New book offers lessons from Africa for global business leadership and management

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Ethical and authentic African business leaders are showing that it is possible for business to both be a force for good and deliver great financial returns, teaching the rest of the world new ways to lead and manage for a sustainable competitive advantage in the 21st century.

By putting employees and customers at the center of their business, these leaders innovate management practices, create joyful and fulfilling workplaces that attract and retain talent – ​​and they achieve superior bottom line results in the process.

This is the key message of the recently published book Afro-Global Management Innovation Practices: Re-imagining Work and Workplaces, which provides practical lessons in management innovation from research at Stellenbosch University Business School.

Lead author Prof. Marius Ungerer, professor of strategic management and strategic leadership at Stellenbosch Business School, said that while the technological innovations of the 4th Industrial Revolution are front and center in business today, they must be accompanied by management innovations – the planning, procedures, processes and systems of “how things are done here” – in order to fully unlock the competitive advantage of innovation.

“We live in a time of dramatic change, with a host of forces altering the very nature of work and workplaces, but the way we practice management hasn’t changed much over the past 50-60 years. . The result is a growing mismatch between what people expect to experience in the 21st century workplace and how organizations are run,” he said.

Management innovation is an emerging field of study, with limited research conducted to date on how firms in Africa are innovating in traditional management practices of planning, organizing, directing and controlling.

“Innovation in the way we manage is crucial to competitive advantage, because only by changing the way things are done can organizations continue to achieve their goals in a changing environment. Innovative organizations respond better to these environmental challenges and are able to improve performance and create a sustainable competitive advantage.

“Leaders play a key role in fostering innovation by creating the organizational culture, structure and processes that support innovation,” Professor Ungerer said.

Afro-Global Management Innovation Practices is changing the lack of management innovation research in Africa by combining global management trends with insights and lessons learned from case studies of 13 innovative companies from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.

Professor Ungerer and a team of nine MBA students from Stellenbosch Business School interviewed 60 executives from the 13 companies, which included small, medium and large companies, including four listed companies, in various sectors ranging from construction, energy, telecommunications and manufacturing to media, finance services and technology.

Companies were selected based on their strong financial performance, reputation for innovation and a high proportion of knowledge workers.

“The companies studied have one thing in common: they want to manage in a positive way, bringing out the best in people. Their leaders are passionate about building businesses that are a force for good, highly human-centered and intensely customer-focused,” said Professor Ungerer.

The book is the result of three years of collaborative research, which revealed that virtuous, authentic and ethical leadership has a positive impact on a company’s ability to innovate in its management practices, and that the two together lead to high performing companies.

“The big theme emerging from our research is that it is now possible for organizations to do well financially and at the same time do good for society and the planet. These goals are now complementary, rather than mutually exclusive.

“In the African companies we studied, doing good is the essence of the core business, not an accessory to corporate social responsibility. By successfully executing their core business, these companies contribute both to their bottom line and to making the world a better place.

“In the process, these companies are winning the race for talent because people want to work where they can align their personal purpose and aspirations with what their company is trying to achieve, beyond the self-serving goal of achieving organizational goals,” Professor Ungerer said. mentioned.

These companies have a distributed and shared approach to leadership, where leadership is not limited by job titles and where the emphasis of control is not supervision by a boss but self-control and control by peers within teams, based on mutual respect.

“I must immediately caution – this is not a fancy environment. We are talking about high performing organizations where performance is non-negotiable. These are challenging environments, but environments with heart and soul, where all subscribe to a higher ideal of doing better and being better,” Professor Ungerer said.

The book pulls together common themes and patterns through the case studies to offer five guiding principles for creating forward-looking organizations, “making them more fit for human beings while meeting economic, social, environmental and governmental needs. multiple stakeholders”.

The book also provides practical advice and lessons learned from case studies on what innovation means in practice in each of the traditional management functions of planning, organizing, directing and controlling. These are “re-imagined” as inclusive planning, organizing for people’s empowerment, distributed (decentralized) leadership, and releasing controls.

The co-authors of the book are Johan Herholdt, management thinker and author, and Anton Schlechter, professor of organizational psychology at the School of Management Studies at the University of Cape Town.

Afro-Global Management Innovation Practices: Re-imagining Work and Workplaces is published by African Sun Media under the SUN PReSS imprint. The book is available in print and electronic format for order on Takealot, Google Books, Amazon or African Sun Media (email [email protected])

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