A Sound character needed for true leadership
A Port Elizabeth businessman and expert on leadership, Luphumlo Joka, has released a book giving a guide to innovative and transformational leadership in the 21st century.
The book is titled The Ultimate Leader Shift.
We spoke to Joka, the CEO of Global Leadership Consultants, about some of the points he raises in the book.
In the beginning of the book you speak about the condition of one’s heart being a true testament to leadership, and that knowledge, wisdom, hard skills and qualifications are secondary. Please explain why you believe this to be true.
It is easier to impart knowledge, wisdom and hard skills than it is to impart sound character (a heart issue).
From the few skilled and knowledgeable leaders we have across all sectors and political spheres, there are even fewer that genuinely love the people of this country.
This is the problem.
When people don’t love our nation, even if they have all the knowledge and experience they need to do the job, it will be easier for them to steal from the poor and do the bare minimum.
The world is short of people who have a good heart and pure intentions.
You appear to feel strongly that BEE or BBBEE is not working. Why is that so?
BEE has not worked in a long time.
On a large scale, BEE benefits those who are politically connected, leaving a legacy of a few black elitists in our society.
We are still one of the most unequal societies in the world with the gap between the rich and the poor widening.
Poverty is still rife in many communities, while most politicians/businessmen and those who are politically connected mostly live in unimaginable wealth.
Unemployment is the highest it’s been in the past decade.
What is BEE doing for the majority of poor South Africans? Nothing.
Spirituality appears to be a significant part in your life. What role has it played in your leadership journey?
The bible has shown me a different picture of leadership that I am yet to see in the world today.
It has taught me that all people matter — the old mama who works as a domestic worker to feed her children because she can’t survive on her pension and the young graduate sweeping the streets because she can’t find a decent job.
The bible teaches me all of these people are equally important and must be given a fair chance in life to succeed.
My spirituality is practical — it’s not just about singing songs and praying all night.
It’s about dealing with poverty as an act of worship to my heavenly father.
This is biblical leadership.
How important is mentorship for a leader?
It is very important.
It should start at home with your parents.
I am what I am because of several people who have walked with me throughout different stages of my life.
No-one person who wants to do great things in the world can do it alone. We all need people who see and think differently to us.
You dedicate a chapter to people-centred businesses, saying people not profits help build empires. How does one inculcate this culture in small start-up companies when profits are low?
Every business is like a bus that’s going somewhere.
Before determining where the bus is going, we should learn to get the right people on the bus and in the right seats.
This I have had to learn the hard way in our leadership development firm.
As a start-up you first introduce the culture of a people-centred business by who you let in.
If you have the right people, in the right places, with the bus going in the right direction, money will follow.
What are the traits of a good entrepreneur?
In modern SA I have learnt that great entrepreneurs are often those who live by uncommon standards.
They work smart and extra hard.
They are thick skinned, dream big, know how to implement good ideas and surround themselves with the right people.
On the other hand, they make mistakes like everyone else.
Explain the difference between a good manager and a leader.
Management is largely about taking charge of systems and processes created by leaders.
Look at it like this — if our company is in the business of making paper, a manager is the person who takes charge of the people cutting the trees, taking stock of how many trees we need and how long it will take everyone to do the job.
The leader is the one who decides whether we are in the right forest. These are mostly visionary people who like to create.
You mention that a good leader does not necessarily spend copious amounts of time on work, but works smart. Explain the difference. And, how does one strike a balance?
Working smart does not excuse good old hard work, don’t get me wrong.
It just means you know how to put systems in place that will get you the same results in half the time.
In our business, something as simple as Skype meetings with clients have reduced our travelling costs a lot and given us more time to focus on other things.
We know how to work hard and put in the hours, but we also know what tools to use to increase productivity in less time.