I sit in the early hours of the morning pondering about the M-Net/Gareth Cliff debacle. What strikes me is that many climb on board and try to cash in on the situation with various agendas.
I think of my tweet last night: “#Leadership – in difficult times of distrust, doubt…the leader in us finds something to HOPE for and act upon!”
We seem to have so much distrust, doubt or despair in South Africa that one could be excused for feeling very concerned about the future. But is this the reality?
When these crucial storms rage – often exaggerated by social media – there have to be individuals, leaders, organisations that manage to keep calm and continue moving forward because they rise above the stormy clouds to see the clarity and open skies. Those that remain under the clouds see no future, have no hope. Those that have the means, courage and faith to go above can come back down and confidently lead because they saw something else – the stormy skies are but a small moment even though the challenges are real. But with greater context comes greater leadership and solutions.
What we need is the kind of leadership that raises a “Title of Hope” so powerfully that our societies psyche aligns with the reality out there – which is actually one of every day synergy, tolerance and unity, rather than the illusion that social media hype creates of excessive racism, discord, distrust, hate and doubt.
Nelson Mandela did exactly that and during a time when all seemed hopeless and the majority probably wanted to go to war because of this perception, he went above the stormy clouds and saw a different world. He came back down and continued leading us along the path of reconciliation, forgiveness, peace and national unity. An example is of course when he called Francois Pienaar to his office and inspired him and the team to raise such a “Title of Hope”. He saw an opportunity to trigger momentum towards national unity.
Why didn’t the M-Net CEO call a private meeting (even in secret) with Gareth Cliff and talk with him face to face, heart to heart; look him in the eye and openly, sincerely discuss what can be done in this situation to raise a “Title of Hope” for us all?
Now we are caught up in what may become a protracted legal battle that never ever results in the proverbial win-win situation. Great leadership starts with going to the source first and attempting to act in a way that is out of the ordinary, that surprises, that brings out the best in all parties rather than the best in and for attorneys and perhaps news agencies.
But of course Nelson Mandela didn’t lead in a time when social media easily manipulated our national mood or psyche. To be a “Nelson Mandela” in 2016 has to be exponentially more difficult and a huge ask. However, the advent of social media and a highly connected and integrated society does not detract from universal leadership principles and truth. It simply takes more confidence in these principles for a leader to follow them.
I don’t think it is too late for Yolisa Phahle to step up and raise this current situation to an unexpected level that shows we can and must engage directly, go to the source, not judge from a distance – always aim towards unity; ensuring a challenging situation does not go to waste but instead elevates us to a better and higher place than we were at before.
Instead of despair I choose to hope…
Adriaan Groenewald is a leadership expert and commentator. Follow him on Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP or @LeadershipPform. Furthermore you can contact him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org.