Leadership

When I reflect on where I have been in my leadership journey, I realize that the many unintentional mistakes I made along the way were set up by our Heavenly Father. My leadership training began as a senior social worker with a number of student and qualified social workers reporting to me; thereafter I was a group executive at a bank. Later I became CEO and Executive Chairperson in an infrastructure development organization specializing in engineering, development finance, and social development activities. All these people who came across my path as a leader taught me a lot of things.

I learnt that a leader has to be ethical, people focused, inspirational, resilient, passionate and healthy. I was exposed to situations where I had to be consistent, fair and polite, yet take difficult and sometimes unexpected stands when required. I had to allow people in my business to go, whilst training and empowering those who stayed. I learnt to be patient and to accommodate some people’s slower pace, to let go of perfectionism, and allow innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.

I had to practice to listen attentively and not speak until someone had finished speaking. I learnt to think in terms of macro and not micro situations and strategies, to execute plans that were developed by others, and share all of my knowledge with my team. I learnt to work as part of a team and to move at the pace of the others, sometimes sitting back and watching. I learnt these characteristics the hard way. I chose to learn because I believe in doing the right thing, forgetting about myself and focusing on others and on the bigger picture.

What I did not know is that to be a leader requires ethical thinking. Most of my actions may have been ethical because of how I was raised, who I am, and my belief and values system, but I still learnt a lot from being an ethical leader.

The environments in which I live and work challenge me every single day to remain ethical in all I do. Is it easy? NO. It is extremely difficult especially in situations where bribes and corruption are the order of the day. I continue making ethical choices only through the grace of God.

Are you an ethical leader? So much theoretical information has been written on the topic of ethical leadership that I do not need to rehash that. I say, when you become a leader, choose an ethical path. What then is an ethical path? What is your ethical belief and understanding? Is what you are doing helping others to become who God created them to be? When in your leadership position, are you thinking and acting to improve the quality of life of others? If yes, please share with us what you do and how we can share your knowledge and experience with others. If not, what makes you decide not to live by ethical principles? Do you want to but need help in this regard? Let us see how we can support you. We know a number of people who can guide and coach you in your journey.
Be a leader who is not just successful but significant.

Please share your story with us so we may encourage others in faith.

I believe the more we share, the bigger the difference we can make in other people’s lives.

Some of our shared stories

  1. DO I SEE WHAT OTHER YOUNG LEADERS SEE?

    I was recently privileged to spend ten days with 22 young leaders from across the developing world. Our aim was to connect, share ideas and learn from people leading the world in innovation, medicine, ethical business, and sustainability – all with the overarching challenge of transforming these insights into real initiatives.

    If there is anything that my travels have made clear, it’s that Africa remains on the peripheries of most global stages. When we do get the spotlight, it is often to bewail the endless challenges of our continent: despotic leaders, rampant corruption, and ceaseless poverty.

    We live on a continent where it is the norm for leaders to steal from their people, where communities are destroying each other in violence, and where girls are more likely to be raped than they are to finish school.

    What will it take for the liberation of Africa? Liberation is not just a political concept – at its core, it is of the heart and of the mind. The political liberation that swept through the continent during the 20th century has given way to oppression by various elites, where greed for power and protecting one’s own takes priority over true, servant leadership. The role models of young people are not those who positively contribute to their society, but those whose Instagram pages attract the most followers. There’s a veneration of shallowness, show, empty wit, and vanity.

    Terms like “transformation”, “ethical leadership”, and “sustainability” ought not to be buzzwords thrown around in air-conditioned conference rooms and slogans cried at political rallies, but principles by which every African lives. Each of us needs to come to a personal point of understanding that doing what is “good” is not a favour, but an expectation. Gentle and ethical behavior at home and at work, concern for a community wider than our own immediate family, and simple humility are not supposed to be the exception, but the norm. Neither is this way of life an inconvenience to our own selfish whims, but ultimately an integral part of what is good for ourselves. The effects of such good deeds are not privileges, abnormalities, and lone case studies to celebrate, but the norm that plays into the natural order of what it means to be human, and what it means to live in community with a vision of a better future.

    How we love buzzwords! True transformation begins with transforming the self. Here in South Africa our leaders often talk of “radical black economic transformation”, but never of “radical black transformation”, as if the one automatically precipitates the other. It seems the assumption is that once the economics are transformed – when a new lot of us are rich and comfortable – then this glorious thing called transformation is achieved. Recovery from oppression is a lot more than getting access to money in larger quantities – at its core, it is about matters of the mind and spirit. Once these are resolved, they manifest outwardly in an ability and a will to create the kind of world we want to live in.

