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Do we have enough great leaders in Africa?

An Interview with Frans Kutumela, Senior Manager, Learning and Development, MTN
By Carol Butcher

“Africa as a whole has a very young, growing professional base. We have more youth in Africa which means that in terms of sustainability, especially, the leadership aspect, we have great potential. If we really focus on developing our leaders, there are more than enough that we can develop,” says MTN Senior Manager, Learning and Development, Frans Kutumela.

The Youth present a sense of hope for the future, especially in Africa. However, Kutumela cautions that we need to focus on programmes where we can develop leadership competencies in the youth at an early age.

“You cannot lead others if you cannot lead yourself. We need to start with competencies that talk to self-leadership so that when you are put in a team leader role you are able to discharge that role with responsibility, and make sure that you develop others,” he explains.

The focus now is on job development through coaching, mentoring, job shadowing, secondment and assignments, not necessarily programmes where you send new and junior leaders on long programmes where they spend a month or two or even a year trying to cover certain competencies. “On the job development seems to be yielding more results,” he remarks.

People need to be placed in a position where they can grapple with the nitty gritty of leadership: “We can put our young people into leadership positions and develop them and coach them as we go along.”

The other challenge is that we write off senior leaders too quickly instead of bringing them back and asking them to come and mentor young talent in organisations: “This is one thing that we need to get right that we really need to show the respect to our senior leaders, our senior specialists, who have really walked the path.”

Empathy is a core competency for any leader: “Leaders need to be able to deal humanely with the team members that they are responsible for. Communication is also important. They need to provide feedback where people need to develop and also where they are doing well. These are attributes that are lacking in the types of leadership that we have seen.”

Leadership needs to be more participative: “If you look at the employee profile today – tell me what I am doing right, what do I need to improve – that feedback needs to come to me timeously and help me develop these areas so that I can be a better employee or a better leader. These things are critical if we were to get the leadership story right. Over and above that we need leaders who understand the business in terms of what needs to be done and really identify talent and know how to draw the best out of people is what we require. When you look at a target that needs to be achieved, it takes a leader who knows how to draw people to give their best but also ensuring that their morale and job satisfaction is maintained,” Kutumela concludes.

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