Leadership

Don’t overlook the wisdom all around us

The global market economy is facing a tough time, with billions of dollars lost this week alone – and the local market is following suit. The outlook is negative and some economies are preparing for another crisis. This does not provide an inspiring environment for someone looking to start or grow a business. Something could be wrong with how we have been running big business. Perhaps entrepreneurs will need to look for inspiration elsewhere. The enthusiastic optimist in me is eager to find different, unconventional sources of inspiration. Myles Munroe, a prominent author and life coach, once said: “The wealthiest places in the world are not the diamond mines in South Africa or the banks of the world … In the cemetery is buried the greatest treasure of untapped potential.” In contrast, I wonder if we can seek inspiration from the wisdom that is around us but often overlooked. Dr Miles Munroe and wife...

The man in the arena: Be a bold supporter, not a critic

‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena …” These are the unforgettable word s uttered by US president Theodore Roosevelt in 1910, a little more than a decade after America had emerged as a new world power. He wanted to emphasise that the success of a country rests on the quality of its leaders and the discipline of its citizens, as opposed to the distracting commentary of others. There is a reason that his words are still referred to in presidential speeches and literature. Nelson Mandela, whose passing we commemorated this week, gave a copy of Roosevelt’s words to the captain of the South African rugby team, Francois Pienaar, just before the team proceeded to beat the All...

Authenticity is heartbeat of leadership

Often when people think about what it will take to grow into the next level of leadership, they consider what they would need to change about themselves so they can appear to be ready for their next role. Instead of focusing on growing our skills, often we end up suppressing parts of our personalities so that we can give the impression we are better aligned to an image of what we believe a leader is supposed to be. But this is an image that is normally inconsistent with our authentic selves. This can be difficult to maintain, especially in an era where the gap between your personal and professional life is becoming steadily narrower – so much so that it has become common practice for recruiters to check candidates’ online profiles before deciding whether to hire or promote a person. Some people even change their names on social media to avoid having...

Work not just to earn, but to learn widely

I recently revisited a set of childhood parables on financial independence written by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter in the bestselling book Rich Dad Poor Dad. I remain intrigued that, almost 20 years after its initial publication and worldwide success, the majority of the book’s simple and relevant insights remain widely underutilised. Even though many of us aspire to achieve wealth and financial independence, few of us choose the path that could get us there, such as owning a business or making strategic investments. As a result, our economy continues to suffer from low levels of entrepreneurship and high levels of unemployment. Our society continues to define getting a job as a sign of success, when jobs should be seen as a means to an end, not the final destination. In fact, we should be choosing to be in a job because we want to learn certain skills that will help...

Try giving, not taking, when you do networking

Networking events have become an everyday custom in business. It is a no-brainer that who you know is more important than what you know. As a result, most people aspire to become good at networking because it has become an enabler for success in the world of business. It can be the one thing that helps you land that killer promotion or raises funds for a new business. At networking events, the “serial” networkers are often seen moving from one person to the next, keeping the conversations short and handing out business cards to everyone they meet. Most people will speak to another party just long enough to gauge whether there is something they stand to gain from them. If there isn’t an identifiable benefit, they swiftly move on to the next person. They build connections only if there is something to be gained. This approach to networking is not only distasteful but...

Behind every successful man, is …

A joke doing the rounds on the internet is that while Michelle and Barack Obama were at a simple restaurant, the owner requested a private conversation with the first lady. On her return to the table, Michelle told her husband that she and the restaurant owner had been in a relationship during her teens. To which the president responded: “So if you had married him, you would now be the owner of this lovely restaurant.” Michelle replied: “No. If I had married him, he would now be the president of the US.” Like many jokes, this reflects a view held by many: that Michelle has had a commendable impact on Barack’ s success as the first black president of the US. Numerous presidents and leaders around the world are confirmation of the axiom “Behind every great man is a great woman”. But Michelle Obama consistently stands out as an American first lady who...

The power of servant leadership

I was driving through one of the low-income neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Durban recently. There had been heavy rains that had led to significant flooding. When approaching an area of the road that was completely flooded, I noticed a group of boys and young men busy filling it with sand so that cars could drive through. They did this selflessly, despite the rain and lack of financial incentive. That kind of proactive action stood to benefit the overall community. They were applying the idea of servant leadership – when people take actions that will benefit their community. In this environment, everyone applies whatever skills they have towards the benefit of others. This kind of leadership has thrived in some of our communities for decades. It is exactly what was demonstrated by the youth of 1976, when they took collective action to stand up against oppression. To this day, many remain surprised that people so...

Advancing women into senior leadership positions is everyone’s responsibility

The burden of increasing female representation in senior positions needs to stop being a women-only agenda – in the same manner that topics affecting minority groups are erroneously assigned to individuals from those groups instead of the majority groups that are in a position of influence. In business, the main decision-making power still primarily rests with men. Research shows that less than 5% of businesses globally are led by women, and women fill less than 25% of senior leadership positions. That means the views and decision-making at the top remain biased towards one gender. Merely empowering women to own the “women” agenda is not really helping anyone as those women are not in the position of influence needed to effect impactful change. Worse, in the instances where there is that one woman who has managed to break through the supposed glass ceiling, she is burdened with the responsibility of carrying the...

Passion gives ideas a life of their own

On Sunday last week, I found myself on a panel adjudicating business pitches presented by entrepreneurs from around South Africa. They entered the Legends in the Making Competition and won the opportunity to attend a weekend entrepreneurship boot camp in Pretoria organised by Somafco Trust, a social enterprise focused on youth development. I was intrigued to see young people, mostly from underprivileged backgrounds, following their dreams and committing to build businesses. It was truly courageous of them to stand up, speak their minds and receive a barrage of questions from a panel of adjudicators. Such behaviour puts them leaps and bounds ahead of those who have not even started turning their ideas into reality. I have been coaching people on effective presentations for many years – anything from personal talks to presentations for the boards of big businesses. One thing that I have found time and again is that the majority of the preparation...