Archive | Culture RSS for this section

Introspection

This value is as critical for individuals as it is for organisations. You stop looking internally, learn and adapt, you die.Thinking

I am an African 

I am an African. I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.

My body has frozen in our frosts and in our latter day snows. It has thawed in the warmth of our sunshine and melted in the heat of the midday sun. The crack and the rumble of the summer thunders, lashed by startling lightening, have been a cause both of trembling and of hope.

The fragrances of nature have been as pleasant to us as the sight of the wild blooms of the citizens of the veld.

The dramatic shapes of the Drakensberg, the soil-coloured waters of the Lekoa, iGqili noThukela, and the sands of the Kgalagadi, have all been panels of the set on the natural stage on which we act out the foolish deeds of the theatre of our day.

At times, and in fear, I have wondered whether I should concede equal citizenship of our country to the leopard and the lion, the elephant and the springbok, the hyena, the black mamba and the pestilential mosquito.

A human presence among all these, a feature on the face of our native land thus defined, I know that none dare challenge me when I say – I am an African!

I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt the great expanses of the beautiful Cape – they who fell victim to the most merciless genocide our native land has ever seen, they who were the first to lose their lives in the struggle to defend our freedom and dependence and they who, as a people, perished in the result.

Today, as a country, we keep an audible silence about these ancestors of the generations that live, fearful to admit the horror of a former deed, seeking to obliterate from our memories a cruel occurrence which, in its remembering, should teach us not and never to be inhuman again.

I am formed of the migrants who left Europe to find a new home on our native land. Whatever their own actions, they remain still, part of me.

In my veins courses the blood of the Malay slaves who came from the East. Their proud dignity informs my bearing, their culture a part of my essence. The stripes they bore on their bodies from the lash of the slave master are a reminder embossed on my consciousness of what should not be done.

I am the grandchild of the warrior men and women that Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the patriots that Cetshwayo and Mphephu took to battle, the soldiers Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane taught never to dishonour the cause of freedom.

My mind and my knowledge of myself is formed by the victories that are the jewels in our African crown, the victories we earned from Isandhlwana to Khartoum, as Ethiopians and as the Ashanti of Ghana, as the Berbers of the desert.

I am the grandchild who lays fresh flowers on the Boer graves at St Helena and the Bahamas, who sees in the mind`s eye and suffers the suffering of a simple peasant folk, death, concentration camps, destroyed homesteads, a dream in ruins.

I am the child of Nongqause. I am he who made it possible to trade in the world markets in diamonds, in gold, in the same food for which my stomach yearns.

I come of those who were transported from India and China, whose being resided in the fact, solely, that they were able to provide physical labour, who taught me that we could both be at home and be foreign, who taught me that human existence itself demanded that freedom was a necessary condition for that human existence.

Being part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion, I shall claim that – I am an African.

I have seen our country torn asunder as these, all of whom are my people, engaged one another in a titanic battle, the one redress a wrong that had been caused by one to another and the other, to defend the indefensible.

I have seen what happens when one person has superiority of force over another, when the stronger appropriate to themselves the prerogative even to annul the injunction that God created all men and women in His image.

I know what if signifies when race and colour are used to determine who is human and who, sub-human.

I have seen the destruction of all sense of self-esteem, the consequent striving to be what one is not, simply to acquire some of the benefits which those who had improved themselves as masters had ensured that they enjoy.

I have experience of the situation in which race and colour is used to enrich some and impoverish the rest.

I have seen the corruption of minds and souls as (word not readable) of the pursuit of an ignoble effort to perpetrate a veritable crime against humanity.

I have seen concrete expression of the denial of the dignity of a human being emanating from the conscious, systemic and systematic oppressive and repressive activities of other human beings.

There the victims parade with no mask to hide the brutish reality – the beggars, the prostitutes, the street children, those who seek solace in substance abuse, those who have to steal to assuage hunger, those who have to lose their sanity because to be sane is to invite pain.

Perhaps the worst among these, who are my people, are those who have learnt to kill for a wage. To these the extent of death is directly proportional to their personal welfare.

