Why authentic leadership is becoming a topic of discussion in Africa

The idea that leadership is performative has become stale.

In Summary

• Most of our leadership standards have been operating on the 20th Century models that are outdated and based on transactional leadership.

• It is time we boot into the 21st Century Leadership models which demand authenticity to transform the old ways of running organizations.

Tazim Elkington.
Tazim Elkington.

The idea that leadership is performative - that you can switch up to suit the situation you are handling- has become stale. Real people relate to real people. Most of our leadership standards have been operating on the 20th Century models that are outdated and based on transactional leadership.

Below are some traits of transactional leadership that are common in the current workplace.

Maintaining the status quo: Change is frowned upon in the organization and there is no flexibility in policy or operation.

Short term focus: There is little or no focus on the long term impact of decisions or actions.

Management by exception: This means that only issues that deviate from what is considered the norm are given consideration.

Negative Authority: This results in a hierarchical pyramid rule and is characterized by those in leadership positions playing favorites.

Contingent rewards: The focus is on enhancing performance management by reinforcing positive behavior. This creates the need for materialistic motivation for performance.

Extrinsic motivation: This is motivation based on expected reward rather than it coming from within an individual.

 Fear-based rule: Under this rule, people are afraid, to tell the truth, so they keep challenges to themselves.

It is Time for Authentic Leadership

It is time we boot into the 21st Century Leadership models which demand authenticity to transform the old ways of running organizations. The foundation moves to the following based on our continent now becoming the most sought-after space to live and work in:

Circular or flat structures – would mean we dismantle the hierarchical structures to create healthier and more work-friendly environments

Open to change and leading with diversity and openness – unbiased. This requires every leader to do the inner work and address their own ‘gaps’ and shift their leadership styles.

Translate vision to reality – There are so many organizations that create Visions however they do not get implemented. Applying and implementation mechanisms are necessary to move organizations to the next level. This is done by creating a new culture and not doing things as in the past.

Mid- and long-term planning – planning and setting time frames are essential for future success. This also means flexibility as challenges appear in all forms and to have contingency plans as well.

People-centric – motivate and lead employees with fairness. Leaders must put their people first. If their employees are dissatisfied, they will impact the levels of service, output, and customer service. Ultimately, this affects profit margins and we need to connect these dots.

Manage resistance to change – Training and development are an intrinsic part of employee satisfaction. When people are learning and growing, they are motivated. In the 21st Century, this is a necessity, not a luxury.

Self-awareness – when people start to examine their state, they are in a better position to understand themselves and others. We are not robots, we are feeling-thinking beings that need to believe that our existence has a meaning. It's not about money and basics only.

Coaching, learning, and development – this cannot be done by an internal voice. Hiring an external person to shift your organizational culture, create a value-based equitable workspace will reap tons of benefits.

Emotional Intelligence and excellent effective communication abilities – this has been a BIG GAP in most organizations. Bringing in EQ and opening up effective communication to employees can express and share is a Leader’s responsibility. This is required by hiring an EQ specialist and a Leadership Trainer to turn your company around.

Ingrain well understood and solid Value systems – our socialization does not teach us the true meaning and importance of value systems. This is a foundational functional requirement in the 21st Century. We cannot have Core Values that no one understands clearly going forward.

What do leaders need to do to change their style and overall uproot the old and start afresh?

Tazim’s Advice: That’s a challenging question as many of the so-called ‘leaders’ in present positions may have been put there or may not all deserve to be leaders. This means that unless a person is totally invested in the future, as a progressive leader they may not be right for the position. Secondly, for those who are willing to change and are invested in a different tomorrow – they have to be Coached, Re-Trained, and Re-tooled to become 21st Century Authentic Leaders ready to transform internally and externally.

What are the ‘Key’ aspects to consider for the future?

Tazim’s advice: Firstly, that we start understanding and living from a place based on ethical, well-understood ‘Value systems’- Core Values that include; Integrity, Responsibility, Accountability, Transparency, Equality, and Equity for all.

Secondly, creating spaces where ‘Emotional Intelligence’ becomes a norm.

Lastly, People before profits as once we put people’s motivation first then profits automatically follow.

Progressive change is the only way forward and it takes each individual to acknowledge, recognize and accept this to create a new foundation for living!

Tazim Elkington a.k.a The Indian Black Butterfly, and a member of WomenWork Network, offers unique methodologies that have empowered countless individuals and groups to live more fulfilling lives. Check out her website: and get in touch with her [email protected]

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