Care and Growth Leadership

Management theories based on research are more enduring than others since they can be measured and re-evaluated with time for their relevance and soundness.

The Care and Growth Leadership model is one such profound doctrine that came about as a result of an anthropological research some 3 decades ago and has withstood the test of time for leaders around the world. The philosophy is unique since it requires a personal transformation of the leader before the people under him can excel and be leaders in turn.

It views each individual associated with the organization; whether a customer or an employee, as a potential leader capable of transforming into a better and successful human being.

Etsko Schuitema devised the framework after he conducted a groundbreaking research at the gold mines of South Africa during the apartheid. Since then, he has helped organizations and individuals around the world in the fields of human excellence and business growth.

He founded an organization called Schuitema (from his family name literally meaning to be ‘ship builders’) that helps people and businesses figure out how to excel. Over the past 30 years, Schuitema has helped more than a 100 companies across 5 continents with its researched interventions that form a complete toolkit to help with every aspect of the organization.

Investigating Conflict at Work

The gold mines were South Africa’s biggest industry; the political and social powerhouse, with its workforce coming from all the diverse ethnic tribes of the region. The gold mines in fact reflected in a microcosm, the ills plaguing South Africa during the apartheid.

The Chamber of Mines Research Organisation commissioned Etsko to find out what was causing employee discontent in the various mines at the organization. Discontent was in fact a very soft word for the terribly bitter strife amongst the management and employees at some of the mines. People were literally at each other’s throats and each day presented the possibilities of a bloodbath ensuing between the acerbic workforce and the management.

Etsko conducted an exhaustive survey in 7 mines of the industry from 1985 to 1986. The survey instrument looked at many issues, including views of and trust in management and supervision, management communication, unions, views of physical conditions, conditions of service and problem solving roles. It however restricted the main focus to investigating the employee’s Trust in the Management. On each mine, professional interviewers who could speak the various tribal dialects interviewed a sample of 200 – 300 men.

The levels of Trust in Management in the 7 mines were found to be extremely variable. Consequently, a list of 7 factors were identified for further exploring the link between them and the Trust in Management. Each of these factors were explored and surprising reve-lations came about their relationship to conflict at work and trust on the management.

Physical Conditions:
One of the mines had nightmarish living conditions. Due to cost cutting, the workers were being served cheap offal stew that was not even cleaned properly so one could literally see dung floating in it. Moreover, ventilation was so poor that men were dying from heat stress. And yet incredibly so, the miners of this particular mine trusted the management more than miners elsewhere!

Conversely, another mine had the most modern hostel in the industry with communal lounges, recreational facilities, safe workplaces and adequate ventilation. However, the trust in management of this particular mine was so low that according to Etsko, a number of interviewees had even threatened to ‘necklace’ certain managers! The survey saw poor conditions coupled with low trust and good conditions coupled with a high level of trust, and this confirmed that one cannot relate trust in management to the physical conditions of the employees.

Labour Mix:
Various tribes of South Africa were seen to be giving different kinds of workforce to the mining industry. Some were considered hardworking and harmless and others were considered hostile and rowdy. However, the mix of labour in any mine showed absolutely no connection with the employees’ trust towards the management. Rates of Pay: The survey showed incredibly that the rates of pay had no connection with the trust in management! So employees could be getting the top notch salaries and yet hate the management and vice versa.

The Prevailing Political Debate:
Many managers in South Africa believed that conflict at work was rooted in the evils of apartheid and that unless a political settlement came about, little could be done to achieve worker trust. However, the survey proved that this again had nothing to do with how the workers viewed the management.

Lack of a Human Resources function:
The mere presence of a human resource department did nothing to buy worker commitment. In one of the ‘low trust’ mines for instance, the HR department was highly sophisticated whereas a ‘high trust’ mine had only a basic HR department.

Union Activity:
The survey showed that the degree to which the union was seen to be sympathetic to work related problems did not account for trust. However if the managers were seen as sympathetic towards work related problems, it affected the trust towards management. This proved one crucial thing; that a key factor responsible for ensuring trust towards the management was the Management’s behavior!

Care and Growth:
The two managerial behaviours that really accounted for minimal work conflict, willingness at work, loyalty and trust towards the management were Care and Growth. It was found that the employees who felt the management was genuinely interested in their welfare, trusted their immediate supervisors significantly more than men who believed the management to have no interest in this regard.

If the leader was seen to be enabling the people under him, he was trusted irrespective of his ethnic background, and all the other conditions discussed above. Etsko’s exploration further deduced that the key variable accounting for this trust towards management was in fact the manager’s Intent. If the manager was perceived to have a benevolent intent to give, he would be able to create a highly productive and fulfilling workplace environment around him. Intent therefore was the key to all growth.

Care and Growth Leadership A tool for transformation

According to Etsko, the Care and Growth Leadership and the Intent frameworks have such a phenomenal potential that after 30 years of working across the globe, he believes Schuitema is still on the ground floor in terms of its potential. He says, “Perhaps several lifetimes will be enough to build on great structures from these frameworks. This work which involves the maturation of human beings, is perennial in nature it never bores one.” He says further, “my own maturation has come about from two terrains; my path on Sufism and my work. I have been fortunate that my business and spiritual path have been the same.”

One of Schuitema’s clients in Pakistan, Shahpur Jamall; Principal of the Bayview High School Karachi describes the Care and Growth philosophy eloquently: The 21st Century life is marked by hyperactivity and an almost compulsive chasing after something. At work people are feverishly making something,
selling something, or providing some service or the other. If we take a step back and watch this stressful almost manic existence, the question comes to mind; ‘What’s this all about?’

Is our purpose really to build faster cars, bigger planes and live more luxurious lives? If we define our lives as that period between the two moments marked by our birth and our deaths, is this really how we want to spend our limited time on this planet?

On the contrary I believe the purpose of human activity is developing excellence, moving towards maturity and fulfillment.I am not referring to some grand societal transformation, but to working on ourselves and the individuals we come in contact with every day. Therefore, this change can only be meaningful in the workplace, doing the one thing we all do every day. However, to achieve this shift we have to realize that we don’t go to work to earn a living, but to fulfill our infinite hidden potential.

One of the key concepts I have learned from Schuitema’s work on the Leadership model is that ‘excellence’ cannot be compelled. Your boss can compel the mediocrity of following rules and procedures, but the drive for excellence must come from within. In fact it was the phrase “creating an environment where people want to work rather then have to work” that caught my eye and brought me into contact with Etsko Schuitema.

The Care & Growth Model of leadership has given me the tools to try and consciously apply the practices which I had intuitively been using at the school I have been Principal of, for 20 years. In my position I have had the privilege of seeing not just our students, but our teachers, support staff and administrators moving on this journey of personal development and I will always be grateful to the people at Schuitema for giving us this opportunity.”

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Author Information

Afia is an Associate with Schuitema, a business growth and transformation consultancy based in South Africa. She has also been writing on media, culture and issues of social concern in various publications since a decade.

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