Article: Agrizzi and Business, what Leaders should be Concerned about. - [website] Email Print
Published: 30th of Jan 2019 by: Debbie

The damning Agrizzi testimony that we are all by now well aware of has me concerned about the future of South African business.

Firstly it is clear that the level of corruption has stripped our country of much needed wealth, this is not news, we all know this and we see the results on a daily basis.

What concerns me from a leadership development aspect is the impact of the actions from such senior people in the business and political world on the rest of corporate South Africa. I do hope that I am wrong when I conclude that this type of unethical behaviour seems to be rife and as Agrizzi noted, wrong doing seems natural to the degree that it was no longer seen as wrong doing but simply the order of business.

We therefore have to ask the obvious questions:

1. How is it possible that in organisations with apparent checks and balances and employing senior and skilled professionals, this lack of ethics goes unquestioned for such a long period of time?

If we refer to the DDI global leadership forecast of 2018

The section referring to No Engaged Workforce without Engaged Leaders should really have us worried. Whilst the rest of the world is moving toward building a collaborative leadership style, retaining talent, paying people to use their skill, coaching and mentoring leaders and followers alike in an attempt to remain relevant and competitive, some South African companies (as no doubt there are more than Bosasa) seem to be… well not doing any of that.

If South Africans were in the habit of building these globally sought cultures and behaviours, the like of the Watsons and Agrizzi and all the implicated politicians would be sorely tested to get away with their theft.

Middle and top management in these South African organisations would be able to query and discuss, openly show their disdain for any unethical behaviour and with their sheer numbers they would eventually be in the position to oust the person suggesting wrong doing!

The only response I can come up with is that these companies do not have the necessary culture to make them competitive in the global arena…and for a number of years those working in these companies have been subjected to an autocratic leadership style. Ultimately this translates to employees who do not think for themselves. Or who are thinking for themselves, but are prepared to put up with the obvious problems for the sake of their pay cheques and the obvious concern of not finding an alternative option.

I do however understand why South Africans at top and middle management level do not speak up in such a toxic is simple really. If you consider that over 50% of South Africans are spending their pay cheques within 5 days of receiving them, money simply has to play a big role. And many of these people take their immediate family responsibilities seriously.

2. If thus we can assume that Bosasa is not unique in its approach to both dirty business and politics, how does the average middle class South African looking to further their career protect themselves from the wrong doing of potentially crooked organisational leaders?

In this instance I would like to suggest that before any South African takes on a new job, especially at a more senior level, they should be prepared to ask a few questions of the top management to ensure that they are not signing themselves into irrelevance.

In this instance page 55 of the DDI global leadership forecast
should give us some pointers as to what top companies and evolved leaders are doing.

Some examples of the questions to ask could be:

• What kind of leadership development plans does the organisation have in place?
• Are the development plans and strategies transparent, well documented, tracked and how?
• Is there a Performance Management process and how is it implemented?
• What process do you have in place for upward feedback?

Granted, there is strong possibility that if the organisation is not investing in their people, that they would get irritated with this line of questioning, or more likely simply be vague and brush the answers off with what they plan to implement, speaking the lingo, but not being congruent with action.

If that is the case warning bells should start ringing for any professional and at that stage it will be well worth it for the candidate to sit back and ponder how wise this career move actually is.

3. So where does all of this leave the (hopefully) majority of ethical South African business leaders?

In our opinion the very same Global leadership forecast
( points us in the right direction.

Ethical leaders in South Africa should get purpose driven. We need to realise that a purpose statement is not enough, it needs to be backed up by action. The organisational behaviour sought should be clear to all employees and the values of the organisation well publicised and used as the ultimate measuring tool for decision making. When leaders are able to inspire this culture in their organisations they will be able to attract the right people and skillset.

An example of how such theory would translate came across my path just recently.
An organisation that has the provision of quality product as one of their main values just recently shut down a middle manager who queried the quality of one of the products with “there is no more time to spend on this project... we have to let it go like this”
When the middle manager pointed to their values and asked how this decision could possibly align with that value, senior managers changed their decision and took the middle manager concerns seriously. That is good purpose alignment.

In conclusion thus, we are of the opinion that the average South African has a large role to play in getting our country corruption free and even more importantly relevant in the global economy. We need to actively seek out ethical purpose driven working environments and sell our skills only to those who can prove their intentions.

For corporate South Africa, it becomes necessary to step up and to prove our worth by adopting leading leadership approaches and ensuring that we stand strong in our commitment to the development budget required.

Staff Training is a South African soft skills training provider with more than 60 workshops on offer. Email us at for more info or give us a call at 0861 996 660

Debbie Engelbrecht is the MD of Staff Training, established in 2001. She is a soft skills facilitator and management coach and strives to enthuse, assist and empower her fellow South Africans wherever she has the skill to do so.

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