Leaders lead in many ways –

Lessons about leadership and internal culture

On the 16th of July 2019 South Africa lost another one of the great unifiers. Johnny Clegg passed away in his Johannesburg home, leaving behind a legacy of strength, character, ambition and passion for the place he called home. As with the late Nelson Mandela, Clegg embodied what it means to be South African and an actual working part of the rainbow nation.

“Johnny leaves deep footprints in the heart of every person that considers him/herself South African. He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity. An anthropologist that used his music to speak to every person. With a unique style of music, he traversed cultural barriers like few others. In many of us he awakened awareness.”

Roddy Quinn

When you think of South Africa, a word that comes to mind is culture – rich, vast and colourful. As the foundation of our beloved country these words also represent the rich diversity within any workplace within our borders. “Internal Culture” has been a buzz word for some time but according to Gary Vaynerchuk, US based investor, serial entrepreneur and 5x New York Times best-selling author, “We are on the dawn of the era where Emotional Intelligence is about to become the single most important trade…” Gary goes on to explain how the speed at which your business operates and grows is directly linked to continuity and lack of politics in the workplace.

We are the fortunate ones to be in an era where we have opportunity to accept and drive change. One of the keys is emotional intelligence, best described as the capability of an individual to interact with others, demonstrate “soft skills”, the ability to be empathetic, show kindness and gratitude. We have such incredible examples of leadership – demonstrated by Nelson Mandela and Johnny Clegg – who were able to demonstrate this emotional intelligence, embrace and harness the diverse cultures, talents and perspectives within South Africa on a national and global level.

Then why is it that Internal Culture is not high on the business agenda? Leaders need to start paying attention to this “Human Element” that can drive businesses to the next level.

The business ecosystem has evolved, along with its people. Do CEOs and leaders know what makes their employees happy? Speed suffers when employees are exposed to internal politics, something business cannot afford. Internal politics is a culture that spreads poison, rather than passion. Imagine the difference with an employee team ignited by passion rather than poison! Some employees want title, some want money, some want time with family and what each employee wants at a certain level or age will change over time, reinforcing the importance of leaders spending time with employees to build a workplace they love. This is how you build a customised internal culture.

One individual cannot unfortunately be single-handedly responsible for internal culture, and that is where what we call “change Agents” come in. First leaders need to “audit” and understand employees and find out which employee/s is making other employees miserable and address the situation directly. Negativity spreads and is very quick to derail any steps in a positive direction a business takes to improve internal culture. We live in a world where the negative minority is much louder than the positive majority, this needs to change. Those employees who are seen as positive influencers and leaders need to be empowered to bring about sustainable change within the environment.

Let’s encourage our CEO’s and Leaders to take the time to invest in the most important business trade we have – our people. “It’s a cruel, crazy, beautiful world…” but one in which we can all make a difference, all you need to do is start. Happy employees do translate into happy clients – try it!

Written by:

Candice Neumann
Executive Consultant, 21st Century

[email protected]

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