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Servant leadership

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    Aephoria Partners

    22 Feb 2024

Aephoria’s programmes are tuned to organisational and personal needs and thus this servant leadership programme was tailored to a specific context and business. The programme was intended to build agency and responsibility within the leadership and management of a multinational manufacturing organisation and was coupled with the implementation of a manufacturing system designed to enhance performance across the board.

Exploring the Context

Our initial research explored the inner and outer contexts of the business including current leadership and management style, culture, and socioeconomic and cultural contexts. Like most manufacturing businesses in South Africa, the average level of maturity was found to be largely group defended with higher levels found in the leadership teams. This had implications for the business given that this meant that decision-making especially at the shopfloor level, was orientated around group norms not necessarily rational thinking, performance, or innovation. Personality profiles using the Enneagram identified a high level of outcome orientation and lower levels of relationship focus. Both orientations are necessary to build a performance-orientated business, with relationships that promote personal responsibility and innovation. It is these skills that together can create and support a business turnaround.

Applying The Research And Theory Into A Practical Instrument Of Learning

Our work began with the Executive team and the senior leadership team from one of the factories. Work with line managers at the factory has followed and the intention is to roll the programme out to other factories and head office. Each programme includes one-on-one and group work totaling eight days and spread over at least six months per group.

For this programme we worked extensively with the Enneagram and the maturity framework as well as with Existential thinkers, notably Steve Biko’s work on inner and outer freedom. Biko’s work in particular has proved very inspirational in that he invites people to take responsibility for where they are and the situations they find themselves in. His notion of inner freedom acts as a strong catalyst for personal growth first by understanding ourselves more fully and then by helping ourselves to be all of who we can be.

We used a down-to-earth facilitation style tuned into the meaning-making system of each group. Some courses are taught in three languages; English, Afrikaans, and Setswana. Each day has a creative exercise that brings the content to life, personally, for each individual.

Impact on Multiple Levels

The course validated each person’s experience of life and called them to find meaning at work. This created profound impacts on people’s lives, not just their work. Our work had impacts ranging from improved marriages, improved parenting skills, better debt management, greater awareness and management of addiction as well as greater levels of productivity and performance. Critically the higher levels of personal responsibility and thoughtful decision-making will result in less waste, better problem-solving, increased innovation, and agility in order to deal with the changing and sometimes chaotic contexts we currently find ourselves in at work.