How do we go about fixing municipal councils and the country?

Robin Nicholson
Director: Corporate-911

Is the ANC a coalition of disparate views with no common purpose or vision other than the lust for power and patronage? Perhaps they are a guide on how not to run a coalition, a company or a country. It is both a lack of trust and disbelief that appears to be a root cause of their decline.

Forget about the power plays that are currently taking place. What is the vision for the future of the municipal councils that these coalitions will bring to the table? What value is there beyond the slogans, sound bites and promises that will inevitably be broken? Will they share the vision from a common set of democratic values? At the end of the day, this is the glue that creates a team that delivers value.

Shared value
A vision of shared future is the glue that will hold any company together. South Africa is facing massive amounts of distress and disruption at the moment. In this time of distress, have you developed a clear vision of your future? Is it aligned with the future of the company that you lead?

Even more critical for the remote distributed company of the future will be shared values and the skills composition of the leadership group that runs the company.

Why should anyone be led by you?
The key to leading with confidence is to lead through action. This is the best way to show the values that you want to communicate.

I recently came across this in an article published by the Harvard Business Review. It points out that the challenge facing prospective leaders is for them to be themselves, but with more skill. That can be done by making yourself increasingly aware of the four leadership qualities we describe and by manipulating these qualities to come up with a personal style that works for you.

Remember, there is no universal formula, and what’s needed will vary from context to context. What’s more, the results are often subtle, as the following story about Sir Richard Sykes, the highly successful chairman and CEO of Glaxo Wellcome, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, illustrates.

When he was running the R&D division at Glaxo, Sykes gave a year-end review to the company’s top scientists. At the end of the presentation, a researcher asked him about one of the company’s new compounds, and the two men engaged in a short heated debate. The question-answer session continued for another 20 minutes, at the end of which the researcher broached the subject again. “Dr. Sykes,” he began in a loud voice, “you have still failed to understand the structure of the new compound.” You could feel Sykes’s temper rise through the soles of his feet. He marched to the back of the room and displayed his anger before the intellectual brainpower of the entire company. “All right, lad,” he yelled, “let us have a look at your notes!”

Government needs to take accountability for its actions
Photo By: Canva

The article adds that the Sykes story provides the ideal framework for discussing the four leadership qualities. To some people, Sykes’s irritability could have seemed like inappropriate weakness. But in this context, his show of temper demonstrated Sykes’s deep belief in the discussion about basic science—a company value. Therefore, his willingness to get angry actually cemented his credibility as a leader. He also showed that he was a very good sensor. If Sykes had exploded earlier in the meeting, he would have quashed the debate. Instead, his anger was perceived as defending the faith.

The story also reveals Sykes’s ability to identify with his colleagues and their work. By talking to the researcher as a fellow scientist, he was able to create an empathic bond with his audience. He really cared, though his caring was clearly tough empathy. Finally, the story indicates Sykes’s own willingness to show his differences. Despite being one of the United Kingdom’s most successful businessmen, he has not conformed to “standard” English. On the contrary, Sykes proudly retains his distinctive northern accent. He also doesn’t show the typical British reserve and decorum; he radiates passion. Like other real leaders, he acts and communicates naturally. Indeed, if we were to sum up the entire year-end review at Glaxo Wellcome, we’d say that Sykes was being himself—with great skill.

Time to get the work done in formulating the vision and values for your team. This is the glue that binds and shows real leadership in difficult times.

Is there political change on the horizon in South Africa?
Photo By: Canva

SOE Governance
It is important to note that the departure point for the shared values that we have been discussing is integrity. For too long, statements such as state capture, corruption, and mismanagement have been too prevalent in South Africa.

How can an institution like Eskom win an international award for electricity distribution in 2002 and face the current capacity issues that lead to loadshedding on a weekly basis? And when Eskom switches the lights on, the municipal infrastructure is so bad that it often leaves residents days, even weeks without power.

Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said that they journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. We will never fix the country overnight. However, if we don’t take actionable steps to fix key areas, we will never fix the country.

Why is the governance of SOEs important? In fixing municipalities, we need to ensure that SOEs are restructured and are governed with integrity, this will create economic growth which will bring in international investment. Only then can we fix the municipalities and the country.

BRPs have an important role to play in the future of this country and you will hear a lot about the value of independent business reviews in the months and years to come.

Robin Nicholson is the Director of Corporate-911 and is a Senior Business Rescue Practitioner