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The new SA #LeadershipStandard: How will it affect employees?

Today we ask the question: How will applying the newly developed South African leadership standard affect employees?  The good news is that the correct application of the leadership standard will have a major impact on employees.  Workers are the recipients of leadership behaviour, whether good or bad.

The leadership standard prescribes a positive approach to leadership practice and makes it clear to leaders what they are expected to do.  Not surprisingly, and backed-up by decades of leadership research from all over the world, the leadership practices recommended by the standard are exactly what employees want from their leaders.  If employees become so impressed with the behaviour and practices of their leaders, they will experience a higher level of employee engagement and this will have a positive impact on their performance.  Moreover, if employees apply the leadership standard, and in particular the element on “influencing people” they will also experience more opportunities to develop into leadership positions themselves, thereby accelerating the process of employee empowerment in the workplace.

Another positive spin-off of the leadership standard is that leaders will be encouraged to learn from other leaders. This will not only accelerate their own development as leaders, but also create a situation in which they regularly reflect on their leadership to improve themselves.   The standard also states that leaders must solicit feedback about their leadership. This means that employees will be able to provide feedback to their leaders on how they should improve as leaders.  This implies a very strong sense of employee empowerment – employees telling their leaders how they should improve, i.e. performance appraisal in reverse!

This is the good news for leaders who have committed to the leadership standard and who are serious to improve their leadership. But there is also some bad news for bad leaders, or leaders who are simply not interested in the leadership standard: The bad news is that the leadership standard was released on social media on 26 October, which means that employees will see it. The leadership standard has gone viral.  Leaders (and employees) will read it. Employees will go through it and consciously assess their leaders against it. There may be areas in the standard in which their leaders are performing well, but there may also be areas in which leaders are under-performing. For instance, some leaders may be great at vision, but poor in people skills  Thus, the pressure will be on for leaders to step up and rise to the occasion in improving their leadership.

The launch of the South African leadership standard on 26 October 2017 was therefore an historic moment, not only for leaders but also for employees.  Embracing the standard will improve leadership practice, and therefore impact directly and positively on employees. The development of the leadership standard will be remembered as the moment South African leaders decided to prioritise leadership as the top priority for organisations and ensure a more caring work environment and brighter future for South African employees.   There is a hunger for good leaders, and sadly some employees have not experienced good leadership throughout their careers.  Now that the leadership standard is available, employees have a reason to hope for better leadership, and to support their leaders in improving their leadership practice.  The fact that so many different people (senior, middle and lower level leaders, leadership specialists as well as ordinary employees) were involved in the development of the leadership standard, makes it a true collaborative effort.  The leadership standard is a collective statement about what good leadership is about for the typical South African leader.

In conclusion, I am confident that all employees will welcome the leadership standard. The hard question is: Will leaders welcome the leadership standard? And if not, why not?

Marius Meyer is CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) and convenor of the South African #LeadershipStandard initiative.  Comments about the project can be send to him on

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