Training – Strategies

Strategies for building second layer leadership

There are many advantages to building a second layer leadership says Siyabulela Maselana. However, it needs to be managed to ensure that it does not undermine the primary leadership.

In a progressive and democratic organisation periodic elections are critical in ensuring that members of the organisation or structures are given the opportunity to consider whether the serving leadership are giving expression to their will and aspirations.

They must also evaluate whether the leadership has been accountable to the mandate that they received at the time of elections.

In this process the constituency has a choice of retaining the current leadership or replacing them with others who might deliver better results than what the constituency had hoped for from the previous leadership.

It is normally in these circumstances that second tier leadership comes to the fore.Second layer leadership are activists who show potential to take up leadership positions in the organisation.

In most instances these activists demonstrate a willingness to participate in the life of the organisation whether in discussions, programmes or activities.

Second layer leadership is expected to take an active part in the execution/implementation of programmes and campaigns.

Second layer leaders are also the ones who are vocal in ensuring that the elected leadership stays within their mandate.

Their consistent participation in the activities of the organisation and their preparedness to be capacitated in education and training in the organisation, would ultimately result in the second tier leadership being identified by the constituency as capable of being elected into office.

Holding a leadership position is not something permanent in a democratic organisation. It is also critical to have a reserve of activists to assume leadership when the need arises otherwise the organisation could be disabled in its work.

Second tier leadership can best be identified in how it relates to weaknesses displayed by the existing leadership and whether it is able to offer alternative ways or different approaches to challenges that may arise from time to time.

The first step to building second tier leadership is to ensure that activists are exposed to regular education and training programmes in the organisation.

Secondly, where there are sub-structures, these activists must be encouraged to assume positions of leadership in the sub-structures so as to be exposed to what it means to provide leadership.

Advantages and disadvantages of second layer leadership



– it ensures that the organisation has a reserve of leadership thereby guaranteeing that the organisation is sustained for generations to come.- the second tier leadership can be capacitated while they serve in the sub-structures – democratic debate and accountability may be enhanced because the second tier leadership would consistently test their skills and abilities when decisions are to be made.- service to members may improve because there would always be a call for mandating and accountability from the second tier leadership.- a wider spread of leadership could be capable of playing a broader leadership role in community and political formations to advance the working class struggle.

– tensions may arise between the elected leadership and the second tier when issues or decisions are challenged from time to time- some elected leadership may feel threatened or insecure if they are challenged by the second tier leadership on things they do, which in some instances may lead to instability, unless it is managed well.- if not monitored, in some instances, second tier leadership may be tempted to use the corridors or caucuses to advance their ambitions.- if there are perks or benefits attached to leadership positions, second tier leadership may become destructive for the sake of taking up positions.


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