Xplorio Overberg

Leadership in the spotlight

Think for a minute about the concept of Leadership and especially leadership in South Africa. Whether you draw on an example from Government, the SABC, SARS, Eskom, your local school Governing Body, church or within your own circle of friends or family, the reality is that leadership is all around us and more importantly within us. Now, on a scale of 1 to 10, rate one or all of your examples, where 1 is “Really Bad Leadership” and 10 is “Really Great Leadership”.

Many people will have an immediate and intuitive view of the leadership quality of a person or institution. In this short article our focus is not so much on HOW you rated leadership (your result), but rather on WHAT your rating was based against (the standard against which you measured it). Why did you maybe rate one individual a 1 out of 10 and another an 8 out of 10? Utilizing a standard of measurement is very important, for specifically two reasons, 1.) agreement on definition, i.e. are we actually talking about and meaning the same thing and 2.) for consistency purposes every time a rating takes place. A few years ago a passenger jet in the USA crashed and the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) searched for the cause for months and could not find any specific reason related to mechanics, electrical, weather or pilot error. But then they made a horrific discovery. During a routine refueling exercise the ground technician calculated the jet refueling quantum in pounds and not in kilograms, resulting therein that the plane had far too little fuel to reach its destination and literally just fell from the sky. In this example a different definition in the standard of measurement became a very costly one.

So, when we talk about Leadership, what is our standard?

What do we measure a person or an institution against, when we say leadership is either bad or good?

The behavioural sciences explains that leadership is influenced by both CAPABILITY and COMPETENCE, and these two words do not mean the same thing. Capability is not-teachable and is associated with levels of work complexity and the time implications/delay effect of decisions we make. Cognitive ability and personality are key elements within this relationship, although high cognitive capacity is not a guarantee of the ability to deal with complex work, whereas someone with low cognitive capacity will not be able to deal with complex work. Competence on the other hand is teachable and refers to three elements, i.e. knowledge (the things a person need to know), skills (what they are able to do with that knowledge) and attitude (their emotional positioning / values alignment) towards a brand or job. These three elements culminate in a set of witness-able behaviours, i.e. how the person acts/behaves on a day to day basis.

So Leadership is a function of Capability (ability to deal with com-plexity of work) and Competence (Knowledge + Skill + Attitude), culminating in Behaviour. A “Good Leader” will therefore have mastered many of these elements and his/her/their behaviour will instill confidence, believe and trust. For the “Bad Leader”, the inverse will be true; they may seriously lack Competence (which is teachable), but if they lack Capability (which is not-teachable), you have a serious issue of leadership failure, without a cure or fix.