Speaking on the theme of the importance of value-based leadership at Strathmore Business School (SBS) during the 7th Association of African Business Schools (AABS) Connect Annual Conference, Prof. Walter Baets, the AABS Chairperson, opined that the pillar of all organizations should be values. He referred simply to values as that which a company adds to society; If you are bankrupt tomorrow, what is society missing? And if society isnt missing anything, why do you exist in the first place?The consciousness of a company being synonymous to values should be transferred into the leadership style of the organization so as to ensure their personal mastery. This in turn creates an emotional link with the consumer and ultimately renders the organization relevant to its clients and the society at large.
Since the classical management paradigm doesnt allow for values because of the focus on the short-term goals and profit, as soon as people realize that reality involves high degrees of uncertainty, high degrees of complexity and inequality, then this paradigm will have to change.
The Academic Director at The Academy of Business In Society (ABIS), Prof Mollie Painter-Morland, held the view that values are more than just written laws; they are dynamic. For example, in order to gauge the values of a company, one would rather ask for the budget rather than the code of conduct. The budget is able to show values such as prudence in action. Values are those things that people care about, and due to their dynamic nature, they tend to pull people in certain directions over time thus creating culture.
In her opinion, students should be encouraged to dissent with one another as that is when values are best exercised. The role of business schools in leadership development is to impart skills and insights to the students in areas such as how to observe their organizations policies, how to interpret the organizations texts for example jokes in the office, interpersonal skills and building trust.
In addition, Prof. Johannes Kinfu, the Emeritus Professor of Accounting and Finance at Addis Ababa University (AAU) and Director of Training, at MIDROC Ethiopia, pointed out the gap between business and academia. He said that those in business are busy doing business while those in business schools are busy thinking. This gap can be filled by looking at the history of the business schools in Africa and identifying by whose standards they abide before contextualization. This should be followed by a change of paradigms, for instance, business management should become more dynamic in contrast with the rigid traditional methods of management.
Therefore, business schools should encourage students to embrace their values and focus on collective leadership rather than individualistic leadership as everyone can become a leader. The challenge comes in where these schools have to help their students fit into the current business world seamlessly after their education as business is about doing and not only thinking said Prof Kinfu.