And so, like pawns in the service of demented souls, they kill in furtherance of the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal. They murder the innocent in the taxi wars.

They kill slowly or quickly in order to make profits from the illegal trade in narcotics. They are available for hire when husband wants to murder wife and wife, husband.

Among us prowl the products of our immoral and amoral past – killers who have no sense of the worth of human life, rapists who have absolute disdain for the women of our country, animals who would seek to benefit from the vulnerability of the children, the disabled and the old, the rapacious who brook no obstacle in their quest for self-enrichment.

All this I know and know to be true because I am an African!

Because of that, I am also able to state this fundamental truth that I am born of a people who are heroes and heroines.

I am born of a people who would not tolerate oppression.

I am of a nation that would not allow that fear of death, torture, imprisonment, exile or persecution should result in the perpetuation of injustice.

The great masses who are our mother and father will not permit that the behaviour of the few results in the description of our country and people as barbaric.

Patient because history is on their side, these masses do not despair because today the weather is bad. Nor do they turn triumphalist when, tomorrow, the sun shines.

Whatever the circumstances they have lived through and because of that experience, they are determined to define for themselves who they are and who they should be.

We are assembled here today to mark their victory in acquiring and exercising their right to formulate their own definition of what it means to be African.

The constitution whose adoption we celebrate constitutes and unequivocal statement that we refuse to accept that our Africanness shall be defined by our race, colour, gender of historical origins.

It is a firm assertion made by ourselves that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

It gives concrete expression to the sentiment we share as Africans, and will defend to the death, that the people shall govern.

It recognises the fact that the dignity of the individual is both an objective which society must pursue, and is a goal which cannot be separated from the material well-being of that individual.

It seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall be free from fear, including the fear of the oppression of one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment of one social echelon by another, the fear of the use of state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights and the fear of tyranny.

It aims to open the doors so that those who were disadvantaged can assume their place in society as equals with their fellow human beings without regard to colour, race, gender, age or geographic dispersal.

It provides the opportunity to enable each one and all to state their views, promote them, strive for their implementation in the process of governance without fear that a contrary view will be met with repression.

It creates a law-governed society which shall be inimical to arbitrary rule.

It enables the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means rather than resort to force.

It rejoices in the diversity of our people and creates the space for all of us voluntarily to define ourselves as one people.

As an African, this is an achievement of which I am proud, proud without reservation and proud without any feeling of conceit.

Our sense of elevation at this moment also derives from the fact that this magnificent product is the unique creation of African hands and African minds.

Bit it is also constitutes a tribute to our loss of vanity that we could, despite the temptation to treat ourselves as an exceptional fragment of humanity, draw on the accumulated experience and wisdom of all humankind, to define for ourselves what we want to be.

Together with the best in the world, we too are prone to pettiness, petulance, selfishness and short-sightedness.

But it seems to have happened that we looked at ourselves and said the time had come that we make a super-human effort to be other than human, to respond to the call to create for ourselves a glorious future, to remind ourselves of the Latin saying: Gloria est consequenda – Glory must be sought after!

Today it feels good to be an African.

It feels good that I can stand here as a South African and as a foot soldier of a titanic African army, the African National Congress, to say to all the parties represented here, to the millions who made an input into the processes we are concluding, to our outstanding compatriots who have presided over the birth of our founding document, to the negotiators who pitted their wits one against the other, to the unseen stars who shone unseen as the management and administration of the Constitutional Assembly, the advisers, experts and publicists, to the mass communication media, to our friends across the globe – congratulations and well done!

I am an African.

I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.

The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria is a pain I also bear.

The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.

The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.

This is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned.

This thing that we have done today, in this small corner of a great continent that has contributed so decisively to the evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes.

Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! 

Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace! 

However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!

Whoever we may be, whatever our immediate interest, however much we carry baggage from our past, however much we have been caught by the fashion of cynicism and loss of faith in the capacity of the people, let us err today and say – nothing can stop us now!

Learning leaders

 There is a very close link between learning to lead and managing yourself and also developing your ability and skill in leading others. If you can demonstrate your effectiveness it gets very easy to demonstrate leadership which in turn allows others to follow you. If you look around at leaders who are failing in their responsibilities often you will see that they take on far too much work, inherit a poor performing people and do nothing about it and they end up achieving little for themselves or their people.

