A recent WhatsApp conversation with a top politician had me thinking even deeper about the state of leadership in politics and perhaps broader society. This is especially relevant with national elections around the corner.
What is our benchmark for exemplary leadership? What is the standard that we as a society are willing to accept from our leaders?
SABPP (South African Board for People Practices) recently embarked on a huge project: Through broad based consultation they defined a South African Leadership Standard.
The leadership standard is summarized in five points or attributes:
1. Instilling a vision
2. Delivering results which create vision
3. Living the values
4. Influencing people
5. Reflecting for improvement
But my questions to you Mr/Ms Politician – especially Pres Cyril Ramaphosa, Mmusi Maimane and Julius Malema, or any other influential leader – go beyond this important standard or any others that may exist out there: Can you as a leader tick all five boxes above and still not be / feel good enough; not be or feel like the right person for the challenge at hand; still struggle to bring about much needed exponential change?
If you do in general tick all the boxes, what more do you need? Should you need more? The question is contextual; there is no one size fits all; there is no easy answer here.
Allow me to ask a few questions you as a leader might want to reflect on, because number five above states you need to “Reflect for improvement.”
• How big is the job at hand? I think the size of the job or your perception of it determines what else you may need.
• What drives you deep inside – your honest and sincere motives? Is it an unyielding feeling of destiny or a desire to be like someone else in history? If you are in a position to make a difference but what drives you is to become another “Mandela” – no matter how noble it might sound – then you aren’t authentic enough, certainly not for a large and highly visible job like running a country.
• Do you feel absolutely alone on this mission and willing to experience this loneliness if that’s required to get the job done?
• Is this emphatically about the cause or about you wanting to make history?
• Are you most deeply connected to your authentic self, to your best self and driven by this persons authentic desires rather than the desires others or society have thrust upon you?
• Are you able to honestly not care what others think about you, yet you care deeply about others, their needs and the cause? Asked another way, does what you feel, think and believe about you matter more than what others feel, think and believe about you?
• Are you willing to fail over and over until success emerges, knowing it’s part of the journey, but that your time may expire before success arrives in all its glory? In other words, are you willing to give it your all in an attempt to leapfrog the current situation and perhaps in the process set someone else up for the glory – not that you have to, but are you willing to?
• Do you know without a doubt that you will be incorruptible should the life and sometimes personality changing job of President of a country come your way / remain on your path?
• Do you actually realize how much the world and people have changed; that no leader can ever be prepared enough to lead the dynamics of a country, especially SA?
• Do you realize that because you cannot be adequately prepared, the most important skill you need is how to pick the right team to support you to succeed?
• Are you aware that if you are merely a polished politician it won’t work in today’s VUCCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, chaotic, ambiguous) world? You need to be an absolutely authentic polished politician and more.
In short, you not only need to live and become the above standard but do it as your absolute Best and Authentic Self, which by the way happens to be a never-ending quest. But how deeply and seriously are you on this journey of intuitively finding, identifying and striving towards the infinite potential inside you? I think this is the edge most influential leaders need; this is what can give them the immovable inner confidence; what will take the above standard to that much needed level required to move a country, South Africa forward. It is often the missing link that makes leaders stand out, even after ticking the boxes. Authentic Inner Confidence draws people towards you and it contributes hugely to that so called X-Factor.
South Africa is outstandingly beautiful. Does it – do we – deserve leaders that live the above standard at the required level of Authenticity? It is up to us and we will ultimately get what we deserve come 8 May.