Tag Archive | art of leadership

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!

The year 2015 in review – January

Tebogo PicOfficially as at the end of 2014, I was gainfully involved as follows: Director -Kezia Consulting Group, Board Member -BPESA Western Cape (@bpesact) , Advisory Board Member -BLDE Consulting, Trustee -Ubuntu Wellness Trust and Founder/Chairman – Spirit Dominion Foundation. I also took on a few young people on a mentorship programme to help shape SMME space directly. From the onset, the year 2015 was going to be extremely busy indeed.

As the year 2015 opened, I was invited as a Board Member of BPESA Western Cape to accompany BPESA Western Cape CEO (and then interim national CEO of BPESA), Gareth Pritchard hosted by Achievement Awards COO, Barry Coltman at their facility in Cape Town. The guests for the day were, MBA students from Cornell University in New York and we presented on South Africa as a business opportunity from a global perspective. For obvious reasons, we zoned in on BPO sector and how that has managed to attract circa 25 000 jobs (and counting) into the country from mainly the UK and parts of Europe. #2015Reminiscence

A selfie is always on point of cause:
IMG_0298

I also shared the following through micro blobbing platform, Twitter:

Cornell University MBA class

Cornell University MBA class2

More about the School
The Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management is the graduate business school of Cornell University, a private Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York. It was founded in 1946 and renamed in 1984 after Samuel Curtis Johnson, founder of S.C. Johnson & Son, following his family’s $20 million endowment gift to the school in his honor—at the time, the largest gift to any business school in the world.

The school is housed in Sage Hall and supports 59 full-time faculty members. There are about 600 Master of Business Administration (MBA) students in the full-time two-year and Accelerated MBA programs and 375 Executive MBA students. The school counts over 11,000 alumni and publishes the academic journal Administrative Science Quarterly.

The year 2015 in review

image1 When I was still engaged in corporates in a conventional sort of way, i would open the year with a nice wrap up of the previous year followed by a sense of what is coming in the current year and most importantly first Quarter. I always assumed every leader did this sort of thing though my experience has been some of the people i worked with/ worked for did not bother.

So, without letting out too much around my own views of the space i occupy now versus those days, i will attempt to do the same combining my official, personal, social activities and moments in between to review 2015 as well as what is to come in 2016. These will be shared over a series of posts themed #2015Reminiscence to thread the various moments together.

Enjoy as you share in my my journey.

The Azanian Dream

IMG_1162 This article is a collection of thoughts from a time in my life when I was in what I call the wilderness period which I happened to also share on micro blogging site, Twitter and Facebook social media platforms. Excuse the apparent editorial poetic justice taken, this was a “dream” broken into single thoughts congested into 140 characters at a time.

Its a call for a moment to pause and ponder. To stop and think hard about the South Africa of our dreams. A South Africa of Biko, of Hani and many other heroes that died for the country to become such, a colourful nation. Its a call for us to think hard. It is not a prophesy, neither is it an indication of political preference. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed “dreaming”.

As I pause (for now), I put it out there as an appeal to all proud South Africans in politics, civil society, education, health and business. That one day, the country will use its skills and talents for the betterment of its citizens regardless of political affiliation (read slates). Despite all its level of malfunction and misdirection at times, I still have a dream that one day this nation will rise to its founding creed (the freedom charter)

We all should ask ourselves: what would it take for South Africa’s young heart to start imagining and doing? For us to move away from polarization where everything is arranged according to race and or class. Where the system does not make rape something to be ashamed of but instead protecting the victims and harshly dealing with the criminals. Where well meaning men and women don’t spend time lamenting the sickness that has become our society. Where the men of our nation don’t rape their women and children and rather protect them.

In my dream, we (both public and private sectors) served a nation with pride. We saw the opportunity to serve rather than an obligation. Unemployment was lowest in the world and history and the few unemployed were fed, educated and their health taken care of. We lived the ubuntu ethics of ancient Africa. No teenage pregnancies and no abortion laws…there was no need.

In my beautiful native land we had the most sophisticated medical facilities with cancer, TB and infant mortality the lowest in the world. Under Madam Prez no woman worked worked in fear of being raped, no child knew abuse and anyone who dared to dream could thrive without fear of political favour.

IMG_1662South Africa’s president, Mama Prez as we affectionately called her as, epitomized integrity, statesmanship, and the true spirit of ubuntu.When my president spoke, the world stopped and took note…for she was the mouthpiece of the world and represented well.