These leaders have no scope to change move or develop because they are constantly in a reactive mode and have limited their opportunity for learning. This robs them of the opportunity to learn by reviewing past experiences, mistakes and successes so that they can apply them to the current situation. Unfortunately, this is not always easily apparent to leaders within the organization. Sometimes, everybody is so busy that they don’t lift their head to see what is happening around them.
Businesses make different demands on leaders in different circumstances. The demands and the circumstances are constantly changing. This means that the modern leader has to be very nimble to cope with this constant change. It also means that the opportunities to misread the situation have increased in the modern day workplace. Because of the constant change, each situation has to be understood as much as possible so that relevant decisions can be made. It is very hard to be effective if you constantly misread situations when you are in a leadership position.

On being proactive

In his classic, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Harvey asserts that proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, problems at work. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern–things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, the weather. Gaining an awareness of the areas in which we expend our energies in is a giant step in becoming proactive.

images (19)

Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas–Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.

The humility in leading

Madiba

Madiba

After all is said and done, humility is a great quality of leadership which derives respect and not just fear or hatred. In both public office and corporate leadership power could be dangerous in the absence of humility.

Leading with courage

The courage of leadship

The courage of leadship

Often I am perplexed at how much those of us in positions of influence (structurally speaking) miss the mark in terms of what the art of leadership is especially in direct comparison to those without the formal positions of influence.

As often mentioned, I am firm a believer in leadership being a state of being rather than what we do. In other words who we are comes before what we do. It is in the moments when the formal power layers have been taken off that we see the real person. Sometimes the titles we are formally given make us not be who we are and thus rob the world of an opportunity to experience the greatness we are.

One thing I have come to appreciate is that leadership begins with the heart. A heart that is consistent in allowing the leader to live steadily while moving among the team. A heart that is contrite enough to allow humility and willingness to show humanity regardless of who witnesses it. A type of heart that is courageous enough to chart the right path without shrinking from doing the right thing.

A leader should be able to communicate his/her convictions regardless of what the implications. We have many great examples of those who led with conviction (our very own Madiba, Ghandi, Marcus Garvey, Patrice Lumumba, Martin Luther King and others are often referred to in this context).

They are committed to a course regardless of how unpopular that may be. And finally they are totally captivated by what they believe in so much so that it matters not if that survives them (being ready to die for an idea that will live than live for an idea that will die).

How does the gospel save me?

It’s often difficult to accept and truly believe that all we need is to believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is complete and sufficient for us. That all we will ever need is contained in the story of Jesus and in there we find the means to an end and the end itself.

I have recently woken up to the reality that is the gospel and really got sold to its truth. As I start to understand the person of Jesus and understand him as totally God even though he lived as a human man in a historical context at a specific geographical space. Through me seeing Jesus as depicted in 2 Cor 4:4-6 I get to accept and live as though the gospel is the whole truth. In this acceptance, I also get to unmask the character that the world has turned him into: contrary to popular belief and accepted world view.

In the acceptance, I discard the view that makes him a man of weakness who avoids conflict at all costs. It also means taking a view that says: He is not a moral teacher seen along the same lines as Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr or our very own Nelson Mandela. Also He is no spiritual guru to be quoted and used to feed our inflated need to sound wise. Jesus is not a mythical character that lacks relevance to reality or a fictional abstract creature that cannot relate with real humans that walk the earth. In this acceptance, I also experience the light of the gospel shinning through to me which then moves me from blindness to sight which makes John Newton make sense in his Amazing Grace song.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” So begins one of the most beloved hymns of all times. The author of the words, John Newton, was the self-proclaimed wretch who once was lost but then was found, saved by amazing grace of God Abba Father.

Newton was born in London July 24, 1725, the son of a commander of a merchant ship which sailed the Mediterranean seas. When John was eleven, he went to sea with his father and made six voyages with him before the elder Newton retired. In 1744 John was impressed into service on a man-of-war. Finding conditions on board intolerable, he deserted but was soon recaptured and publicly flogged and demoted from midshipman to common seaman.

