This Company Is Unlocking Africa's Leaders. Here's How.

Heavy Chef celebrates people who walk the talk, who practice what they preach, who eat their own food. We’re constantly uncovering companies and organisations across Africa that are involved with inspiring work on the continent.

Heavy Chef sat down with Richard Jamieson, the Senior Associate from Lockstep. Lockstep is a company that assists clients who seek customised leadership solutions. What that means is that they are building leadership skills that will ultimately drive strategy and delivery performance. We wanted to find out how you train leaders to be leaders. Jamieson gave us some fascinating insights.

Lockstep Logo with background .jpg

Richard, I'm curious, we have met many leaders at Heavy Chef and they come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of personalities and characteristics. What does it take to be a great leader?

At Lockstep we believe that different people lead in different ways, so we don’t have one blueprint for leadership. However, what we have identified is that for an individual to become the most effective leader they can be, they need to be willing to do the introspection necessary to identify where their coping mechanisms are preventing the from connecting with and influencing others in the ways they need to.

Are there fundamental differences between startup leaders and established company leaders?

The Startup Leadership survey that Lockstep ran a few months ago outlined a few key things:

● A startup leader needs to be a jack of all trades - a good generalist who is equally comfortable in the trenches and in the war room.

● They need to have the ability to motivate others in uncertain waters, and without access to some of the traditional tools (money and other incentives).

● They have to be able to adapt and change their leadership approach as the company grows.

● They need massive passion and resilience to stay the course under intense pressure.

We also believe that startup leaders have a pretty unique chance to shape a nascent culture, relative to how difficult it can be to shift a culture that’s already established. Some would go so far as to say that you only have one chance to set helpful behaviour in place in the startup phase. Beyond that, one has to undo and unwind behaviours before you get a chance for another fresh start. One of the practical tools we offer is helping leaders identify how they can influence their culture in concrete, intentional ways, and how these can be broken down into actions that can be built into that leaders weekly routine.

What common myths can you point to, that people believe are inherent in great leadership?

Some believe that leadership is the visible stuff - rousing speeches or inspired decisions, we believe that true leadership is practiced in a million small and often invisible interactions over a period of time. Leadership happens inside conversations, not from the podium. Especially in a startup environment, leaders have to be in the trenches alongside the people they are leading.

Which startup leaders do you admire in South Africa, or Africa - and why?

Firstly, let me say that any startup leader who has a going concern has my respect. As someone who has co-founded three businesses, and who has observed many startup leaders first hand, I know the hard work, the pressure, and the sacrifices that they require, usually in service of making the world a better place (as well as making a profit!). Having said that, we do believe that there is a distinction to be made between entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial leaders (As Derek Lidow puts it in his excellent book, Startup Leadership). The former can come up with a viable business idea, and get the ball rolling, the latter are able to take that idea through the different stages of growth, leading and inspiring a team to see the idea through to fruition.

Here are some of the startup leaders that I (and colleagues of mine at Lockstep) have had the privilege of working with: Paul Galatis (of Names & Faces, previously Yuppiechef) - Paul is a great storyteller, and a genuine champion of people and relationships in the workplace, something he has used as inspiration for the creation of Names & Faces. He has an amazing knack for unearthing talent and creating teams of diverse people doing great work together. Andy Walford (of OceanRock) - Andy brings phenomenal rigour and thoughtfulness to the process of building a growing team of outsourced financial professionals. Sam Paddock (previously of GetSmarter) - Sam has a massive amount of infectious energy and enthusiasm, a genuineness that’s undeniable, and the willingness to chase an entrepreneurial dream from an early age. He and his team built GetSmarter from a startup into a R1.4bn business. Bevan Ducasse (of Wigroup) - Wigroup is well beyond the startup phase nowadays, but Bevan has taken them from startup to where it is today. He’s done this by remaining clear at all times on his purpose and how that translates into the value proposition that Wigroup offers. He’s also been intentional about building great relationships with all stakeholders and building leaders throughout his business..

You outline a toolkit for leaders in your Lockstep Workshop. Can you give us a sneak peek at what to expect?

We want to look at six things in particular: purpose, values, culture, strategy, motivation and self care.

Purpose

Many startup leaders say that they have a high degree of purpose in their work, which is almost a given. However, what we can help with is a process of first making sure that that purpose can be expressed and conveyed in a concise and articulate way, and secondly that it can be connected to everyday work, and can be ‘alive’ in the sense that it informs that leaders motivation every day – the thing that gets him or her out of bed every day.

Values

We’ll spend time thinking deeply about the values that leaders want to instil in their people. We believe that setting values involves making hard choices, not just putting a list of aspirations on the wall. Starting from some of the latest academic work that’s been done on intrinsic human values, we get down to the two or three key values that each leader most identifies with.

Strategy

This is not a strategy workshop, but there’s no way to talk about leadership without considering strategy. We challenge the group to simplify their strategy statement down to at most a single A4 page, and then to get clear on how to communicate it to their stakeholder base in a compelling way.

Culture

We help each delegate come up with their own set of actions for intentionally shaping an maintaining culture over time.

Motivation

We work towards the creation of a team map detailing motivational strategies for every member of their extended team.

Self Care

Burnout is a risk for any startup leader, threatening to undermine all of their hard work just as it is potentially about to pay off. We help the leaders craft a set of concrete strategies for rest, renewal and recovery

Ultimately, all of the above have to connect to the overall performance of the business, something we make sure we never lose sight of. We help leaders get clearer about how their actions in some of these less tangible areas are contributing to the concrete performance of the business.

To find out more about the work Lockstep is doing, read more here

Lockstep partner  and   CEO  Rowan Belchers in action.

Lockstep partner and CEO Rowan Belchers in action.