There are valuable lessons that can be learnt from indigenous concepts of organisation in which inspiration, motivation and engagement is harnessed and maintained, resulting in productivity and organisational success. A famous and well-respected Pacific (Tongan) leader, Dr. Senipisi Kavaliku once stated that it is ‘your leadership in the context of your total social milieu on which you will be assessed, and perception created. It is of course a part of the whole but a crucial one because part of the context in which they judge you and an essential part of the context that you will have to use to succeed’. The context referred to here is the cultural awareness of the individual, groups or the organisation itself and an understanding of the invisible borders or the respected spaces that lies within. With this comes the building of relationships; the creation of trust and the removal of fear; the characteristics of servanthood; and the importance of openess within the organisation and the group of people involved.
Building Relationship- Creating Trust
One of the area that creates a barrier in building relationships is the lack of awareness in understanding cultural differences. Becoming more aware of cultural differences, as well as exploring cultural similarities can help improve relationships, communication and trust in an organisation. In a Pacific and Fijian context, trust comes from being accepted and this acceptance will create the perception and the belief of‘dua vata ga na kedaru i ula’ or literally transalted- we are in this together, whatever may come. This belief will build on the appropriate action or behaviour that needs to be established, thus creating a sense of unity, togetherness and belonging. Once established, the bonds are inseparable and it creates a snowball effect in other areas of relationships within an organisation.
The other aspect of leadership can be seen on the leadership characteristics or traits of a Fijian chief, known as the ‘Vakaturaga’ mentality. For this instance, vakaturaga encompasses values of respect, humility and participative leadership. Younger chiefs are nurtured by the elders of a clan for years to prepare them with these characteristics or qualities of leadership. They are mentored into every aspect of life, with the understanding and hope that when it is their time to lead, they are placed with the trust that these characteristics will guide them to trust, empower, inspire and engage his/her people- the act of servanthood and its links to repriprocity. In the context of a western society we can learn examples of mentoring for example, graduates and new employees may often be placed into a role and not have adequate support. This in turn creates the lack of committment. On the other hand if a person is mentored evey step similar to a vakaturaga upbringing, trust is encouraged, a sense of responsibility and loyalty created which will reduce the Pygmalian effects in the workplace.
Openness in leadership needs to be encouraged so that employees feel comfortable in presenting new ideas and be innovative, without the fear of criticism. Certain barriers within the organisation that is viewed as norms must be removed so all members, from top to bottom, can be free to express themselves, share their vision and knowledge, and develop success. In a Fijian and Pacific context, the notion of organised chaos and communal responsibility thrives with openness in leadership by the chief to his or her people. For example, there is no such thing as ‘reservation for catering purposes’ in weddings or similar occasions. Hosts must ensure that there will be enough for anybody that will turn up, whether invited or not. This is where organised chaos and communal responsibility is witnessed at its best. From an outside perspective, it may look disorganised and unplanned but within this society, everyone understands their role and will go the extra mile or perform more than what is expected to ensure success prevails- based on the values of trust and unity. There is an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and this is complimented by the skills that everyone possesses. Moss Kanter (1985) links innovation with openness and stated that organisations that stimulate innovation are not those that hide their problems or solve them in secret at upper levels but rather those that make problems available to people at lower levels to tackle. Performance and job satisfaction can be linked to this context in which collective performance will outweigh individual performance when it comes to measuring the overall process productivity. Chaos can lead to creativity and creativity is necessary if change is to occur in an organisation