Our South African Leadership Heritage

Many readers of the Star Workplace Leadership Platform column are leaders who want to rise to their full potential and improve their leadership capacity. This is not an easy mission under circumstances in our country that seem to be filled to the brim with daily challenges, contradictions and obstacles.

Environmental respect

The development of exceptional leaders requires attributes that the average person may not be able to demonstrate under the pressures of life. One of these attributes is a healthy self-image. A healthy self-image is based on a person’s concept of who and what he or she is. This image is powerfully influenced by our degree of respect and appreciation for the environment we live in. In other words, our self-belief is strongly influenced by our attitude towards our environment. If our attitude is dominated by a constant flow of negative perceptions towards the environment and country we live in, we may find it virtually impossible to build and sustain a healthy self-image and leadership confidence.

Possessing a healthy image of our environment does not mean that we should be blind to the mistakes, deceptions and corruptions that permeate our environment. But when our negative feelings dominate our attitude we may have a serious self image challenge.

Examples of top leaders

Many years of close contact with top leaders who are building a better South Africa bear evidence that very few of these strong leaders allow their attitudes to be muddied by outside negative influences. They may often be keenly aware of the challenges that face our society, but they are committed to maintain a positive attitude towards people and situations around them. From our experience these leaders have a deep rooted regard for the dignity and potential of others. They are patriotic without necessarily agreeing on many issues.

The basic truth is that we have the power to choose how we see the society we live in. We see around us what we want to see. We choose to pursue the positive or the negative. We choose our own greater realities.

A closer look at the South African environment for building leaders

We believe that South Africa ought to be world leaders in leadership. This is not an idle statement. At Leadership Platform we have had many years of close personal exposure to hundreds of top leaders. South Africa has a unique and powerful leadership heritage. The real question is whether we as South Africans actually believe this consciously.

We believe at least two main factors provide us with this heritage: The marrying of so-called first and third-worlds, which provides a perfect breeding ground for great leaders, and the miracle of a dynamic socio-political and economic transition that began more than a decade ago despite almost impossible resistance, traditions and opposition.

Our situation requires a unique solution

The bulk of modern management training is based on first-world standards and practices. This policy is simply not good enough for our environment. A foreign plant emanating from a mild European climate will not flourish in the Kalahari, so also are the standard management training systems not optimal for South African needs. The same will be relevant to leaders from countries with similar needs and challenges as South Africa. Fortunately, many practices developed locally have improved our leadership capacity considerably.

The situation in South Africa differs significantly from most places in the world. We are a country involved in passionate changes that impact on every facet of life. We expect our leaders to achieve in accordance with first-world expectations as well as cope with third-world challenges in the midst of vast social changes. To paraphrase the song: ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere’!

South African transition dynamics

The fact that South African leaders engineered a peaceful transition in spite of massive obstacles is unique in modern history. Their solutions required both willingness as well as effective leadership processes. The one without the other would probably have failed as has been proven in many situations in history and in the world today. It is indeed the South African experience that has and is inspiring other leaders across the world to strive towards the same destiny.

Much credit is owing to leaders and organisations for the progress of the South African political, social and even economic transition process. One of the major aims of leadership development interventions such as provided by Leadership Platform is to pass on universal movement processes that leaders have used, and are still using to miraculously integrate aspirations of people at the opposite ends of the scale. These principles are 100% applicable to all kinds of organisations ranging from the family to vast business operations.

To quote Adriaan Groenewald: ‘Leaders are in the business of movement’.

Our attitude towards our South African heritage

It is a source of keen disappointment to come across talented South Africans with a negative attitude towards their country. They seem determined to focus on the negative and refuse to see the good, the valued and the promising in others around them. This is a kind of thinking that enslaves, corrupts, and ignores the good and the positive. Ultimately there is a close connection between on the one hand what we see in our country and in others around us, and on the other hand our personal self-image and self-belief. We should not be wary of treasuring in our hearts and minds our love and respect for the exceptional heritage of positive movement in our country. We should not be embarrassed at being patriots and at the same time be fearless in combating the many illnesses our society faces on a day to day basis.

It is when we confuse the positive and the negative that we become weak leaders without passion or confidence to achieve the impossible.


Let us by all means be aware of the challenges and mistakes and corruptions in our community. But it is the ultimate in stupidity to allow our own attitude towards life to be corrupted as a result of our resentment towards the weaknesses we see in others.

This article appeared in the:

Business Report




For more on what we do to empower individual leaders, teams and organisations – read here

Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Louis on louis@leadershipplatform.com for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Louis has been fanatically endeavoring to uncover universal leadership principles and models for longer than most of us have been alive. He is an author, leadership expert, father, grandfather, and the Co-Founder of Leadership Platform.

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022
Email: info@leadershipplatform.com

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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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