By Azim Jamal
Firstly, a quick clarification about leadership and management; a leader creates the direction, a manager ensures execution.
A good leader involves the team to create a common vision. A good manager involves the team in coming up with the most effective execution model.
I have worked with many corporations in Tanzania; some of them on a long term basis and some on ad hoc, need basis.
There has been a positive shift in terms of desire to improve and enhance effectiveness in the area of leadership and management during the last three years.
My observations are that you have basically three types of leadership and management structures in Tanzania:
1. Top leadership and management being all or mostly expats;
2. Balanced Leadership and management where either there is a mixture of expat and local leadership or where majority leaders and managers are expats, however, you have reasonably good involvement from local and junior staff;
3. Total leadership and management is local who seek expat or expert help as and when required.
Let us explore each one:
1. Top leaders and management being all or mostly expats:
Here, you have a variation. Some corporations have a desire and willingness to build capacity within, whereas others play lip service to this area and there are some corporations or leaders who are totally oblivious of the need for this. The ones who play lip service or are oblivious will find it hard to be competitive in the long term.
2. Balanced Leadership and management where either there is a mixture of expat and local leadership or where majority leaders and managers are expats, however, you have reasonably good involvement from local and junior staff
Here, those who get it right have a fair bit of engagement and empowerment. Whereas others feel they are doing a lot but are not as effective. The latter category of corporations are those who expect a "quick fix" solution. Those who get it right also have a lot to improve on, however, they are in the right direction and this is certainly a potent area for their future success.
3. Total leadership and management is local and seek expat or expert help as and when required.
This model has worked very well where the leader chosen is capable, open and carries out lifelong learning.
The advantage of this model is that the team has a lot of engagement and trust working with a fellow countryman who understands them at a deep level.
Apart from the three basic variation of corporate management and leadership, there are many shades to them.
There are some companies with rich diversity which has it\’s strengths and complexities. There are others so big in size that alignment becomes a perpetual problem.
I have worked with some companies with great desire for learning and growth. However, that obsession has not been balanced with building trust and relationships thereby limiting the potential of leveraging learning.
There are other companies with strong foreign ownership. Some of them have effective delegation and are run well whereas others exert too much control whereby the empowerment becomes weak.
I have worked with companies where the ownership is savvy and understands leadership and effectiveness. These companies have had good progress because they get some of the fundamentals right.
Governmental agencies for the most part still struggle with a laisez faire approach expecting transformation to happen almost automatically!
My general observation has been that many leaders are strong technically but weak in leadership qualities. The unfortunate part is that many of them are unwilling to build their leadership qualities. Instead they rely on autocratic leadership approach which minimizes their effectiveness.
All private corporations are profit driven which is understandable, however, quite a sizeable number are urgent or fire fighting focused as opposed to important or long term driven. Also, effective succession planning is an area that needs improvement.
There is a perception that there are very few qualified and capable Tanzanian leaders and the work ethic of Tanzanians is not as strong as others from outside including neighboring countries. This leads to a lot of expat hiring especially at the top level. Unfortunately perception becomes reality as everyone acts and behaves as if perception were true.
I have worked with several Tanzanian leaders who exude excellence in many things they undertake. Sure there is room for improvement which is the case for all people irrespective of where they are. I have also spent time conducting sessions with the University of Dar-es-Salaam where the youth are eager to succeed but also apprehensive of the challenges ahead. My message to the youth has been to work hard and to believe in themselves for no one is going to believe in them more than they believe in themselves.
How can corporate management and leadership in Tanzania go to the next level?
1. Investing in the youth\’s education, confidence building and engagement Also improving their business and financial acumen;
2. Leadership and Management to invest in improving "ethos" (trust building, credibility), and improving "pathos" (relationship building) before investing heavily in "logos" (logic).
3. Local Tanzanians to "pull up their socks" so they can improve the perception that their work ethic is not up to par.
4. Realizing that sustained success comes not from expecting a quick fix turnaround but investing time, energy and focus in well rounded education and planning.
5. Engaging and empowering people at all levels realizing that every employee has the potential to vastly improve their productivity and effectiveness.
By taking these initiatives at all levels, we can expect Tanzania to capitalize on the future growth that is bound to dawn in this beautiful country.