At some point in my life I decided that I wanted to become a leader, my heart swelled with pride in the thought of what this could really mean one day in the future.
I looked in the mirror and practiced my speech when I one day would stand in a crowd of people who looked up to me and admired me for my accomplishments and most of all they would want me to impart my lessons, from my heart, the heart of leadership.
With this in mind, over the years as I grew, I kept editing this speech in my mind with things that I learnt along the way. I have been receiving an immense amount of practise and so you can imagine just how much I’ve re-written my speech in my head.
Today, I have decided to begin to share bits of what I have learnt along the way because you see, today for the first time it hit me, that leadership at its heart is really just looking back on all the people you’ve come across and being able to say that you have helped many of them reach inside themselves and bring out to the world their inner awesomeness. This is the place where infinite intelligence dwells for each and every one of us.
At least this was in my heart this morning when my dear friend resigned from his role under my leadership in the YP (Young Professionals) PEC (Provincial Executive Committee). It moved me to think that in everything that has happened during his tenure on the team I truly hoped that he felt he was a better person now than he was when he came in and that I had played some small role in him finding his inner awesomeness.
In the year that has passed as the deputy chairperson of the Black Management Forum’s Young Professionals of the province, I have listened in on talks by great men and women, all of them speaking to the heart of leadership.
As leaders we judge ourselves by our intentions and we always hope that in every decision we make we have the right people around us who will caution us when we are too rash and ground us when our ego takes over. There are many times when our character is questioned as in Joseph Badaracco’s book Questions of Character. Leadership it seems, is not really about just knowing the difference between right and wrong. No, it’s about the strength of one’s character and the ability to discern between more subtle matters such as what’s right for me personally and more right for the team. The topic of governance comes to mind.
Governance is a word derived from a Greek verb meaning “to steer” and it was used for the first time in a metaphorical sense by the Greek philosopher, Plato. The heart of leadership is in a sense, the ability to master one’s self or self-governance so to speak. Dr John Demartini, an expert public speaker on human behaviour, researcher, bestselling author and international educator states that self-governance is having great clarity of direction and strategy, being unwavering in action and being mentally and emotionally stable and centred upon the great and inspiring mission of service.
There have been many lessons that I have had the opportunity of sitting in on, with people I consider great men and women having dedicated their time to share these lessons and I feel it is only fitting that I in turn share with others what they have held in their hearts on their journey in leadership.
Dr R.J Khoza, joined us one morning for an induction breakfast and his lessons have been on leadership of the 21st century. In order for one to stand up and assume a position of leadership he stated, one has to ensure that they are of a manner that is beyond reproach, probity is the word that he used.
On advice to young leaders, Dr Khoza advised that as young people who are not only leaders of tomorrow but leaders of today too, we need to be au fait with dealing with complexity. The world is becoming more complex and in order to lead in that world, leadership needs to deal with complexity this in business comes in bottom of the pyramid strategies, environmental awareness and proper governance procedures. Among other issues he suggests that we;
• Understand how politics affects the economics of those whom you lead
• Behave ethically
• Be imbued with humanity.
For me, this meant show those you lead that you actually care about them, find out how they are. Look them in the eye and for people to really respect you; don’t interrupt them when they talk as this affects the quality of their thinking as well as their ability to contribute meaningfully. Lastly hear them out, consider their views and answer from a place of sincerity.
• Be a person of vision and be able to articulate your vision well
• Be attuned, understand yourself well
What stood out to me, is that if you find you are truly not yet ready to lead, follow actively and continue to build yourself as a leader. It is through doing things such as running projects, volunteering your time on committees, being accountable and getting coaching and or mentorship etc. that your skill as a leader is built.
The heart of leadership is one of “servantship”. It is Mr Bonang Mohale, the president of the BMF who always reminds us to lead with the heart of a servant. In my journey (and I still am on that journey if you are wondering), this is not throwing yourself into the service of others slavishly but it is about understanding that you cannot lead alone. There needs to be a constituency and as a result, humble yourself for the most part and be responsible. It stops being about you, well at least from an African leadership perspective. It’s about those who you represent.
On that point, this is not an excuse to be stuck in an information paralysis, where we see many leaders being stuck and as a result they do not make decisions while many suffer because they are unable to decide. Vision without execution is hallucination as my friend Ntuthuko Dlame always says.
Decide, and never leave a meeting without having reached a decision. Always choose to decide.
There will be decisions that you make as a leader that are unpopular, many leaders will tell you about those, to mitigate their frequency surround yourself with elders that you respect and who you can learn from and make them your advisory committee. Someone who mentored me, Mr Mafuna of the African Leadership Group will tell you that life and leadership in particular, is about managing the paradox. You need to balance carefully the ego and the position as the same people who praise you today, in one moment will want you out, look at Julius Caesar.
People need leadership, yet it’s harder to lead educated people as they will challenge you at every moment, but don’t undermine less educated people as they have wisdom. Leadership inspires people to act.
Mrs Cecilia Khuzwayo spent a morning with us and she spoke to matters young people striving to make their way up the corporate ladder should pay attention to.
• Hire the best, if you can’t, make sure that you can capacitate those you have. This frees you to grow.
• Understand your values and if you find yourself in a place that no longer is aligned with your highest values, consider leaving as it will no longer be conducive to your success.
• Consider how you will measure yourself at the end of your life, would you have made the impact that you would have wanted to make given what you are doing today?
• What is your purpose in life, that one thing that you want to be a monument to your life when you are gone?
• Make time for yourself, not at the hair salon (ladies), or the gym (gents). But make time to reflect on your life. Are you happy with what you are doing now?
Leadership is defined as many things, we can all agree too that the word leadership is a noun stemming from the verb “to lead” and that by definition, a verb is a doing word. Many people are fooled by their titles and believe they can lead by remote control or that by virtue of sitting in a particular seat, they are leading. I am yet to see this type of leadership being beneficial on anyone or even being effective.
As our term in office comes to an end, I have started to consciously collect lessons and quotes which will go into a book that I hope to write one day soon on my lessons learnt.
I have found that although in leadership one is surrounded by many, it is a lonely journey that is quite personal and depending on who you are and your context, it has many nuances.
I have learnt that in order to lead, I need to read a lot about many things and have a broad view of life yet when it comes to the crux of the matter, I need to consult my heart.
I have learnt that it’s not so much the books that I read that give me wisdom but rather what I think about what I have read and how that frames my understanding of the world.
I have found in my heart there are many desires, and many intentions, that I am judged by my actions although I evaluate myself on my intentions. So I’ve decided to rather be congruent and show my intentions through my actions.
I have found that leadership is that thing inside every man if he cares to wake up to the truth of who he really is and stop being what others tell him to become.
I have spent many a Friday night preparing for a speech for the next day, and have cancelled on many invites because I had a Young Professionals function to attend. At no point did I do this begrudgingly. This taught me commitment.
The heart of leadership is one that continues to change and grow as one comes into contact with varied people. Those people for me have taught me so many lessons and I am forever grateful for making their acquaintance and that they had made the time to teach me as I carry these lessons on forever.