Musa Makhunga, Managing Director - HR Matters (Pty) Ltd : Administration is the Leadership Catalyst Without Which Organizations Falter
Musa Makhunga, Managing Director - HR Matters (Pty) Ltd : Administration is the Leadership Catalyst Without Which Organizations Falter

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Musa Makhunga, Managing Director - HR Matters (Pty) Ltd : Administration is the Leadership Catalyst Without Which Organizations Falter


Administration has been pushed into the fringes of corporate speak and narrative.You would swear leadership alone guarantees an organisation's success. Hence, everywhere you turn there is a leadership development programme, leadership conference/seminar and leadership radio /TV talk show, all on leadership traits and attributes that are sometimes very difficult to link to results.

Examples of people who are associated with these innate characteristics roll off easily on the tongues of leadership development seminar beneficiaries. However, requests for examples of global, national and local effective administrators, are likely to draw some blank stares in a roomful of the same people. It is therefore not surprising that many a great leader would fail where it matters most even as they embody the very essence of leadership traits and attributes.

Administration is key in turning strategy into day to day activities for everyone. Without effective technical, human, processes and systems to turn strategic objectives into reality, success remains forever elusive.

The notion that administration is the lowest form of corporate roles is widely accepted, whether openly or implicitly. Consequently, people end up overplaying leadership to the extent they become blinded to the need for building an effective administrative capability.

This is true both at personal and organisational levels. Individuals who hold the notion described above, would be brilliant in their areas of specialisation but found wanting in managing contractual arrangements, time, investments and related, which all end up undermining their brilliance in what they do. At organisation level, ineffective administrative capability unfortunately results in chaos, with devastating results both internally and externally. The proverbial left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing as misalignment in strategies, processes, systems and people reign supreme.

Administration is really about what to do to accomplish the desired vision or dream. The emphasis is on skill as opposed to some innate leadership attributes. Skill is about the ability to do something. Robert L Katz in one of the Harvard Business Reviews writes that effective administration is premised on three interrelated skills, namely, technical, human and conceptual. He further asserts that technical skills imply understanding of and proficiency in a kind of activity, particularly involving methods, processes, procedures or techniques.

Technical skill is primarily concerned with working with "things" (processes or physical objects), while human skill is primarily concerned with working with people. Human skill is the ability of an executive to work as a group member and to build cooperative effort within the team he leads. This skill is demonstrated in the way the individual perceives (and recognises the perceptions of) his superiors, equals, and subordinates, and in the way he behaves subsequently.

Conceptual skill on the other hand involves the ability to see the enterprise as a whole. It includes recognising how the various functions of the organisation depend on one another, and how changes in any one part affect all the others. And it extends to visualising the relationship of the individual business to the industry, the community, and the political, social, and economic forces of the nation as a whole. Recognising these relationships and perceiving the significant elements in any situation, the effective administrator should then be able to act in a way, which advances the over-all welfare of the total organisation, maintains Katz.

All these interrelated administrative skills are required in different measures depending at what level one is at in the organisation but essentially everyone requires an understanding and appreciation of them all. At a very simplistic level, it is not uncommon to find a lack of coherence between what is envisioned and methods or processes that get put in place to ensure successful implementation. It is also commonplace that one finds positional leaders lacking the administrative skills that undermine their ability to achieve by failing to invest in people and processes that will create positive energy in the organisation.

Organisations thrive if endowed with people who are able to see the bigger picture and therefore seek to integrate their inventions in policies and procedures with current or future processes.

Effective leaders invest time, energy and other resources in ensuring these administrative skills are developed and deployed correctly. An organisation that loses sight of these can be seen from a distance owing to its dysfuntionality even in the presence of great leaders on the board, in the executive suite and elsewhere in the system.

Therefore, effective administration is in fact the leadership catalyst without which organisations falter. It is about time that administrative expertise is elevated to the same level as leadership.

C: 083 251 6704

Musa Makhunga, Managing Director - HR Matters (Pty) Ltd : Administration is the Leadership Catalyst Without Which Organizations Falter

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