23 November, 2015


In the context of the current competitive and dynamic socio-political milieu, leaders have to constantly change their thinking about how they lead, what they represent and what they leave behind.

“Steven Covey (1992) is of the opinion that personal transformation (change) precedes organisational transformation. Personal change must precede or at least accompany management or organisational change. Attempting to change an organisation without first changing one’s own habit patterns is analogous to attempting to improve one’s tennis game before developing the muscles that make better strokes possible.” Swanepoel (2012:2)

When I was younger I believed that a leader is close to being a perfect human being. I thought that God favoured some individuals genetically that they shine as sports heroes, academics and naturally then be identified as “born leaders”. I am convinced that I am not the only one, and if that is the case we have to have a serious look at this fallacy. There may be various leaders in powerful positions, thinking that being an appointed as leader implies that they have arrived at the crest of the organisational hierarchy. Being “at the top” puts one a notch above the rest…they think. This misconception costs our society dearly. A recent study by Hu and Liden (2015) contradicts the above and found that a shift from selfish leadership to selfless leadership result in increased performance of teams with the added bonus, that they stay longer on as team members.

“Findings from both the field study and lab research showed that the greater the motivation to benefit others, the higher the levels of cooperation and viability and the higher the subsequent team performance” Hu and Liden (2015).

If being a leader revolves around the art of understanding this confirms Habit #5 “Seek first to understand; then to be understood” as Covey suggests.

Having the opportunity to act as leader one should never forget that the leader creates the fingerprint of the team’s culture. If the leader seeks to understand their team members, they will reciprocate by seeking to understand those that they serve. When the leader has set the example of understanding, benefits like coordinated and smooth task allocation and a reduction in dysfunctional conflicts as well as stronger interpersonal ties will be the order of the day.

“The highest level of team effectiveness was achieved when team motivation to benefit other and the interdependence of tasks among team members were both high,” Hu and Liden (2015).

Thinking styles analysis is a very effective instrument that leaders apply to engage with those they lead. The HBDI™ pairs profile provides a communication strategy that both individuals can follow to optimise understanding. When a leader engages at this level, “seeking to understand” takes on a whole new meaning.

Particpating in this process demonstrates that the leader strives towards interdependence. This results in high levels of motivation and task orientation.

by Dr. Chris DuP. Heunis. Contact chris@team.co.za to chat.

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