Authors: General M Ntshalintshali and Teresa Carmichael
The purpose of this exploratory study was to describe and evaluate Shaka Zulu’s leadership and the battle strategies and tactics he selected, in the context of those applied by contemporary leaders when making their own strategic choices. The research questions sought to establish which leadership, strategic and tactical business concepts could be identified from literary accounts of Shaka Zulu’s battles, and how modern-day military and business leaders interpreted these in a business strategy context. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with an expert sample of 11 individuals comprising historians and military and business leaders. The interview guides were informed by key literature sources, and tailored to suit the position and experience of each respondent. Thematic content analysis was applied to the qualitative interview transcripts. Issues derived from the literature were: establishing a core battle strategy, insistence on continuous improvement, lack of tolerance for mediocrity, applying the principle of sacrifice, concealment of intentions, using the element of surprise, confrontation, synchronization of efforts, selective communication, establishing alliances, dealing with diminishing resources, holding unsavoury personal ambition and practising humaneness. Additional issues raised, not covered in the literature were: the use of power, monopolies, negotiation, collectivism, co-operation and risk. It
was concluded that some of the battle strategies can be applied directly to the business environment, some need to be modified, and yet others are unsuitable – mainly for reasons of intolerance and brutality.
Keywords: Shaka Zulu, military, business strategy