The new South African parliament mace is considered a strong symbol of authority, leadership and diversity within Parliament and amongst our country’s leaders. The design incorporates a strong sense of South Africa, its people and their leaders.

Don’t let anyone tell you that management is a science. It isn’t; it’s an art based on adapting and refining all the valuable academic and experiential lessons one has learned over many years.

It’s a process that hinges on a range of factors, among them the particular working environment in which one finds oneself, the nature of the people with whom one interacts in that environment and the strengths and weaknesses that comprise the DNA of the manager in question. Considering all these somewhat soft issues on the hard textbook fundamentals and you emerge with pointers to the ideal management style.

Just what determined my own style is perhaps instructive. Self-evidently, it is not possible to list the great many influences that have impacted on one’s personality since birth. All have influenced; some more than others.

Growing up in a tough environment in Mamelodi, Pretoria, certainly played a part, as did the struggle involved in completing my B Com degree part time. On reflection, my most life-changing experience occurred when I was awarded a scholarship from the Institute of International Education; a break that enabled me to travel abroad to study for an MBA at Alabama A&M University – for the first time in my life.
It was there that I built confidence on the basis that I was as good as – if not better – than my MBA peers from all over the world.
The Alabama MBA served as a platform for developing a mantra that drove me to remain at the coalface of all there is to know about management and leadership. Management style has accordingly emerged as one of my passions; US-based Hay Management International’s approach to the relevant techniques has evolved as my management handbook.

Hay’s six management styles serve as the foundation for creating the ideal manager. The individual adopts one or a combination of these, depending on circumstances and those styles with which he/she as an individual is most comfortable.

The six-pack comprises:

• Coercive – a manager who is single-minded about getting short-term results;
• Authoritative – a manager who is single-minded about getting long-term results;
• Affiliative – a manager who is keenly concerned about the wellbeing of employees and who takes pains not to disrupt their sense of collegiality;
• Democratic – a manager who builds commitment among employees in order to generate new ideas. The style is participative, consultative. It is one that seeks input from all employees;
• Pace-setting – a manager who works towards the standards of excellence prescribed by his organisation; and
• Coaching – a manager who focuses on the professional development of the firm’s employees.
My personal approach is to seek to take the best out of each of the styles. My own dominant style is pace-setting, with the democratic and coercive styles also important influences. Coaching is my weakest suit; but I’m working hard on improving myself in that area. It isn’t possible for anyone to master all six attributes; but it is certainly possible for those with fierce determination to create goals of them all.

What of leadership attributes?
I regard the following as the most profound:

• The capacity to create an environment in which all can work together to achieve the organisation’s goals;
• The ability to provide direction;
• The maturity required to assess individuals, perhaps redeploying people who are best suited to different tasks;
• A penchant for persuading colleagues to better understand their own positions for the benefit of the organisation;
• The ability to absorb and digest information and the relevant facts. That way, one’s decisions are not based on speculation. This is critical to forward thinking.

In the current organisational climate, the leader has a responsibility to make sure his people want to come to work. As a leader you need, from time to time, to take a snapshot. Is the climate sufficiently conducive to motivate people to think? One often takes this for granted. Yet it is vital to create an environment such that people feel at home in the workplace.

Motivation is a critical intangible. Research on the subject highlights three principal motives – achievement, affiliation and power.

People driven by achievement are those who strive to do the best they possibly can; by affiliation, those concerned about how what they do impacts on those around them; and the third is about control, which centres on the power you have because of the position you command in the organisation.

The successful CEO should adopt a style that cuts across all these motivations.

There isn’t a preferred style. That which one applies is situational. It depends on the circumstances, the nature of the organisation and the individual. In other words, you walk in, do an assessment and then decide for yourself which of the styles is appropriate in the prevailing circumstances.

Self-evidently, a lot of this is instinctive. One adopts a particular approach and then only affixes the relevant label. The whole thing is an ongoing process, which needs to be reassessed from time to time.

All of this background will obviously be brought to bear in my (to me) new challenges at SAICA. SAICA is a complex organisation, the essence of which cannot be fully digested in the near term. Nevertheless, in the short time I have been at the Institute, I have acquired a preliminary insight as to how it operates and, in consequence, have identified those areas in which I consider myself most able to add value.

One example is the approach to member communication. We perhaps rely too heavily on bulk e-mails, whereas we could be more effective if we communicated more selectively. Bear in mind that different members have different interests and preferences. Our membership base is not homogeneous.
It seems to me that scope exists for, in particular, a better and closer relationship with SAICA’s members in business.

The key is selectivity in communication. We need to canvass our members in business with a view to establishing their requirements. That way we can adopt a targeted approach.

A possible initiative is to hold a series of forums with corporations counting among their management relatively large numbers of CAs(SA). The purpose would be to establish how best SAICA could add value to their membership.

At the end of this programme, we should have a fairly accurate picture of what our members in business require of us – and which of those requirements need the most priority. We need to get closer to these of our members. I believe I personally need to go out there and talk to them. I am confident it would work.

Right now, however, I need to preface such ideas with the fact that almost everything is new.

I went to IFAC this past month; 45 countries were represented and I’d never seen any of them before. They’ve been together for many years and there I was sitting like a stranger. I didn’t like it, but it comes with the job.

Prior to joining SAICA, I headed up SARS’s Large Business Centre. I joined SARS nearly five years ago and accordingly became intimately familiar with the organisation. I believe it’s an intimacy that will serve me well at SAICA.

Yes, I am still a stranger to SAICA. But I am happy to tackle this challenge, which probably came my way at the right time in my career. Even so, I am delighted that I worked for SARS before I took this job, because the experience and exposure were invaluable. I benefited considerably from having worked with Pravin Gordhan, one of the best leaders I’ve ever encountered. I shall certainly be applying to SAICA some of the lessons I learned at SARS.

While, obviously, SAICA differs from SARS, in many respects the two do overlap.

Yes, SAICA is a member-centric organisation, but so is SARS, especially in the context of the division I ran at SARS; one that looked after all JSE listed companies and high net worth individuals. These were my members, and my issues with these taxpayers were almost always issues of interpretation of the tax provisions. Of course, the big corporations had the wherewithal to use the best tax people to argue their cases. These were the people with whom I constantly engaged in complex tax issues. I found this highly stimulating.

I fully accept that I might not be an expert in all aspects of business. Thankfully, I have an enquiring mind, which will ensure that before long I become intimately familiar with SAICA’s management and member spectrums.

This is one of the cornerstones of good enterprise-wide corporate governance; the desire and ability to learn from others and, even, when necessary to challenge them.

Matsobane Matlwa CA(SA), BCompt (Hons), CTA, MCom (Taxation). MBA, is the Executive President, SAICA.