    Perhaps “freedom” as we have come to know it is merely being given the option to take off our chains. We are our own persons. We choose how we want to live. We have civil rights; we have equality. But are we really free? Those chains still exist in mental form. Their weight still burdens the way we think and act.

    There’s a culture of flaunting wealth here in South Africa. If it isn’t some fresh-out-high-school Forex millionaire posing next to Lamborghinis he probably doesn’t own, it’s young women whose tactical relationship choices afford them a life of irresponsible luxury. Check out the Instagram page “richkids_of_southafrica” – apparently posting bank balances is a thing now!

    When a person is enthralled by their own perception of how others see them, is this not an absolute indication that they are still bound in some way? More often than not, it is a symptom of a deeper insecurity, of a person who is not whole. Too many people’s aspirations are built on what they have, not on who they are. If these are our values as a nation, the pestilential greed and self-indulgence ravaging both the public and the private sector can come as no surprise.

    There is anger, too. Let’s address this: we cannot thrive in an atmosphere of constant rage. Anger unchecked is anger that destroys. It can only be useful when it is channeled and transformed for some higher purpose.

    As Fred Khumalo writes in an article in The Sowetan: “We cannot liberate ourselves from mental slavery, as Bob Marley asked us to, if we still carry within ourselves the poison of hate.”
    Personally, I view the anger, hostility, and general greed that increasingly is molding our worldview as young South Africans as the surest indication that we have not fully liberated ourselves from the shackles of oppression. True freedom is the ability to transcend the kind of thinking that crafted our oppression in the first place.

    In an increasingly polarised South Africa and world, we need more people who can step out of the confines of dualistic thinking, listen more, serve more, learn to empathise, and orchestrate their own emotions, will and thinking to serve the greater good.

    This is my view point as a future young leader. What is yours as a future young leader?

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  2. SIGNIFICANT MOMENTS AND CONNECTING THE DOTS

    Every day we are presented with numerous opportunities for significant moments that may shape the future, our destiny and those of others around us. The sad thing is that we are often so blind to this opportunity until we recognise the power of significant moments. So – what is a significant moment? A significant moment is that event or encounter during which we make certain choices that impact the course of the future – whether it be our own personal or professional, or that of others around us, that of our companies, and often history itself.

    Looking back at my life, I am a firm believer that our lives have a purpose and that each encounter is predestined and it is up to each and every one of us to be alive to those encounters and be present when they present themselves to us. In as much as we cannot predict the future, our choices certainly do shape the future. Those choices are made in – significant moments. Given that significant moments shape our future, it is important that we carefully think about all the possibilities that may ensue from every encounter and as we prepare each day for whatever engagements we may have, it is the sense of living a purposeful life that prepares our minds and souls for the significant moment. Just as much as journey of a thousand miles start with a single step, a life of significance starts with small decisions and choices that we each make on a daily basis. Sadly, most of us miss the opportunity to make the right choices that shape our future in the direction that fulfils our life purpose. The future is made today, often with what appears to be minor or insignificant encounters, whether it be a greeting and genuine interest to know how a colleague or a stranger feels.

    Significant moments tend to have knock on effect – a domino effect, as they comprise small decision points that lead to the universe presenting more opportunities for us to make yet another and another step in the path of our soul’s journey. The significant moment could be what we decide to do at a moment we wake up in the morning, a greeting, an invitation that you receive from an expected or even an unexpected source, it could even be a moment of grief when our souls are grieving the loss of a loved one, it could be a moment when you walk into a room and you realise you know no one in that room, it could be a moment when you are asked to recommend someone for a task, it could be a time when life has given you a beating and you are feeling hopeless about the future, and yet it could be a moment when you feel victorious. The point is that on a daily basis we are presented with 24 hours of opportunities to make a decision or move that is transformative either for our own future or that of others.

    Steve Jobs often spoke about connecting the dots and the fact that you can only connect the dots backwards and never forwards. I have found that this statement is true and that you only really get to appreciate significant moments by connecting the dots backwards. Let me perhaps illustrate by way of an example from my own life. In 1995 I graduated from the University of Witwatersrand – Johannesburg with a Masters in Engineering and started my career with my sponsor, De Beers Industrial Diamonds. A year later I made a decision to start studying for a law degree because I wanted to climb the corporate ladder and become an executive; and I thought that a second qualification other than engineering would assist me in this regard. A year into the degree, my work provided me with opportunity to work with patents and to undertake research and development (R&D) projects directed at developing new processes of growing synthetic diamonds with appropriate levels of salt impurities that could then alter the breakdown mechanism and make them relevant for grinding applications.

