Strategic Leadership in a Changing Economy

In difficult times and changing economies, employees look to leadership for direction and motivation

Written by Dr Stanley Mpofu

The underlying attributes of strategic leadership are vision and influence, focus on the company’s people, implementation of a vision, integrity, stretching employees to deliver higher performance, being an agent of change, and remaining focused on the organisation’s objectives.

When organisational strategies and objectives are developed to address economic changes, their effectiveness can only be visible and measured when there are implementation plans in place. These need to be in sync with the changing environment and allow flexibility as changes become real. Even more necessary is the need to keep abreast of economic developments affecting one’s organisation and to be in a continuous learning process, as technology, too, changes at high speed.

Do the current crop of leaders (managers) have the capacity to deal with changes in the economy, considering that they come from an era of a top-down approach – a time when funds were abundant, there was far less technology available and SA was governed by an apartheid regime, which propelled white people into management positions without them having proper knowledge of what leadership was all about? Sadly, they do not. To some extent, the same can now be said of blacks who have equally been fast-tracked into leadership positions on the basis of affirmative action,without being properly prepared for leadership roles.

The changing economic times require a specific breed of leaders who can see beyond the horizon and motivate people to the desired outcomes through strategic shifts, mobilising resources for implementing set objectives and having the courage to defend their choices to shareholders. The strategic imperatives for survival which are undertaken during difficult economic times are of such magnitude that drastic decisions are often taken, such as downsizing – ie, selling parts of businesses that are not core. Such decisions should be taken by the right strategic leaders, who will objectively evaluate the company, without sentimentality, in order to help it survive.

Strategic leadership does not come cheap, so many companies may be found wanting when it comes to hiring the right calibre of managers. the majority of the current leadership subscribes to the old-school style of management, ruling by control, fear, militarism, allegiance and top-down command structures. this old management style is lacking in people development, is protocol-driven and labels those who challenge it as disrespectful. In our current changing economy, strategic objectives must become the cornerstone of the organisation and the yardstick for measuring success through set parameters.

Dr Stanley Mpofu is General Manager, Information Management: Roshcon and Rotek Engineering, both members of the Eskom Group.

My high school education culminated in writing Cambridge O and A levels. I worked at Transnet’s IT division called Datavia as a PC technician and rose through the ranks to become a network administrator after obtaining distinctions in my A+ and MCSE Microsoft exams. After involvement in a lot of projects as a resource, I developed interest in project management and enrolled at Cranefield College to study project management. My studies at Cranefield led my career into Eskom ten years ago as a project manager. I rose through the ranks to become the General Manager Information Management for subsidiaries Rotek and Roschon. I finished the Masters in Commerce degree with Cranefield before enrolling for a Ph.D at Wits which I finished among the top 15% students of Wits to become a Golden Key member.

Source: DESTINY MAN May-June 2011 issue
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