When Change of Leadership and Style is Necessary

SHARE   |   Monday, 13 June 2016   |   By Isang Lekhutile

It is with deep and profound sorrow that we learnt of the recent untimely death of workers at BCL as a result of one of too many occupational accidents of late. May the souls of those that perished rest in peace! Initially, I didn’t have the urge to like write anything about the recent accident that occurred at BCL. Upon intense personal reflection, I was compelled to analyse and air my sentiments due to frequency of occupational accidents that continue to claim innocent and productive lives at the mine.  Honestly, I am crestfallen because of the fatal incessant incidents reported at the mine and I deeply feel that adequate, effective, preventive and correctional measures are not being implemented to arrest recurrence of such.

I am writing as concerned former resident of Selebi–Phikwe since is my first home, having schooled and lived there for greater part of my life. Our diligent parents worked in that mine for many years and contributory immensely to the economic wellbeing of the city. Therefore, it is not a surprise that I am undoubtedly attached to Selebi–Phikwe than any other place in Botswana. The recent series of incidents/accidents occurring at BCL with no seemingly imminent end makes one wonder the opportune time to consider leadership change as an inevitable necessity. Change of leadership may be ushered in either by change in leadership style or leaders themselves. This might be the time for strong Visible Felt Leadership (VFL) approach. As any other rational citizen, I am concerned about the state of the mine and its employees. 

While technological improvements and stricter safety regulations have significantly reduced mining related deaths, accidents are still at BCL. Thousands of miners die from mining accidents each year, especially in the process of mining. Most of the deaths today occur in developing countries. But change is necessary to curtail the number of deaths related to occupational hazards. Effective leadership is one of the vitally important contributors to the overall organisational performance and change. Effective leadership is always required to bring effective changes.

Leadership and its role are the most concerning issues for the business and organisations now days. The “Leaders are individuals who establish direction for a working group of individuals and who gain commitment from this group of members to establish direction and who then motivate members to achieve the directions outcomes” (Conger, 1992). What exactly is felt leadership? For DuPont, felt leadership is respect through action for the well-being of people. Felt leadership is a public proclamation of an organisation’s commitment to caring about people. I believe the same situation should be at BCL. According to Schweitzer (2007), when felt leadership is demonstrated within an organisation in the area of safety, a cultural transformation can and will occur. More importantly, that transformation is sustainable because it becomes part of the fabric of the company and the environment in which employees operate. Strong, visible management commitment is the basic component of a successful safety management system, and this commitment must exist at the top, permeating all levels of the organisation.

To achieve the best safety results, BCL management included, the leaders must firmly believe that safety is as essential as any other business parameters such as; quality, productivity and cost. Top management must remember that example, posture, attitudes and behaviour will be seen as its level of commitment with respect to safety themes. What they say, speak and write must be reflected in the things they do. I challenge the BCL Management to exercise a strong VFL culture that is visible to the external stakeholders. The very traits that make a strong leader, if taken to their extreme, can set a leader up for failure. What may be viewed a leadership positive, if allowed to run unchecked, can turn into a leadership negative. The result is a very thin line between successful leadership and failed leadership. Everyone loves a confident leader.

Who isn’t won over by the leader who strides into the room, commands attention, and takes control of the situation? But when a leader has an excess of confidence, it generally means he or she also has a surfeit of ego. Ego changes the conversation so that it becomes all about the leader. Ego is the primary reason leaders fail. I think the biggest challenge in BCL is that the market changed so much that the company's products and services no longer satisfy customer needs to the degree required. Unfortunately, by the time it is absolutely clear that the survival of the firm is at stake it will be too late to do anything about. I think it’s time for introspection. BCL management is now at the cross road. Is it the leadership or the leadership style? I guess the onus lies with BCL management to decide. The sooner the better!