​Leadership in Africa: In line with global trends, the Top Employers Institute finds

The annual global HR Best Practices Survey conducted by the Top Employers Institute has identified a number of key trends in the way leaders are now being defined. The era of the individual is over, with an increasing focus on collective leadership, influence rather than position, and leaders taking ownership of their own development. African companies are no exception.

The next generation of movers and shakers will primarily be influencers and performers, according to this year’s Leadership Development HR Insights Report.

The annual study, conducted by the global Top Employers Institute, reveals current trends in leadership development and how highly successful organisations across the world are managing and organising these trends in their strategies and practices. The latest Leadership Development HR Insights Report has been updated with data from the Top Employers 2016 Certification Programme.

Samantha Crous, Top Employers Institute’s Regional Director: Africa, has identified an intriguing paradox at the heart of tomorrow’s leadership ladder: while collective leadership is increasingly the accepted direction, individual leaders are also relying less on their organisations for their own development. There is, in other words, increasingly a great deal less “I” in “team”.

“We are moving towards a more collective approach to leadership, but at the same time we are also placing more responsibility for personal and career development in the hands of individuals,” says Crous.

The five major pointers identified by the report are:

  • Ÿ Create a conducive environment. Businesses must create an environment and organisational culture where growing leaders can develop and thrive. Less hierarchical companies, where future leaders are identified by their performance and potential for positive influence, have the right idea. Organisational culture plays an important role in developing great leaders, according to the report.
  • Ÿ Growth occurs outside the comfort zone. Leaders gain important skills and life experience in and outside the office, says Crous. Leadership development programmes should equip employees with “behaviours, capabilities, vision and perspective”.
  • Ÿ Take ownership of development. According to the report, more and more businesses view personal and career development as within each individual’s power. Employees should be encouraged to take the initiative in developing their own skills. “There is a growing belief that people develop fastest when they feel responsible for their own progress,” says Crous.
  • Ÿ Determine own involvement. High-performing organisations make the process of becoming a leader open to employees who are interested. This allows for a more aspirational environment — Crous stresses that it’s crucial for Top Employers to make information on leadership development strategy widely available; something three-quarters (76%) of Top Employers do.
  • Ÿ The rise of technology. Alongside standard measures of the effectiveness of global leadership initiatives, there has also been an increase in the use of other measures: sales, productivity, and the engagement scores of leaders’ direct reports — with digital technology driving much of the change. Online coaching and mentoring, e-learning and virtual collaboration are also popular. Best-in-class Top Employers use all available technologies.

Patrick Hull, Leadership Development Director (Africa) for Unilever, says leadership development is critical to remain relevant and is a key part of Unilever’s strategy to remain competitive. As future economic growth is increasingly tied to Africa’s development — and greater ties with the global economy — forward-thinking employers are focusing on developing strong leaders across the continent.

At an international leadership roundtable hosted by Unilever earlier in 2016, Hull told global powers that many young Africans are unable to fulfil their potential; in some areas, only 10% of those working achieve what can be regarded as a “good employment outcome”. Unilever is beating these odds by developing leaders at grassroots level and allowing them to implement their new skills on the ground, letting the organisation measure the success of leadership programmes, while providing the growing leaders with opportunities to take ownership, develop their influence and drive the development process.

“A lot of organisations are struggling with the challenge of doing more with less, and realise that they need more discretionary efforts from people,” says Hull.

The Leadership Development HR Insights Report is one of five in its series, and was updated in 2016. Its insights are supported by the findings in the full-length Top Employers HR Best Practices Survey, which is based on a sample size of 600 certified organisations in 102 countries, with more than 3 000 employees. The full report and more HR Insights can be found on www.HR-Insights.top-employers.com/leadership-development.

About Top Employers Institute

The Top Employers Institute globally certifies excellence in the conditions that employers create for their people; almost 1 100 Top Employers were successfully certified in 2016.

The Top Employers Institute is headquartered in the Netherlands and identifies Top Employers across the globe.

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