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Leadership is also about caring

COMMENTARY

Lunga Msengana

South Africa


Since the beginning of creation, the subject of leadership has been dominant in our lives. There are millions of publications on the subject, including, but not limited to, books, magazines and journals – to name a few. It seems, though, that the more we talk about the subject of leadership, the more we observe that we lack understanding of it. Whether it is in business or in society, you often hear statements like “there is a leadership deficit here”.

According to John C. Maxwell, “everything rises and falls on leadership”1. So, it means that whenever you observe success or failure in an organisation, it is because of leadership. There are various definitions of what leadership is all about and what it stands for. Through observations in my personal and professional life, I have come to the realisation that “leadership is also about caring”. Perhaps the reason why our leadership styles often leave a lot to be desired, is because they do not incorporate the element of caring. It is all about prestige, power, money and ego.

One of the reasons for writing this article is to share my experiences about two people I worked for who truly demonstrated the art of caring, as a leader. Having worked with them for a period of over three years, they left an indelible mark on my leadership walk, to the extent that after over a decade, I feel the need to document the experiences. The other reason is that I often encounter people being very unhappy about their leaders – even to the extent of making statements like “good leaders are hard to find”. Perhaps this article will show that there are still good role models out there, even though we might not be exposed to them – but they are there.

The two gentlemen that made a huge impact on my life were Mr Len Hinkel and Mr Thami Toni. Len was my immediate manager in my first job; I was still a technician back then. Our Head of Department was Thami Toni, who was affectionately known as Mr T, and who was managing a staff component of about 500 people.

The first time I encountered Mr T was when two other guys and myself had just finished our experiential training, and we were desperate for a job. He and one of his managers interviewed the three of us jointly. From that interview the recruitment process continued through various iterations until we were fully appointed as technicians. Looking back, one could argue that we did not deserve the positions we were hired for, based on our experience and background. However, Mr T saw something in us that even we ourselves could not see: potential.

Leaders should always see potential in people. As leaders, rather than just seeing people what they currently are, we should also see them as what they are going to become. Even when we address them, we do so on the basis of what they are becoming. This is the caring side of leadership. You care about people’s aspirations and dreams, you motivate and support them in what they want to be.

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About the Author

 

pmwj39-Oct2015-Msengana-PHOTOLunga Msengana

South Africa

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Lunga Msengana is a Professional Engineering Technologist Engineering registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa and holds a BSc Hons in Applied Science (with specialization in Electronic Engineering) through the University of Pretoria. Years later, his passion for projects led him to formally studying Project Management, which he obtained a Masters of Commerce in Project Management (Cum Laude) with Cranefield College of Project and Programme Management. He is currently busy with his PhD in Commerce and Administration with Cranefield College.

He has worked as a technician, Business Analyst, Engineer and Project Manager. He had the opportunity to work for Denel, Saab Tech, Molapo Technology, and Vodacom. He is currently a project manager for Eskom Telecommunications. He is also an Associate Part-time Lecturer at Cranefield College of Project and Programme Management and UNISA School of Business Leadership (SBL). Lunga is a member of Project Management South Africa (PMSA) and the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA).

In November 2012, Lunga published a book titled “The Missing Link in Projects”. The book gives full credit to the human factor in project management and it acknowledges the vital role people play in the unfolding of projects. He has been a featured speaker at conferences in South Africa and Botswana. He has also written articles for ProjectNet and PM World Journal.

Lunga Msengana can be contacted at [email protected]