The difference between true leaders and mere custodians

As South Africa struggles through the COVID-19 third wave, yet more families are struck by the grief of losing loved ones and in many cases the pain of losing income, either through reduced hours or job losses.

The pandemic has eroded our collective confidence, yet as difficult as it seems, now is the time for true leaders to stand up, display courage and act decisively.

The alternative is a steady-state of tentativeness, a holding pattern of caution, inaction and indecisiveness. It’s not surprising that the instinct is to freeze; some businesses haven’t survived, and this instils fear.

We need to honestly reflect and ask how many leaders could have made clearer decisions about the future, looked, analysed, acted and pivoted into something else while moving the needle upward.

This is no righteous finger-pointing game − it’s more serious than that. When the odds are stacked against you and you are barely holding onto a cliff edge, slipping inch by inch daily, there really are only two options: wait for the inevitable or make a plan to climb, somehow, somewhere. If it fails, you fall anyway. If it works, you led your organisation when it needed it most.

The only way we will move the economy’s needle in the right direction is by everyone doing so together, and we urge government to make good on its economic recovery plan. Again, with the same urgency: act, and act now. Partnering with the private sector in a deliberate frictionless way will help unlock movement.

From a digital transformation perspective, there also needs to be brave decision-making − now, more than ever. We know that organisations have been sitting on cash piles while flying aimlessly in the play-it-safe holding pattern.

There must be a degree of risk to enjoy the reward. Because the truth is that while most organisations hit pause, the outliers, the true leaders, are making bold and brave moves with their business intelligence, artificial intelligence and omni-channel investments, among much more. We know this because we partner with them, and they all share similar characteristics in how they are setting themselves up for a season of growth.

But to get there, it starts with a choice. Business leaders have been analysing the options, the pros and the cons. They have surrounded themselves with experts to give them the best possible insights on various scenarios and investments. We all know the target is on the back of the leader, but ironically it is the true leader, him or her, that needs to be brave enough to pull the trigger.

This is no righteous finger-pointing game − it’s more serious than that.”

– Collin Govender

It is an illusion to believe there won’t be restless at best, and sleepless at worst, nights worrying about whether the decision will or won’t pay off. That’s the nature of the game, and it is understanding that vulnerability stems directly from the amount of due diligence that has been conducted. The stars will never align, but you can prepare your own rocket ship.

This type of bravery separates true leaders from people who are merely custodians. However, it all starts with a choice to set up a business for a season of growth.

In our partnerships and interactions, we’ve found there are four areas all businesses that wish to prepare for a season of growth need to focus on. These are:

  • Go for a growth mindset: The business onboards people with a growth mindset, and true leaders surround themselves with people who push the envelope by their very nature. This isn’t about being comfortable, and some people will leave, but they will be replaced by those who stretch the exco because it is who they are.
  • Culture of transparency: This is not just about saying the right things, but about accepting and encouraging openness and brutal honesty. It requires the confidence to embrace vulnerability – allow team members to express uncertainty because this is the only way the business will grow, and the posturing will end.
  • Pay focused attention to partnerships: This extends beyond the traditional partners, who are as important as ever. Broaden the scope of who can partner on key initiatives that will benefit the industry and your business. Look into cooperating with competition in a constructive manner – coopetition will gain traction as organisations iron out strategic advantages for themselves and their peers.
  • Grow skills: There is a global skills shortage, especially in fields related to IT and digitisation. Businesses that want to grow have little option but to upskill and reskill staff and engage in mentorship and skills-building initiatives and partnerships as an industry.
    Building the foundation for a season of growth requires vision and bravery. More than anything, it requires leaders to step up, be brave and own their decisions.

Investments made today, based on methodical and insightful analysis of their future advantage, will set businesses apart from peers who remain stuck in holding patterns or sink.

But, like Theodore Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena, it requires bold action to enjoy victory or defeat, and inaction to know neither.

This article was originally published ITWeb.

As you set your company up for a season of growth, you will be looking for the right partnership to get you where you need to be. Get in touch with us today.

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