa and Strathmore Business School in the design and delivery of a programme to promote an understanding of the value of Executive Coaching for CEOs in the financial sector. Executive coaching is fast becoming a critical tool globally to support leaders to achieve impact on business performance.