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Leadership Training in South Africa – Does it Deliver?

If the public and media are emphasizing a need for ethical leaders – where is knowledge of ethics taught, distilled and instilled?  Which leadership development providers use the word ‘ethics’ in their online course descriptions?

What should leadership training include?

There’s no doubt that South Africa is floundering under weak leaders in government and the private sector.

Amusingly, the demand for accredited leadership training is soaring, yet does leadership development address issues of accountability, responsibility, fair labour practice and social equity within a democratic economy?

Does Leadership Development continue to encourage leaders to define themselves in terms of polarized power, authority and control? Is leadership development current with the times or based on dubious hack theory?

Leadership Training and the Need for Ethics

The Mail & Guardian reported that ‘South Africa urgently needs ethical leaders.’ (Jairam Reddy 

Ethical leadership is the process of influencing people to act on principles, values and beliefs. It generally refers to the five principles that can be traced back to Aristotle: respect, service, justice, honesty and building community. The key criterion is to live these principles, operate beyond the ego, put others first and think about the greater public good.

In the same article

James MacGregor Burns, a pioneer of leadership studies, writes: “A universal craving of our time is a hunger for compelling and creative leadership and yet it is one of the most observed and least understood ­phenomena on Earth.”

Harvard sociologist Rakesh Khurana says leadership as a body of knowledge remains without a theoretical framework or a cumulative empirical understanding.

The consequences of unethical leaders are in the news almost every day: tax evasion, falsifying qualifications, acquiring tenders through illegal means, cadre deployment, bribery, money laundering, financial manipulation and more.

Leadership Enables People and Profit without Sacrificing Policy

Managers participating in leadership development deepen their understanding of issues affecting their organizations, such as changes in leadership, accountability and employee empowerment.

Leadership development has many benefits:

  • motivates leaders
  • unpacks  ethical behaviors
  • stimulates solutions to company problems
  • enhances decision-making skills
  • enriches brainstorm productivity strategies
  • promotes accountability within the organisation
  • increases interpersonal skills to maximize employee performance, work cohesively within groups, build alliances and assess office dynamics.

Managers attending off-site training programs (e.g. public schedule events) have an opportunity to network with diverse professionals, make contacts with other leaders, share innovative practices and procedures, and gain insight on differing leadership styles that have proven to be effective.

Leadership development can boost leadership morale which in turn positively impacts other employees as it filters down to them. Through professional development, leaders gain a better understanding of:

  • how employees learn,
  • promoting company loyalty,
  • and are more informed about industry trends and alternative practices.

Top Two Leadership Training Providers Don’t Mention ‘Ethics

The following two course examples ranked on page 1 of a google search for Leadership training providers in South Africa.

The course outlines show little response to the broader socio economic factors and political zeitgeist, they simply adhere to a benign description of course outcomes and unit standard titles. Largely unexciting and out of touch with the robust debate required around morality, responsibility, business ethics and resulting social impacts.

Does our leadership training deliver or is it just a way to strike up BEE points and rebates? Does it matter if no one takes business ethics seriously enough to force this focus? What do we really want leaders to know?

Example One

Business Optimization  Training Institute: Leadership and People Management Training Course

Leadership and People Management Training Course course is aimed to strengthen your current management and leadership skills. It will help all managers and leaders develop the essential methods to positively impact and motivate their staff to achieve high levels of performance.

Leading the people is not just about creating a“feel good” atmosphere all around, it is about creating the right attitudes and behaviours required for winning fair and achieving the organization’s objectives.

Leaders communicate the organizational values for maximum impact on  people behaviours. They  inspire “all the way” and differentiating people based on their performance and behaviours, including following up with rewards and development. Leadership should ensure that top performers are duly identified and recognized. Average performers need the leadership assistance the most as they need more coaching and mentoring. Leaders must be frank with people with low levels of performance, thus helping them to choose jobs that suit those most.

Example Two

Dale Carnegie Training: Leadership Training for Managers

Discover how the experiences, beliefs and values shape our leadership style, and discover the impact of that style on the company’s environment and culture.

Develop human potential and build relationships of mutual trust and respect.

Create and maintain processes and procedures that drive innovation, plan and define performance foals, utlise time effectively, delegate, analyse problems and make decisions.

Develop leadership by demonstrating effective questioning and listening skills: one-on-one, in small groups and leading problem-solving meetings.

Balance the desired outcomes of visions and plans with an accurate assessment of actual performance, and hold others accountable to predetermined results.

Investing in leadership development training will help build your team’s leadership skills, which will ensure you are more than likely to have a bright career path ahead of you.

Green text indicates words that come close to or allude to ‘ethics.’

Do you think the training industry can contribute to sustainable development by ensuring that leadership programmes include instilling business ethics and morality?

Considering the quality of current leaders and their unethical deviations, do we have the products available to the market to address this?

International Corporate Training Trends



Comments (2)

  1. Good morning Leonie, Thanks for a fascinating and truly “topical” article, especially within our current circumstances in South Africa. I have in fact just completed my PhD in Ethical Leadership, and find the topic very relevant. During my time in the SA Navy, I had the opportunity to attend, and later be trained as a Facilitator of the following learning opportunity: ‘Full Range Leadership Development’. It was presented by a Company by the name – Productivity Development Pty Ltd. This was an exceptional learning opportunity, and I still apply the concepts today. Ethics is in fact included in/on all military developmental training opportunities, which I believe is in fact, given the size of the SANDF, (all 4 Arms of Service included) fantastic. I wonder how many Corporate’s can say the same?

    1. Thank you so much for that input Hein! Great to know!
      And thanks for reading! 🙂

      It’s likely that ‘ethics’ is buried somewhere in corporate programs when it should be the lead, not a covert detail. That’s probably why we have so many issues – there’s no bastion we can depend upon to inculcate and enforce ethics in business and government.

      Please consider sharing your PHD with us as in a series of articles.

      Warmest regards

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