In 2012, while busy with my Ph.D. in Organisational Leadership (Regent University, USA), I was introduced to the leadership team of Xpand International, who invited me to join them for a three-day seminar on Authentic Leadership. In light of the demands of my doctoral studies and the level of depth we were being exposed to as part of the three year course work (to be followed by comprehensive examinations and a full doctoral dissertation), I was a bit sceptical about ‘another’ leadership seminar. My scepticism could not have been more misplaced! What Paul Donders (CEO – Xpand International) presented to us was not only a fresh perspective to leadership competencies, but cut right through to the deeper levels of character and calling (identity). And it was the challenge of this perspective that led CCI Professional to the space and purpose we find ourselves in today.
This fresh perspective (or philosophy) dealt with the European view, especially Northern Europe. I was challenged by how much I have already been influenced by the American way of thinking as a result of my studies, let alone the African context in which I live. These perspectives were so diverse that even common leadership terminology differed. The ongoing considerations of this discovery led us to define a number of key references in our story.
Most of us were accustomed to think of people in the workplace as a resource; an expendable resource in many instances. Consequently, fundamentally switching our view to start considering employees as capital, brought a whole new dimension of understanding. The landscape has changed. 50 years ago you might have had the patent or secret formula; today most things are in mass production in the Far East or any graduate biochemist can tell you the composition of most formulas. True, if you own the mining rights to a gold reef, you still have access to a natural source of capital, but for most, the focus shifted to financial capital such as assets and cash. However, both financial and physical capital has one thing in common; they need skilled, healthy and engaged people to produce and take care of it. This led us to develop the CCI Professional Human Capital Mastery Model.
A VUCA World
It was during the design of our model that we realised that most systems thinking models were no longer effective in their predictability due to the high levels of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) we see globally. The new focus therefore became one of not trying to lead an organisation from point A to B through path C; but ensuring that both the company and the individuals within are as healthy and resilient as possible, before they have to face the winter seasons.
This lead to our holistic approach who some has compared with the Discovery Health Vitality system, where we come alongside our partners and assist them in designing a support structure that can measure and optimise the health of their people and the organisation as a whole. The reason behind this? Winter is coming! Either caused by internal or external people challenges, changes in the market, globalisation, economy, or just natural growth. Consequently, we strongly believe that the healthier you enter the winter, the greater the chances you will exit it the same way.
Cultural and Worldview Challenges
Both my personal post graduate studies, as well as a number of our team member’s qualifications were done in the USA. Xpand introduced us to a non-English speaking European approach, which we found was in many cases vastly different to what we were accustomed to. This led us to conduct a simple exercise where we collected all the leadership related books at an Exclusive Books branch and tried to categorise them. Most leadership books came from an English speaking culture; few from non-English or African backgrounds. The reason why this was important is that both Africa and Northern Europe is much more socially orientated. In other words, their cultural and leadership philosophies are much
more closely associated than the more secular Western countries. For us, this became a key outcome, where we could merge the English and Non-English speaking nations’ approaches, while at the same time contextualise it for an African audience.
The holistic I AM paradigm
The second outcome of our leadership book categorisation exercise was that most books dealt with leadership competencies, a couple on leadership character, but almost none on leadership calling (or in other words, the identity). One of our key partners – De Villiers, Bester and Associates introduced us to the Shadowmatch and Skillsgrid meta-tool systems, where we can empirically measure the I know, I can, and I fit questions, in order to optimise job placements, succession planning and team optimisation. However, if the individual’s life stability is in question, it can override all three of the other considerations. Consequently, starting with calling, followed by character and only then competency, became the critical path. For us, this became so important that we developed a three-year Student Leadership Development Programme, based on this approach, which is currently being facilitated in schools in both the AdvTech and Curro listed groups, ACSI and PLG school groups, as well as public schools such as Grey College.
At the heart of everything we do, it remains our focus in assisting people to live out their full potential, purpose and calling; touching every aspect of their lives. Our nation and world is a very unhealthy place, where few people show adequate insight and application into the neuroscience and application of human capital and leadership praxis; understanding the devastating effects of chronic stress and anxiety on a personal level, or a toxic and misaligned culture on an organisational level.
In addition to Xpand International, we found other strategic partners with a similar heart also. This is therefore our purpose – Assisting leaders to cultivate healthy employees, who build heathy organisations!
Marcel Hattingh Ph.D.
CCI Professional – Chief Executive Officer