HR PERSPERCTIVES: Why Zimbabwean CEOs fail

HR PERSPERCTIVES: Why Zimbabwean CEOs fail

You may have noticed that most CEOs and senior executives struggle once they leave formal employment. The main reason is that when things are going on well, most of these executives fail to build relationships outside their jobs.

Looking at the rate at which companies are closing and going into bankruptcy, you are tempted to question the leadership in some of the organisations. I know the government is contributing to some of the company closures due to policy issues, especially lack of policy coherence and consistency. My hypothesis is that Zimbabwean CEOs fail because of the following reasons and these need to be addressed for organisations to have enduring success. Below I outline some of the reasons that may lead to CEOs failing to lead their businesses to prosperity.
Before you attribute the failure of your business to the current environment or outside reasons look at yourself first and how much you have contributed to the decline in your company performance. Bad leaders blame others and the environment and they rarely attribute failure to themselves. I strongly believe that the majority of the companies struggling are suffering from self-inflicted misery resulting from bad leadership. It is important to note that not all companies that are succeeding are brilliant. It may be a result of luck, for example, being a monopoly. Success or failure must be attributed to the leadership after at least 3 years at the helm and there is evidence to show that the success is emanating from the good decisions and strategies being implemented by the new leadership.
If you are viewed as a demy god in your company because of the amount of power you hold and how ruthlessly you crash opponents to your ideas, you are the main reason why your company is where it is, at the bottom. How do you expect people to help you with ideas when you think you are the only person with a brain in the whole company? You take all the credit when things go well and blame others when things are going wrong. You decorate your office with your photos; a projection of self-importance. Some go to the extent of recreating their home in the office. Narcissism is a disease that needs to be eradicated; excessive preoccupation with or admiration of oneself is a disease that can lead to failure of individuals and companies. Good leaders worry less about self-importance. They rarely worry over who gets the credit. Instead, they invest their energy to make those they lead look good and inspire them to do more.
The fact that Zimbabweans have acquired higher academic qualifications is on public record. The race to get degrees and post graduate qualifications is unprecedented. We have so many people with degrees and post graduate degrees. One would think that problem solving should be easy for people with such qualifications. Throw away your degrees; they mean nothing if you cannot create value for society. We have become more preoccupied with getting higher qualifications and keeping count of how many degrees we have than solving real problems afflicting our companies. If you have the qualifications and you are delivering, very good. However if you have the qualifications and still acquiring more and in the process destroying value instead of creating it, you need to give others a chance.
The other problem prevalent in some of the organisations is a pre-occupation with empire building at the expense of the business. There is a general trend emerging in this market; when a new CEO or senior executives join a new organisation they want to replace current people with people they have been working with in their previous jobs. Why? Suddenly all the current people are deadwood? Is that possible? The main reason is to build a team of loyal followers at the expense of the business. These loyal individuals do not question their bosses even if they are making a bad decision. This is one sure way to start the failure journey.
The other problem is “leadership cloning”. This happens when the CEO wants to recreate themselves by moulding only people who think and behave like themselves to take over from them. Board members need to be on the lookout for CEOs who are engaged in this practice and stop it. They need to create an environment where everyone in the organisation has an equal chance to occupy the higher post.
The other problem is when the CEO has created a situation where you can’t make a distinction between them as individuals and their job or the organisation. There is no demarcation between their personal issues and business issues. They are so mixed to the extent that their personal lives benefit from the business. This can be the beginning of corporate governance failure that may lead to the downfall of the business.
There is a general fallacy within most senior hierarchies that the moment they leave the organisation the business will go down. That is a dangerous fallacy: businesses when well-structured are made to outlive individual CEOs. There is so much evidence to support this locally and internally. There are so many businesses that do well once the current CEO leaves. I have not heard of businesses that have reported that they are struggling because their CEO voluntarily left the organisation. The opposite is actually true; most businesses are struggling because they have kept faith in people who have evidently showed that they have no capacity to turn things around. Once those people leave, the whole organisation is suddenly energised and gains a new lease of life to propel them to explore new strategies that lift the performance of the business.
You may have noticed that most CEOs and senior executives struggle once they leave formal employment. The main reason is that when things are going on well, most of these executives fail to build relationships outside their jobs. They forget that one day they will be an ordinary person far away from the luxury of company benefits. Very far away from barking instructions and people obeying. During the hay days when these executives are at the top, there are so mean that they strain relationships across all key points. They have bad relationships with family members and bad relationships with other people because things are going on well. The world out there is so cruel. Learn to build social capital by cultivating good social relationships with others who may be of help at some stage after the company luxuries. The undeniable fact is one day the luxuries that come with occupying a senior post will end and you will need others to progress.
The other thing to guard against is arrogance. Professional arrogance supported by evidence is fine. However arrogance derived from your higher position is dangerous and you miss opportunities to gain insight into important pointers that may help you deliver on your mandate. This belief that everyone who disagrees or challenges your views is an enemy is very dangerous. Give others a chance to share their views with you, they went to school just like you. They may have something of value that could benefit the business.
Most of the corporate governance malpractices we are witnessing are all a result of people getting greedy. One thing I learnt as I was being trained to be a banker some 16 years back is that whatever criminal trick you are trying to do under the assumption that you will never be caught was tried by someone somewhere before and they were caught. Use that as the starting point and you will never be embroiled in corporate governance scandals.
I appreciate you reading this article. My views are meant to stimulate debate on issues affecting businesses and I welcome contributions against or in support of these views.

Memory Nguwi is the Managing Consultant of Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm. Phone 04-481946-48/ 481950/ 2900276/ 2900966 or cell number 0772 356 361 or email: or visit our website at

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