Self-Directed Leadership Teams: A Case Study on e.Services Africa's Dynamic People Process

Article excerpt

Abstract

This work reports on e.Services Africa, and how this organization's culture creates intensified client services and continual employee engagement. Here insights from two practitioner/scholars provide a description of a company that blends the practice of team cooperation and competition to develop self-directed leadership. This is a description about a unique national and organizational culture; one that is fostering a climate where competition and cooperation coexist in the dynamic application of self-directed teams. Employees working here in Accra, Ghana are encouraged to participate in competitive leadership contests, seeking continuous client satisfaction. In this culture, cooperation is a corporate value that is the objective of every service-level agreement.

Introduction

Leadership by its nature requires individuals to think in new and different ways about products, services and processes - to learn new ways of doing things, take risks, make mistakes, and step out of the normal way of doing things. This is not easy for individuals, particularly in business settings where failure is often considered career limiting. If an organization's culture fosters a fear of being fired, ridiculed, or marginalized at work, it damages the ability to direct self-managed leadership teams. There is a conundrum - that risk taking is essential for leading innovation and change effectively; yet risk taking is increasingly difficult in a risk management environment (Borgelt & Falk, 2007). In fact, organizations must find ways to balance the paradoxical nature of innovation, risk, and governance by promoting a culture of intelligent risk taking (Farson & Keyes, 2002). The first section of this paper will provide context about the national culture in Ghana, Hofsede's global culture index model and the relationship to the organization culture at e. Services. The second section of this paper provides a case study of an organization development intervention at e. Services. Here culture will go beyond the global macro perspectives to the unseen micro effects of Schein's organizational culture at e.Services.

Ghana's National Culture

Ghana's inherent traditional, cultural and historical forms of indigenous communication skills provide context for this case study. This country is located off the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. Like many countries in West Africa, Ghana was colonized by the British from approximately the 1800s until 1957, when, under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, it became the first country among British colonies in Africa to gain its political independence. The government in Ghana practices a constitutional democracy. It comprises 10 different regions and its inhabitants speak over 46 different dialects and languages. There are approximately 24 million people representing over 100 ethnic groups living in Ghana. Like other developing countries in Africa, Ghana has certain perennial social and economic problems which include heavy reliance on few exports that suffer from volatile world price fluctuations.

Hofstede's Global Culture Index

To relate culture to leadership and subsequently to Organization Development, an empirical model of culture is useful. Dr. Geert Hofstede conducted an empirical analysis that resulted in a concise framework of distinguishing conflicting national cultures. Although it has some limitations, most likely it will "stand as one of the major landmarks of cross-cultural research for many years to come" (Triandis, 1982, p. 90). Hofstede's research is exceptional in that is uses an empirical survey to create a model of cultures. This work used a 40country questionnaire survey of employees in one multinational organization. From Hofstede's study, four dimensions of culture were created:

Power Distance

* Extent to which a society accepts the fact that power in institutions and organizations is distributed unequally (Hofstede, 1980b, p. …