Choose What Kind Of South African Leader You Will Be

A long discussion I had recently triggered once again the imperatives facing our country and how this impacts profoundly on each of us in the work place.

It is the year 2014. It will probably be another year of all kinds of experiences, both good and bad. It will certainly be a year of great pressures and obstacles in our path. It is a year of national elections that will determine once again the kind of political leadership we will have into the future. It is a year that many of us feel we cannot really do much about influencing our country as a whole. At the same time it will be a year that will determine the kind of leaders that you and I turn out to be. This we can do much about!

At the beginning of the year my wife and I returned from a month long visit to our family in Singapore. It was a great experience for us as we were treated like royalty by our family and had extensive exposure to one of the most attractive tourist venues in the world. On the long flight back from Singapore I sat next to Dr. Ncoza Dlova and her husband who is also a medical doctor. They were returning to their home in Durban after a visit to Singapore. During the course of the flight we had an intense discussion on leadership in general, the nature of the social climate in Singapore and the nature of our own South African challenges forward.

As a leadership consultant, my interest in Dr. Ncoza Dlova was as a leader in her own world. She is a Principal Specialist/Lecturer in Dermatology and runs a medical clinic. She exemplifies the attributes of what we call a SHARP leader – Sharing, Respecting and Performing. The following attributes surfaced in our discussion which strongly underlined my impression that she was the kind of leader that we need in our unique post-Mandela era:

1.  The imperative of education

Dr Dlova and her husband are both highly qualified professionals and keep on upgrading their skill levels. Their only son was on the plane as well and he completed his matric recently with 8 distinctions. He also plans to be a doctor as his parents are. All of us do not have the ability and even opportunity necessarily to become highly trained medical professionals, but each of us can develop a passion for knowledge in our chosen fields and pay the price needed to achieve our objectives. The passion for learning, wisdom and skills are imperatives in our country, not just the relevant diplomas.

2.  An attitude of service rather than becoming just a fat cat

As a highly qualified medical specialist, Dr Dlova is well equipped to earn three times more than what she is earning at present. Yet she chooses rather to serve the public in an unselfish manner that touches the lives of thousands of people. In the process of doing this she is running up against all the walls that a servant of others experiences. She is committed to confront and solve these challenges as befitting a South African leader.

 3.  Embracing the South African realities

South Africa is unique in its own way. We need to face and embrace our own uniqueness. Far too much of our daily work place is filled with feelings of entitlement rather than honest efforts to do our best and embrace the realities around us. We cannot all be fat cats and we should realise that those who desire above all other values to be fat cats may pay a very high price that is not all that easy to pay off. Dr Ncoza Dlova speaks with passion on her progress in mobilising a fully representative team around her and how this has boosted her respect for the talents of each of her ethnic partners. How are you the reader progressing in your ability to embrace the differences and realities in our country? Or do you also succumb to the social habit of mumbling resentments?

 4.  The imperative of partnering

Our society needs to embrace the principle of partnering so that we can create a multitude of win-win situations. Dr Dlova is faced with the common lack of funds in South Africa for worthwhile social investment projects such as the running of the clinic she presides over in Durban. She has developed a commitment to appeal to sponsors to help them and is obtaining some success with this project.

In years of experience with top leaders in South Africa I am convinced that most of them are concerned leaders and desire to help others but they require a honest win-win attitude from those who seek their assistance rather than a confrontational attitude of entitlement.

The imperative of partnering covers a multitude of activities that inspire unity and optimum respect for the dignity and potential of others. It also pre-supposes humility in knowing that we do not know it all and are able to sit at the feet of others to learn. I was struck by the willingness of Dr Dlova to learn from others to improve her career as a leader rather than just a medical expert.

5.  The imperative of a positive and seamless attitude

I found with Dr. Dlova a strong commitment to a positive attitude and also the belief that facing our feelings of impossibilities can trigger amazing results in life.

As progressing leaders, this can be our greatest year yet! We may have many justifiable reasons to feel despondent about our country, yet we also have great reasons to be grateful for our levels of freedom to choose that an authoritarian country such as Singapore does not have. We can learn so much from their significant economic achievements. But we should not be ready to give up on our great experiment of freedom. Along with many others I believe that ultimately we have chosen the best route as opposed to the totalitarian path. Singapore does not have a free press and on the surface their society seems orderly with a minimum of contention. But they are paying a price in terms of individual freedom.  For us the alternative of having to be told everything we must do is not an attractive path to take.

This is why mature and seamless value based leadership is our greatest priority. We choose what kind of leaders we will be in 2014.

This article was featured in the

The Workplace




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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