Exploring leadership effectiveness of Engineers at Tongaat Hulett Sugar South Africa.
Dlamini, Dennis Mlungisi.
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Tongaat Hulett Sugar SA (THS SA) embarked on serious cost-cutting initiatives as a result of the drought that has prevailed in the country over the last three years. Some of these initiatives involved strict budget controls, freezing of vacancies, and limited expenditure on plant maintenance. This brought about issues of low staff morale, poor plant performance, and low productivity. Employees in management positions and leadership roles – including engineers − are under extreme pressure to achieve more with fewer resources. Engineers are at a critical organisational level, being the link between the general workforce and senior management. The success of each operating centre is greatly dependent on the way in which each engineer effectively leads his team in achieving excellent performance on the set targets. This study sought to explore the leadership effectiveness of the engineers as they lead their teams; therefore various literature texts relevant to effective leadership were consulted to provide an in-depth comprehension of the theoretical cornerstone of effective leadership with respect to private organisations. The qualitative research methodology approach, which incorporated purposive sampling, was employed. The interviews were semi-structured and were conducted in person with fifteen engineers out of twenty that were initially selected from THS SA’s five operating centres – Felixton (FX), Amatikulu (AK), Darnall (DL), Maidstone (MS) and Hulett Refinery (HR). Participants were selected for this study by virtue of their current positions; and data were analysed using thematic analysis. During the interviews, a number of issues that had an impact on the effectiveness of the engineers were identified, the main issue being the perception from the majority of the engineers, that the organisation was placing very little emphasis on their role as leaders, which led them to believe that they were not recognised as leaders. The engineers’ appointments are based on their technical competencies; considering that the nature of the business is a production environment in which compliance is essential, engineers are expected to practise more managerial duties: this then, makes the leadership role seem a secondary responsibility. To address this finding, a comprehensive role profile for the engineers’ positions, which should include the detailed leadership competencies and responsibilities, must be developed. The engineers’ performance evaluation, apart from being based on the technical aspect, should also include the leadership aspect of the position. The study concluded with recommendations on how to improve the leadership capabilities of the engineers to enhance their effectiveness, implying that it is currently compromised.