Dealing With Differences

Parents accuse a principal of a primary school and its deputies of fraud and maladministration. However, after some form of enquiry charges are cleared. Parents – mostly coloured – reject the current principal, who happens to be black. So the question begs, is this yet another incident motivated by racism, or is it dissatisfaction with performance? Department of Education maintains the former while parents claim the latter and they want a local principal from their community.

This entire incident deteriorates to violent clashes between parents and SAPS. One can debate the underlying drivers of this crazy, unfortunate and protracted incident. Of concern to me – and it should be to all of us – is the example to the younger generation of how conflicting situations should be dealt with. In this instance it isn’t even a matter of example from a distance because parents of children, together with Department of Education have been real life, close to home examples. And we don’t even have to wait to see whether this example has rubbed off on the children. As far as I can tell, when an announcement was made to the children that their school will be closed, what did they do? Yes, they followed the example of their leaders – they vandalized the classroom.

Parents, school and education department leaders are being distracted from what the most important issue here is. Who the leader of a school is will always be an important factor,

but of more importance

is our example

of how we deal

with our differences.

There will always be differences, which mostly is a good thing in life. We cannot rid our society of it, but we can infuse a healthy culture of how we confront and process our differences. We can be an example of how to remain loyal to our countries leadership heritage. Didn’t Nelson Mandela and other leaders show us the way?

Sadly, in this particular real life situation we have failed the younger generation – every single so called adult that is involved in this spat! Parents, even if you “win” the battle and get the principal you want, you have lost! Department of Education, even if you “win” by outlasting the standoff, for whatever reason, you have lost! If we continue loosing these battles, South Africa will lose, because we are letting our children down with bad examples of how to deal with differences and how to lead effectively.

We are not being true to our countries leadership heritage, at the cost of our very own children’s futures.

But, I trust the current mediation approach will bring about a miraculous turnaround and example our children can learn from. If so, will someone please debrief the children, our main recipients. Explain to them what during this entire period were good examples and what was not. Let’s have the humility to apologise sincerely and plead with them to learn from our mistakes, and do better.

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




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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