Is it time for tri-sector leadership in South Africa?

Last week there were numerous reports in the press, and specifically The Business Day, about the existing lack of trust between government and the business sector.
This could have a potential negative impact on investors’ confidence and especially the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP). To an extent, this lack of trust is not confined only to South Africa . Think about the relations (or lack of) between government and banking sectors worldwide.

Whilst preparing for the recent feedback session on the Leadership Development Survey, I came across an article by Nick Lovegrove and Matthew Thomas published in the September edition of the Harvard Business Review on ” Triple Strength Leadership”.

In this article the authors insist that some of the toughest problems in the world can only be solved by leaders who can engage and collaborate across the private, public, and social sectors. And they’re not the only ones who think so. Organisations such as Coca Cola, IBM and McKinsey acknowledge the strengths that a ”tri-sector leader” brings.

So what constitutes a good “tri-sector leader”?

Lovegrow and Thomas mention that successful tri-sector leaders find ways to pursue overlapping and potentially conflicting professionals’ goals. Most are concerned at some point with wealth creation for themselves and their families, which they associate with the private sector. They also aspire to positions of influence, impact, and leadership on a large scale, which draws them to government service. And they typically have a strong sense of mission – the primary focus of non-profits.

The challenge is obviously in developing “tri-sector” leaders…

The authors suggest:

  • a life-cycle approach to incorporate tri-sector issues in formal academic and executive training;
  • to set up exchange programs so that midcareer leaders can build intersector networks;
  • and to make tri-sector experience a talent development priority for business unit leaders and CEOs.

I am of the opinion that the concept of “tri-sector” leaders should be discussed and investigated further within a South African context. The benefits could be substantial, amongst others overcoming the present level of distrust that exists in the government and private sectors. A better understanding of the various challenges in the various sectors will also assist in reaching better decisions and could result in quicker implementation.

I would welcome your reaction to these thoughts – email me at: Incidentally, more information on the Leadership Survey is available on our website – click here now.


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