In February this year I wrote this article about Herman Mashaba. It is a good read and may just be coming true.
Businessman turned politician – or as Herman Mashaba himself stated on our Cliffcentral Leadership Transformation Platform – “I am a civil servant”.
He is a man on a mission, exuding energy and confidence, and his political enemies would do well not to underestimate him as it would be foolish or even arrogant. He is a breath of fresh air, an individual that brings something different into the game of politics.
Mashaba is campaigning with vigour for the Johannesburg Mayoral chair, under the Democratic Alliance banner; he wants to win and believes he will. A deep sense of purpose drives him to get out of bed every day, not the desire for a job or income.
Though Mashaba enters this new world as an experienced and astute businessman, there is also a trace of political ignorance, which I find rather refreshing. So often we bravely take on challenges in life because we don’t know what we don’t know. Thank goodness for this, for
if we knew too much upfront we would shy away from many a daring venture.
Mashaba’s first order of business should he become the new Mayor will be to change the attitude of thousands of civil servants. He wants them to smile when they engage the public; to realize that they are there to serve the people. Those who can’t do this simple thing will have to part ways. A noble and much needed emphasis no doubt, but perhaps ignorant to believe he can achieve it overnight. This is an entrenched culture that may need shifting, which seasoned leaders in large corporates take years to do. Even such an argument does not deter Mashaba from believing he can make it happen in a short space of time.
He may also underestimate just how hamstrung he will be once in office, especially if he or the DA does not win outright majority and therefore need to function in coalition just to effect change. Veteran opposition politicians could openly and even covertly resist his noble efforts and make his life very difficult. This unfortunately is far too often the selfish nature of politics where it is not necessarily about doing the right thing but about outsmarting ones opponents, manoeuvring in order to regain power; because
the misguided belief is that one can and should only make a difference when in power – a false and almost wicked notion!
As a politician or civil servant ones first priority should always be to do what’s right for the city or country and its people, irrespective of political loyalties.
Let us remember the hope we felt when a former SAB CEO energetically took on the task of transforming our police service and what a miserable disappointment that was – quite possibly not because he was incompetent but because he was competent. A mediocre, incompetent, weak system can reject the very thing it needs most – such as a great leader – because the masters of such a doleful system can come to like it for all the wrong reasons.
Despite these and other obstacles that might come Mashabas way, he may just bring to politics a few very important missing links – a tangible desire to bring about positive change; a drive towards real “customer” service; a culture of movement and successful delivery; a feeling of business professionality and profitability; simple business logic; and much more. He will go to war against corruption and also, according to him, e-tolls, which may win him a few more votes.
Setting aside all subjectivity, South Africa needs leaders like Mashaba – irrespective of party affiliations – to give it a try and succeed. We need something different, leaders that see politics and society through a different lens: “Knowing they are different, that every human being is different; being comfortable with difference; and making things different”.
We desperately need leaders who are optimistic, because they clearly see something better in the future, as if it already exists – and who make it happen.
Any leader, no matter the space in which they operate, must find the balance between holding on to what works, while staunchly believing that everything in the organisation is ‘up for renewal’ – a principle discussed by Adam Rabinowitz of Imagin8 on our Business Master Class. Mashaba will have his work cut out for him as he strives to bring about this balance.
I am of the opinion that more and more South Africans do not crave political parties but great leaders. Is Mashaba one…for politics, and will Johannesburg vote for him? Time will tell.
Listen to our conversation with Herman Mashaba – here
Adriaan Groenewald is a leadership expert and commentator. Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation. Follow him on Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP or @LeadershipPform.