HR Indaba keynote focuses on the role of leadership post-Covid-19

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Barloworld’s Tantaswa Fubu reiterates the importance of having leaders that are as close to humanity as possible.

On 18 October, Barloworld group executive: people and transformation Tantaswa Fubu
opened the HR Indaba Online with a live keynote in which she unpacked what the role of a post-Covid-19 leader should look like.

Delivering her speech at the packed main stage, Tantaswa shared how Covid-19 had changed how organisations work and what workplaces currently need to thrive.

Before her address, CHRO South Africa Community Manager Sungula Nkabinde welcomed guests and gave them a glimpse of what to expect at the Indaba. He thanked the partners who made the day possible, especially Diamond Partners Sage and Workday. Sungula also shared exciting news of awesome giveaways from some of the partners, including a trip to Mauritius.

What post-Covid-19 reveals

Tantaswa said there were a lot of things that needed to be unlearned from the pre-Covid-19 period. “We did not understand the concept of togetherness. We did not understand that when you harm one person, invariably you are harming yourself,” she said.

She revealed how some organisations battled with toxic leadership. She also shared her personal experience of being exposed to toxic leadership.

“I have been exposed to toxic leadership. It was so sad that even young people started believing this is the right thing to do and the route for them to take. Covid-19 has shown us that life is short,” she said. “A post-Covid leader is one who names and shames those who are toxic. We must care about the wellbeing of our people. We need to build psychologically safe spaces.”

Know the people you lead

“Most leaders did not know the teams they lead,” she said. “We relied on office dividends. We did not trust people enough to do what they must do and that they were actually doing more when they were working from home. We believed talent would stay because of the money we give them, irrespective of what the EVP talks about. We needed to take a step back and ask ourselves what this means for us,” Tantaswa said.

She shared how the post-Covid-19 era exposed leaders to new ways of managing their employees, including being honest about their business.

“I would call my team once a day and tell them what we had decided as exco. We hired mature and professional people, and we were not going to hide information from them.

“We need to invest in systems not for the sake of wanting to digitise, but to upskill the people we work with,” she added. “We need to identify the gaps. We need to train people.”

What organisations need to learn post Covid-19

According to Tantaswa, Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on employee engagement. “We need to know our teams. We need to know what they are passionate about.” She said organisations need to be aware that it is not people with certificates who are going to move organisations forward, but those who have passion.

Putting employee wellness at the forefront

Tantaswa questioned why organisations were happy to pay the EAP providers, but were not able to spend more money to make sure people do not get sick.

“We need to understand why people are not well,” she said. “We need to understand the issues that are making people vulnerable to being unwell. I find it fascinating that when you look at the EAP usage percentage, it is around 10 percent.

“We need to redesign the workspace to make it fit for purpose. The conscience is with us to rise up and make sure organisations are about the psychological safety of their people.”


The type of leadership needed post-Covid-19

Tantaswa said she believes that the challenges that organisations face presently require a certain type of a leader.

“They require a humble leader. We need to find our humility,” she said. “We need vulnerable leaders, because if you are vulnerable, you are giving permission to the people you lead to be vulnerable too. We need to understand the importance of the role of other stakeholders. We need to take care of the first things first. Let us show the future what is possible. We cannot have leaders who cannot tell stories,” she said.

“We have to be as close to humanity as possible. I’m pleading and asking that we dare not let our people and our organisations down. Let us be the conscience that our organisations need,” Tantaswa concluded.

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