Forbes Top 10 Qualities That Make A Great Leader

Having a great idea, and assembling a team to bring that concept to life is the first step in creating a successful business venture. While finding a new and unique idea is rare enough; the ability to successfully execute this idea is what separates the dreamers from the entrepreneurs. However you see yourself, whatever your age may be, as soon as you make that exciting first hire, you have taken the first steps in becoming a powerful leader. When money is tight, stress levels are high, and the visions of instant success don’t happen like you thought, it’s easy to let those emotions get to you, and thereby your team. Take a breath, calm yourself down, and remind yourself of the leader you are and would like to become. Here are some key qualities that every good leader should possess, and learn to emphasize.

Honesty

Whatever ethical plane you hold yourself to, when you are responsible for a team of people, its important to raise the bar even higher. Your business and its employees are a reflection of yourself, and if you make honest and ethical behavior a key value, your team will follow suit.

George Washington

As we do at Onevest, the crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs and small businesses I co-founded, try to make a list of values and core beliefs that both you and your brand represent, and post this in your office. Promote a healthy interoffice lifestyle, and encourage your team to live up to these standards. By emphasizing these standards, and displaying them yourself, you will hopefully influence the office environment into a friendly and helpful workspace.

Ability to Delegate

Finessing your brand vision is essential to creating an organized and efficient business, but if you don’t learn to trust your team with that vision, you might never progress to the next stage. Its important to remember that trusting your team with your idea is a sign of strength, not weakness. Delegating tasks to the appropriate departments is one of the most important skills you can develop as your business grows. The emails and tasks will begin to pile up, and the more you stretch yourself thin, the lower the quality of your work will become, and the less you will produce.

The key to delegation is identifying the strengths of your team, and capitalizing on them. Find out what each team member enjoys doing most. Chances are if they find that task more enjoyable, they will likely put more thought and effort behind it. This will not only prove to your team that you trust and believe in them, but will also free up your time to focus on the higher level tasks, that should not be delegated. It’s a fine balance, but one that will have a huge impact on the productivity of your business.

Communication

Knowing what you want accomplished may seem clear in your head, but if you try to explain it to someone else and are met with a blank expression, you know there is a problem. If this has been your experience, then you may want to focus on honing your communication skills. Being able to clearly and succinctly describe what you want done is extremely important. If you can’t relate your vision to your team, you won’t all be working towards the same goal.

Training new members and creating a productive work environment all depend on healthy lines of communication. Whether that stems from an open door policy to your office, or making it a point to talk to your staff on a daily basis, making yourself available to discuss interoffice issues is vital. Your team will learn to trust and depend on you, and will be less hesitant to work harder.

Sense of Humor

If your website crashes, you lose that major client, or your funding dries up, guiding your team through the process without panicking is as challenging as it is important. Morale is linked to productivity, and it’s your job as the team leader to instill a positive energy. That’s where your sense of humor will finally pay off. Encourage your team to laugh at the mistakes instead of crying. If you are constantly learning to find the humor in the struggles, your work environment will become a happy and healthy space, where your employees look forward to working in, rather than dreading it. Make it a point to crack jokes with your team and encourage personal discussions of weekend plans and trips. It’s these short breaks from the task at hand that help keep productivity levels high and morale even higher.

PADSTOW, UNITED KINGDOM – APRIL 21: A small d…

At Onevest, we place a huge emphasis on humor and a light atmosphere. Our office is dog friendly, and we really believe it is the small, light hearted moments in the day that help keep our work creative and fresh. One tradition that we like to do and brings the team closer is we plan a fun prank on all new employees, on their first day. It breaks the ice and immediately creates that sense of familiarity.

Confidence

There may be days where the future of your brand is worrisome and things aren’t going according to plan. This is true with any business, large or small, and the most important thing is not to panic. Part of your job as a leader is to put out fires and maintain the team morale. Keep up your confidence level, and assure everyone that setbacks are natural and the important thing is to focus on the larger goal. As the leader, by staying calm and confident, you will help keep the team feeling the same. Remember, your team will take cues from you, so if you exude a level of calm damage control, your team will pick up on that feeling. The key objective is to keep everyone working and moving ahead.

