Overview: The participants demonstrate the highest respect to fellow members of the LEKGOTLA. The participant who is on the floor is given full space to raise issues without being interrupted. Once all the participants have raised their issues and have been fully heard, the chairperson summarizes the inputs and a resolution is taken. People are also allowed to agree to disagree. This is the best South African export in management, leadership, negotiations and conflict resolutions to the world.
The King’s Palace: In the African tradition the King will have his co-leaders that assemble regularly at the King’s Palace to attend to the leadership matters of the village. These leaders are the most cooperative members of the King’s leadership, and they spent most of their time at the King’s Palace. The meetings are conducted following the LEKGOTLA methodology. This is the African methodology of creating what Nancy Kline (founder of Time To Think Inc) calls The Thinking Environment. The LEKGOTLA Methodology creates the environment for the participants to listen actively, participate without fear, respect each other, and fully engage with the matters of the LEKGOTLA.
Current State of Being (CSoB): The participants take the process of greetings and finding out about the well-being of fellow participants serious. So they take time checking-in to make sure that everyone is feeling well. They do not only end with the fellow participants. They have keen interest in the particpants’ family members and relatives. They are authentic in the inquiring about their Current State of Being (CSoB). This is important pre-requisite for a fruitful LEKGOTLA.
Chairing and Facilitation by His Majesty: His Majesty, The King, once convinced that all is well with his leadership team he introduces the topic of the LEKGOTLA, and give the background to why he thought the meeting was necessary. He also makes sure that there are no objections to the agenda after giving the background. But this happens in a free flowing manner. What is fascinating is that he starts the meeting by asking each leader’s views on the matter. The King always understands his role to be that of facilitating dialogue and not offering solutions. So, facilitating the LEKGOTLA uses one of the best conditions for a successful coaching intervention, especially management and leadership meetings, i.e. facilitate and ask questions rather than offering answers. The leadership team members respect this role by the King. Before they speak they will praise the King in recognition of his rank and authority.
Focus: The King’s role is also to make sure that LEKGOTLA is focused. It is seldom that the LEKGOTLA will tackle more than one agenda item. If there are other matters that are urgent and important, they will be relegated to a separate LEKGOTLA. If these extra topics are falling under the same Theme that informs the LEKGOTLA, they will be tackled at the end when the current matters have been fully exhausted.
Respect for the Clan: It is interesting to note that in African culture when outsiders arrive in the middle of the LEKGOTLA, they are not pushed away but invited to join in, unless the matters are sensitive. However the outsiders humble themselves and stick to the protocol and cultural practices as defined by the clan that is holding the LEKGOTLA. They have to be guided by a particular member of the clan as to how to follow protocol. Until they have exhausted all the traditional steps of introduction and greetings, they may not relax or sit down. But once they are officially welcomed they can become part of the LEKGOTLA.
Identity: The LEKGOTLA Methodology encourages participants to always identify themselves in a way that the other participants will recognise their clan without any difficulty. This is more than stating their names. They must always state their origins. They can even go as far as reciting their tradition praises.
Engagement: The LEKGOTLA environment is very engaging. It facilitates deep thinking, creativity, listening, flowing dialogue, consultation before decisions are made, verification of the decisions taken, and discussions until everybody is satisfied that they made their input.
Brainstorming (Generation of Ideas): In the LEKGOTLA setting it is very easy to generate new ideas, as a result of the tolerance and attentiveness by all the participants. So, the LEKGOTLA Methodology is appropriate for the Divergent Style of Learning and Development. During the deliberations the King is patient and allows the conversation to diverge. He, however, knows that he has the duty and responsibility to let them converge and narrow the deliberations towards the end. He does this by summing up the discussions and facilitating the decision making. So, at the end of the LEKGOTLA the King will take or rectify the decisions and close the session. He will thank the participants and in many cases order meals to be delivered. They are never told to go home because the LEKGOTLA is over. They do that at their own time. The Royal Palace is their home too. The fire of the Royal Palace is always burning and there is always something to do and food to eat.
Sitting arrangement & Provisions: The sitting arrangement during the LEKGOTLA is always in a form of a circle. This is to guarantee equality in the session. Nobody appears to be occupying any position of authority, even though they are clear that His Majesty is in charge. He does not force himself into this leadership position. This is the position that he rightfully occupies by birth. So, there is no need to behave as if there is any contestation. In Sepedi they say: “Kgosi ga e bushe ea rena!” The King’s LEKGOTLA tend to be a full day affair. So, he always provides food and drinks. He sees it as his responsibility to feed his leadership team when they attend LEKGOTLA. This is also the case for those that are stationed permanently at the Royal Palace. There is always food in the middle of the LEKGOTLA circle. Whenever they feel hungry or thirsty they will request to be served. If there is a need for refilling, the women of the Royal Palace are requested to fill up.
