HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE LAB?
I spent about five years of my life in the quality industry as CEO of the South African Bureau of Standards and also had the privilege to serve on the International Council for Standardization ( ISO ), the highest authority for industrial standards in the world, based in Geneve. The whole notion of standards and conformity assessment to these standards, is aimed at creating a level playing field in the world trade arena. It is no secret that billions are lost in trade opportunities, because unscrupulous operators dump inferior products on their domestic market, and some brazenly export it to other countries where enforcement of trade regulations is weak. This poses a tremendous risk to the health and safety of the consumer.
A key differentiator that can give a high degree of comfort to a consumer, is the whole aspect of quality. Webster’s dictionary defines quality as “the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.’’ It has become international best practice to subject a product or service to an independent third-party verification process by doing specific tests, assessments or inspections on it. If the product or service is found to meet all the standards and specifications, it is then formally approved and issued with a quality certificate, signifying that it is fit for purpose.
From a leadership perspective, it is regrettable and heart-rending that some of us who are paraded as leaders, have not gone through the rigor of quality assurance. We are sometimes prematurely launched into a position of authority without having been certified as fit for purpose. It should therefore not come as a surprise that when some leaders are exposed to the real challenges of leadership, their fault lines are badly exposed.
Paul wrote to one of his proteges in 2 Tim 2:15 ‘’ Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman that does not have to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.“ The ultimate standard that all our endeavors in life and especially in leadership needs to conform to, is to honestly answer this critical question – does this honor God?
LET’S GO TO THE LAB
It always fascinated me when I did laboratory rounds, how some of the ordinary goods we use, are subjected to such a strenuous and rigorous test regime. Let’s think through this analogy for a moment by looking through the following tests performed in the laboratories and its application from a leadership perspective:
- Endurance Test
Certain products eg solar heater panels, are subjected over a period of time, to various climatic conditions to test their level of endurance under these conditions. Likewise, as a leader you have to demonstrate strength to persevere in difficult circumstances. Gordon Mac Donald in his book A Resilient Life states “Resilient people train to go the distance. They keep themselves physically fit; grow their minds; harness their emotions and trim their egos.”
- Chemical Test
In chemistry, we test the minute constituents that the substance is made of and how it reacts when another chemical is introduced into the specimen. In leadership we need to maintain our original composition. We need to maintain our original character whatever the circumstances; being driven by inner conviction and not any external agenda. Too many of us want to conform to be accepted. We have not been called to conform but to transform our environment. Remain stable and settled in your soul.
- Waiting Test
Some test results can only be validated over a period of time and through a few repetitions over a few cycles for example drug trials. We are living in the microwave millennium, an instant age where leaders sometimes fall into the trap of quick fixes and instant results. There comes a time in the life of a leader where your patience will be tested and waiting becomes a taxing proposition.History is instructive of countless examples on the time lag regarding the birth of a vision and the ultimate fulfillment of it. Delay is not denial. Take heart; God’s timing is always on schedule.
- Loneliness Test
Certain tests are taking place in very obscure circumstances with minimal human intervention. A leader also needs to appreciate that loneliness is part of the leadership package. If you cannot handle loneliness and love playing to the gallery, stay out of leadership. There is loneliness of decision making, confidentiality and just the awesome realization that the buck stops with you.
- Pressure Test
These tests are performed to ensure the safety, reliability and leak tightness of pressure systems. Pressure is part of the leadership package and if you cannot handle pressure, stay out of leadership. As the saying goes – if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Don’t shy away from challenges that come your way, it will give an early indication what adjustments need to be made timeously to ensure that you are fit for purpose for your next assignment in life. Pressure builds character, endurance and fortitude.
Consumers normally use very derogatory names when speaking about fake and inferior products. To maintain the necessary respect and dignity of the office we occupy, let’s maintain the highest level of qualitative leadership. Quality is not a once-off event but a continuous process. When last have you been in the lab subjecting yourself to the appropriate verification processes? By so doing, will ensure that you are calibrated for optimal performance and your leadership actions will not become a risk to the health and safety of your organization.
Let’s continue to glorify God by pursuing a spirit of excellence. The marketplace is a very competitive space where everybody wants to be seen, heard and acknowledged. Quality assurance is the key differentiator that will enable you to stay on course and market relevant.
Is your quality assurance certificate still valid?