Finally at his own request he was exchanged into service on a slave ship, which took him to the coast of Sierra Leone in Africa. He then became the servant of a slave trader and was brutally abused. Early in 1748 he was rescued by a sea captain who had known John’s father. John Newton ultimately became captain of his own ship, one which plied the slave trade.

Although he had had some early religious instruction from his mother, who had died when he was a child, he had long since given up any religious convictions. However, on a homeward voyage, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he was to refer to later as his “great deliverance.” He recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he exclaimed, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” Later in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and began to believe that God had addressed him through the storm and that grace had begun to work for him.

For the rest of his life he observed the anniversary of May 10, 1748 as the day of his conversion, a day of humiliation in which he subjected his will to a higher power. Total surrender to God and the acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only truth also denotes being sold to the reality that Jesus is God and only He can safe me from the highway to hell (in other words, unless I believe in him I will perish but if I do believe I will have eternal life).

Organizational culture: an enabler or disabler?

Culture in the context of an organisation should be understood in the perspective of the setting it's in. In order to understand organisational context, it's important to see the organisations as communities. Using classical sociology as basis, there are two key cultural relationships in communities:sociability and solidarity. Sociability refers to effective relations between individuals who are likely to see each other's friends. They share ideas and values and associate with each other on equal terms. This represents relationships valued for their own sake. No real conditions are attached.

CultureSolidarity on the other hand, describes task focused cooperation between individuals and groups. It does not depend on close friendship or even personal acquaintance nor does it needs to be continuous. A perception of shared interest is enough to spark it which once in place solidarity can produce high levels of focus. To bring this home, if we were to ask someone to describe their ideal family, their would typically go straight to one where members like and love one another (sociability) and one that pulls together when times get tough (solidarity).

Thus, where there is high levels of sociability with low solidarity we find highly networked cultures. Most organizations fall into this category hence exhibiting such negative manifestations as clique formation, informal information exchanges that generally degenerate into dangerous rumour and gossip machines; friendly meetings that produce of talk but little action; and most importantly, considerable energy, especially among senior managers, that goes into organizational politics and making the right impression. There is more often than not managing upward rather than managing outcomes.

Most of us know or have read about these symptoms. Seeming perfect is the holy grail, with leaders seeking that out of their people which constantly makes people strive to impress the boss regardless of the consequences to individual relationships or team dynamics.

It is crucial for organisations to seek to have Hugh levels of solidarity and sociability. This keeps the team focused on common purpose while relating on a high trust basis.

Culture, side effect or planned outcome?

CultureIn leading people, sometimes we forget that what we stand for and how we behave directly influences the people in the system. If you lead people and they don’t trust one another (or worse still, they behave in a way that’s detrimental to individuals and the team), you have no one to blame but yourself.

We have often heard that culture is a collection of believes, values and behaviors that make the way the organization behaves on an aggregated level (if you will). As such, it’s all fun and games for leaders to intellectualize about “how we do things around here” until suddenly it dawns on them that the the sum total of the organisational personality and ways of doing things (or culture if you prefer that) is directly influenced by the quality of leaders that hold the all important responsibility of steering the organisation.

You often find leaders who proudly rephrase and reclassify toxic elements in the system in an effort to legitimize illegitimate outcomes. Just because you call it ability to network, it doesn’t mean gossips are assets for your organisational. Similarly, if your people find it acceptable to create divisions and sow destructive hatred between individuals, you have no one to blame but yourself. You enable this either through your actions (by actively participating in the behaviours) or omission (by allowing the cancer to fester under your watch).

Great leaders understand that technical ability can never replace the ability to work with others. Interestingly, this ability is also the basis for serving customers (both internal and external) and therefore good for business all round.

So, instead of being passive recipients of cultural outcomes, leaders need to study their organizational make up, identify the good elements therein and ensure the good is rewarded and recognized while making it extremely uncomfortable for bad elements. Those terrorizing the organisation through their negative behaviours need to be clear that they are not welcome in the culture. Slowly but surely, organisational culture improves positively for the better in the long term.