No confusion with Town Hall, Imbizo, Pitso: The LEKGOTLA must not be confused with Imbizo, Pitso or a Town Hall. The two are not the same. LEKGOTLA is a leadership meetings facilitation Methodology. It evolved traditionally over time. Once the LEKGOTLA has resolved matters or taken decisions on a particular direction, and it affects his people, he may decide to call a “Town Hall” (Imbizo or Kopano ya Setshaba) to update them on the decisions of the leadership from the LEKGOTLA session. There may be some actions that must be taken by the households or the village collectively, e.g. to start the harvest or planting season. In that case they first have to collectively harvest for the Royal House before they harvest for themselves. This is important practice because the king has the responsibility to keep seeds from the harvest for the whole village, and store the harvests in case there is outbreak of femine, to feed all of them.
Tool for Dialogue: The LEKGOTLA is a powerful platform for dialogue, not only for serious matters, but also in times of fellowship, especially during weddings and special festivals.
Common Meeting Places, Venues: The most common venue for the King’s LEKGOTLA is at the Royal Palace. The venue is always perfectly set up for LEKGOTLA. This is because one may not know when there could be a need for LEKGOTLA, especially in the olden days when they used to experience a lot of invasions by their enemies.
Deep sense of Respect: The deep sense of respect at the LEKGOTLA is shown by the way the participants address each other. They do not use first names. They use praise names. The King is not called by his name. Before they can address him, they will praise and call him by his praise name, like Phaahla Wa Bauba, which could mean Phaahla, The Son of Bauba. Both Phaahla and Bauba in this case are praise names. So, if you are a member of the LEKGOTLA and you do not know other participants’ praise names, you are going fail to comply with this protocol and they are going to fine you. That is why every time they talk or they are being addressed, these praise names are repeated. In other words they stay constantly on educating and reminding each other who they are.
Conflict Resolution: For all the cases of conflict, the King will call LEKGOTLA to facilitate conflict resolution, and sanctions those who are found guilty. Being found guilty does not mean the King disowns you. The moment you have complied with your sanction fully, the King welcomes you as one of his beloved subjects. In fact paying the fine is the greatest sign of respect of your leader, the King. It is often celebrated. You are forgiven immediately. The fine is never put beyond your affordability. The idea is not to impoverish you, but to correct your wrong behaviour and send the message to the other would be offenders. And conflicts are always prioritised. The Council of the Royal Palace (“Bakgomana ba Moshate”) are forever ready to attend to the emergency. The saying goes: “Re komana madula a bapile, mohla wa dira ga o tsibje”
The usage of the traditional stick: The participants in the LEKGOTLA must be in possession of the traditional stick before they can make input. The stick guarantees them the opportunity to bring their views, across without the interference from the others. As long as they hold onto the stick they are protected by the Chairperson (His Majesty, the King). The rest of the participants have to listen attentively and make sure that when their turn comes they add to the previous speaker’s inputs. They should not contradict each other, but add and enrich each other’s inputs. That is the spirit of LEKGOTLA. The focus and respect goes to the participant who is on the floor, including the positioning of self in the direction he is speaking from. This is to demonstrate that you are actively listening, interested in what he is saying, and respect his contribution. Nobody may interject. You may affirm what they are saying by using body language. The King has a helicopter view of the proceedings and directs the deliberations. Once the person on the floor is done, he returns the stick to the King. If the King does not want the stick back to himself, because he does not see the need, he will request that the stick is returned to the centre. This is for anyone who wants to add or make follow up inputs to do so.
Characters under check: If the King realises that certain participants are dominating the proceedings at the expense of the others who are perhaps shy, he may request the stick to be returned to him. He will then start encouraging those who have not spoken before to do so. He will request the dominant characters to hold on and allow others to also participate. This practice creates the opportunity for the withdrawn participants to practice and get used to participating. In the long-term the quieter participants learn to speak, the dominant participants learn to keep quiet, and practice active listening. Ultimately the LEKGOTLA Methodology produces a balanced and dynamic leadership team.
Knowledge Sharing: Sharing of any sort is Ubuntu in African culture. We should do better when it comes to knowledge sharing. We can contribute to the world knowledge base through the Ubuntu way of sharing and collective growth. By staging the LEKGOTLA, we are saying that the knowledge does not reside with the King, but with the participants themselves. The King’s duty is to provide the opportunity and the platform on which to share the knowledge, insights, experiences, and wisdoms. That is the African Ubuntu Way.
The power of silence, and dissolving the LEKGOTLA: It is possible that there is silence and nobody comes forward for the stick. The King can leave the stick there for as long as he is not prepared to take over. Or he may take the stick, keep it with him and engage in silence too. The modern practice would be to use silence to engage in body language, and observe the emotions. And feel the flow of the energy in the LEKGOTLA and the connection that can be felt in the space, the atmosphere. This may suggest that the participants have exhausted their inputs and it is time for the King to make a ruling or facilitate the process toward decision making. So, silence is encouraged during the LEKGOTLA. It is a powerful form of communicating emotions, feelings and thoughts. It allows reflections, connection with fellow participants, and quite further processing of the inputs. It is also possible for the participants of the LEKGOTLA to agree to disagree. Only the King may officially dissolve the LEKGOTLA and release the members of the Council of the Royal Palace.