Do we need an Afrocentric leadership, or do we need to lead as everyone else leads? An interview with Frans Kutumela, Senior Manager Learning and Development MTN
by Carol Butcher
“We need a combination of Afrocentric leadership and we also need to lead as everyone else leads. I wouldn’t necessarily see Africa as an island, but there are certainly environmental and situational requirements that needs people who are leading in Africa to understand within that particular context. However, leadership is leadership. Leadership is ensuring that the objective of the individual and the team is discussed with everyone bringing their contribution to the table. It will be different in a manufacturing environment, in an ICT environment, or in the banking sector, but at the end of the day leadership is leadership. It needs to be discharged and there needs to be mutual respect. There are environmental issues that one needs to take into account when you are leading in South Africa and when you are leading in Libya. These are two different contexts. However, if you understand what needs to be done, especially regarding people-orientated issues, or people- related competencies, you will not go wrong,” MTN Senior Manager, Learning and Development, Frans Kutumela explains.
Kutumela says he is challenged to find a leader in business that he admires: “One can also look at specific industries. In business there are a number of variables that one needs to consider. The one leader can be excellent today, but tomorrow they are facing a new set of challenges which erode the value they have created. So, it is really difficult, depending on your objectives.”
The SABC is an example where the one executive was celebrated for bringing a lot of local content, local music, 90% local content, and the music industry liked the idea, but the same leader was criticised for how he dealt with internal matters, which impacted the bottom line.
“When you look at the challenges that organisations face from stakeholders, customers, regulatory interaction with government, you may celebrate the leader internally, but you may have a breach of legislation. The same leader will be looked at differently. We have seen how the unions have also become more critical of business decisions and processes. Leadership is stakeholder dependant,” Kutumela observes.
There are a number of qualities that he admires in leaders: “I admire leaders, who respect that responsibility that they are given in a leadership role to ensure that both the teams that they lead and the organisation need to be in a better place than they found it. These are true leaders. They are not looking at benefitting themselves, but are looking at serving their organisation in ensuring that they are successful and sustainable. This is servant leadership. I also look for stewardship in leaders. When you are placed in a particular role, it is not the role that makes the difference, it is the person that makes the difference. At the end of the day you are still human. I must be able to greet you the same way I greeted you before you were in that position.”
Unfortunately when place in a leadership position, leaders often completely disregard those who have helped to put them in those positions: “This is one of the sad stories that we see with leadership across the board. The day that position comes to an end, or the day they are no longer in that role, they have few friends and family to interact with, to relate to because of how they have alienated other people. So, leaders who attract more skilled people, who seek help, who support others and really build great organisations and people – are leaders that we need for the future,” Kutumela concludes.