The key to being a successful leader



A stroll through the business section of any bookstore reveals an array of titles related to leadership.

These books, journals and CD’s are aimed at defining, analysing and honing the qualities that have raised the likes of Jack Welch, Bill Gates and Donald Trump to successful business icons.

Etsko Schuitema, managing member of Schuitema Associates, a South African company specialising in leadership seminars, training and consultancy says being a good leader is more about caring for your subordinates than ruling with an iron fist. Since 1982 Schuitema has been working in the leadership field and has carried out extensive research into employee discontent.  

Schuitema, who was recently in Dubai as part of Knowledge Oasis, a new Dubai company focusing on management forums, trains big companies across the world including most recently staff from Etisalat and Dubai Municipality. Here he tells Emirates Business what it takes to be a good leader.


Motivation Knowing what you want and having the ability to grow and develop as a leader and help others become good leaders is critical.

“A boss or leader that cares, who is supportive, fair and honest makes people go that extra mile,” says Schuitema who has become an expert in effective leadership and employee discontent.

A good leader treats each employee fairly, not only in terms of salary and other forms of compensation, but also in how that employee is involved in the daily function of the business.

Encourage feedback, innovation and creativity so employees feel genuinely engaged. Schuitema says: “I have a training model called ‘care and growth’  this is when a leader has a genuine interest in their team and can motivate people to be a success.”

Firm but fair Many of us have had bosses who would be right at home with a guillotine next to their desk. Make one mistake on the job and you’re out. But it is not necessarily good practice to constantly show authority, says Schuitema.  “If the manager is there to care and support a group they will not always need to be shown whose boss.

“Look at the relationship between a parent and child. At first the child needs a draconian style of care but after a while the parent suspends that control.

“If you have a mature group of people to manage then a secure hand is not needed,” says Schuitema.

Management techniques For every natural leader there are those who go to the top by attending management classes and seminars, reading books on effective leadership and, just as important, understanding that a good employer naturally attracts first-rate employees. Since he began work in 1982, Schuitema says there has been an increasingly democratic feel about leadership.

“Management techniques have changed to become less autocratic and more democratic. Years ago it was a given that you have a right to demand loyalty and delivery because you have the rank. Now you have to facilitate agreement and co-operation,” he adds.

Schuitema, who has given lectures at Cambridge University, adds: “Being in charge is no longer a right of rank, you have to earn that right. Leadership can be hereditary but if they do not know what is needed to mobilise the masses, they will not get the desired results.”

Read books on effective leadership, attend seminars and pick the brains of colleagues to see what works for them.


Don’t just think money Few businesses operate out of sheer altruism, but that’s not to say that turning a profit is the primary focus. An effective leader establishes a genuine business mission. How that takes shape depends on the business and the boss.

Schuitema says money does not necessarily encourage loyalty.  “I have asked the question of whether more money is better than a supportive boss a thousand times,” he says. “Just because you throw money at people does not mean that they will be more loyal.”


Look at other leaders Schuitema can think of two world leaders who are at opposite ends of the divide between effective and lame. He says: “A classic case of bad leadership is Robert Mugabe who is a glaring example of doing the opposite of what one should be doing. Nelson Mandela was a positive leader whose courage and benevolence saved a country from what would be constant civil war. A leader has to know when to make the right decisions and to act on them and he did.”


Key qualities

- An organisation succeeds if a leader gives more than takes

- A good leader acts consistently and gains commitment

- A leader is there to care for others and make decisions

- A leader must have the intent to breed success

- A leader should always be an example to others