    In 2010 I attended an intellectual property workshop in Midrand where I was curious enough to engage a speaker after her presentation. The speaker, Marilyn Krige was a partner with Adams and Adams Attorneys in Pretoria. Given my interest in the field of IP I asked very relevant questions about the profession ending up requesting of opportunities to understand more about the world of intellectual property. She arranged with her partners that I join the firm for two weeks on an unpaid exploration for me to engage with the other attorneys, at the end of which I was presented with an opportunity to do my articles of clerkship to qualify as an attorney and receive my training to become a patent attorney. In 2003 I qualified as the first Black African to become a patent attorney in South Africa. Little did I know that I was to influence the South African National System of Innovation (NSI) through the lessons learnt at Adams and Adams and a decision in 2004 to establish a programme to train black patent attorneys in South Africa for the public sector. Most of the candidates recruited and trained in that programme that I was blessed to initiate and manage under the enabling leadership of Dr Eugene Lottering, my then boss who at the time was the Executive Director, have since qualified as patent attorneys and are either in private practice or occupying key positions within the NSI.

    Now, back in 1996 when I decided to study for a law degree would I have known that this would culminate in this programme that would impact the lives of the candidates that we recruited into the Innovation Fund run patent attorney development programme? In 2010 when I attended that IP conference and the decision to engage the speaker after the presentation, did I anticipate that the decision would result in me joining Adams & Adams? What if I did not engage the speaker but instead decided to go and join everyone at the tea break and indulge myself in mouth-watering scones, how would my life have turned out?
    So it is only backwards that we are able to connect the dots, and with hindsight, the significant moments in terms of this part of my life journey outlined above, were: deciding to register for a law degree, going to that conference, engaging the speaker after her presentation, asking to spend two weeks with her firm, deciding that I would take two weeks leave from my job at De Beers in order to take up the exploratory offer at Adams & Adams, upon qualifying as a patent attorney deciding to leave a very promising career as a patent attorney with one of the top two IP firms in the country to join a government organisation the Innovation Fund, and establishing the candidate patent attorney development programme.

    Within each of these cited significant moments, there were other significant moments that ensured that this part of my life turned out the way it did, offered me lessons that I needed to learn for my own growth and prepare me for my future, and provided me with the opportunity to impact the lives of other people, in this case, the candidate patent attorneys who were entered the profession through an initiative that was the fruit of a series of significant moments.

    So, the next time you meet a stranger, find yourself in unfamiliar territory, engage with others in meetings or other settings, or life throws you a curved ball, remember that it is important to be present and open yourself to a significant moment that may positively impact your own future and those of others. It is also important for each and every one of us to reflect on our lives and connect the dots backwards and recognise the significant moments that life has given us in the past and thank God for the lives that were messengers for these significant moments. We don’t create the significant moments in silos – it is our connectedness as the human race at a spiritual level that ensures that more and more significant moments are presented to us, and it is important to pass that gift to others that would benefit from your own presence and creating significant moments for them.
    We must all get into the habit of being present, thoughtful about what we do and how we engage with others, and connecting the dots backwards. The dots always connect, but only backwards. So live in the present (to be able to open ourselves for the significant moments and not miss the opportunity), appreciate the past (through connecting the dots) and set goals for the future (as the universe will conspire to ensure that the dots that mark our significant moments connect to ensure we live a life of significance.

    Note:
    This piece was inspired by a talk I gave to 22 young leaders from the developing world at Emory University, Atlanta (Georgia) USA on the 5th August 2017 who were part of the Kectil leadership programme (www.kectil.com)

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  3. Having worked for many years as a social worker and later as an executive, I realised that my inspiration to be where I am was that I was empowered by both men and women who came into my life. Without these great men and women, I would have not reached the levels that I am at today. I recall how many times I tried to do things on my own and failed. I then asked God Jehovah to bring people in my path who will empower me in the direction He destined me to and indeed He truly blessed me with such people. When God Almighty says He will never give us burdens that are impossible to carry, in truth, His Word is irrevocable. He gives us what we asking Him to bless us with. Having been blessed to this end, I then chose to also reciprocate to others and to do what was done for me by these great people. I started to accept invitations to empower others. I agreed to mentor young women who want to become successful business women, mothers and community leaders. I agreed to speak at conferences on various topics. Some of these have been included in the media section of this website. Most of my speeches and presentations are not recorded but have been written up and are available if requested from me. I must say it is such a blessing to be a blessing to others. My challenge to you as the reader is what are you doing to empower others? Please use this platform to share your inspirations. You might have been empowered by others and you may want to acknowledge those people by sharing with us what they taught you. Please do share to encourage others on how you continue to use these inspirations in your life. Remember we were chosen by God our Creator to bring the light to others and that people perish for lack of knowledge. Knowledge shared is knowledge doubled. Thank you for sharing! Abundant blessings!

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