Commitment

If you expect your team to work hard and produce quality content, you’re going to need to lead by example. There is no greater motivation than seeing the boss down in the trenches working alongside everyone else, showing that hard work is being done on every level. By proving your commitment to the brand and your role, you will not only earn the respect of your team, but will also instill that same hardworking energy among your staff. It’s important to show your commitment not only to the work at hand, but also to your promises. If you pledged to host a holiday party, or uphold summer Fridays, keep your word. You want to create a reputation for not just working hard, but also be known as a fair leader. Once you have gained the respect of your team, they are more likely to deliver the peak amount of quality work possible.
WATCH: Three Tips For Leaders Under 30
Positive Attitude

You want to keep your team motivated towards the continued success of the company, and keep the energy levels up. Whether that means providing snacks, coffee, relationship advice, or even just an occasional beer in the office, remember that everyone on your team is a person. Keep the office mood a fine balance between productivity and playfulness.

English: Think positive

If your team is feeling happy and upbeat, chances are they won’t mind staying that extra hour to finish a report, or devoting their best work to the brand.

Creativity

Some decisions will not always be so clear-cut. You may be forced at times to deviate from your set course and make an on the fly decision. This is where your creativity will prove to be vital. It is during these critical situations that your team will look to you for guidance and you may be forced to make a quick decision. As a leader, its important to learn to think outside the box and to choose which of two bad choices is the best option. Don’t immediately choose the first or easiest possibility; sometimes its best to give these issues some thought, and even turn to your team for guidance. By utilizing all possible options before making a rash decision, you can typically reach the end conclusion you were aiming for.

Intuition

When leading a team through uncharted waters, there is no roadmap on what to do. Everything is uncertain, and the higher the risk, the higher the pressure. That is where your natural intuition has to kick in. Guiding your team through the process of your day-to-day tasks can be honed down to a science. But when something unexpected occurs, or you are thrown into a new scenario, your team will look to you for guidance. Drawing on past experience is a good reflex, as is reaching out to your mentors for support. Eventually though, the tough decisions will be up to you to decide and you will need to depend on your gut instinct for answers. Learning to trust yourself is as important as your team learning to trust you.

Ability to Inspire
Creating a business often involves a bit of forecasting. Especially in the beginning stages of a startup, inspiring your team to see the vision of the successes to come is vital. Make your team feel invested in the accomplishments of the company. Whether everyone owns a piece of equity, or you operate on a bonus system, generating enthusiasm for the hard work you are all putting in is so important. Being able to inspire your team is great for focusing on the future goals, but it is also important for the current issues. When you are all mired deep in work, morale is low, and energy levels are fading, recognize that everyone needs a break now and then. Acknowledge the work that everyone has dedicated and commend the team on each of their efforts. It is your job to keep spirits up, and that begins with an appreciation for the hard work.

Leadership complexity

It all hangs on leadership

It all hangs on leadership

An amazing analogy of effective leadership is demonstrated in the Good to Great(Collins et al). It’s key to note that leadership is not about warm and fuzzy. In fact, it’s about strength of character in being able to stand for something while being able to guard yourself against arrogance that could be created by that same conviction.

According to Collins et al, there are five attributes that typify a true Leader:
They are self-confident enough to set up their successors for success.
They are humble and modest.
They have “unwavering resolve.”
They display a “workmanlike diligence – more plow horse than show horse.”
They give credit to others for their success and take full responsibility for poor results.
They “attribute much of their success to ‘good luck’ rather than personal greatness.”

It is my wish that the dangerously risky task of leading humanity continues to draw on the strength that is heart leadership and all efforts will be expended to cultivate and nurture such through this medium.

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).

Leading through priorities

Priorities in leading

Priorities in leading

Leadership focuses on an envisioned tomorrow while enlisting others towards it through conviction and commitment. The art of leading others therefore also means if I forget the ultimate, I will be enslaved by the immediate. The old adage of focusing on important things in order to avoid being driven by urgent ones.
If we accept that the art of leading others is about them rather than us, therefore it follows that leadership also means we lose our right to be selfish. When we abandon our highest priority, we lose our way and people suffer. As such those of us that are entrusted with the custody of the leadership office need to always:
• Consider our actions and take care to avoid contradiction with the vision we champion
• That we work smart to ensure results in key areas of business
• Spend funds wisely and in areas that bring the best return
• Always feel dissatisfied in our production and thereby constantly challenge ourselves to do better
When leaders and people fail to maintain proper priorities, disappointment always results. Remember the paretto principle which says 80% of all output come from 20% of input. With the right priorities, 20% of our efforts will get 80% of the desired results. But with the wrong priorities, 80% of our effort will get 20% of the desired results. Priorities in leading people is not about working harder, but smarter.

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.