Are leaders made by their followers? - Preparing you for the future of work.

Are leaders made by their followers?

The key to a successful leadership style lies in the ability to put one's skill at the service of others, believes business leader.

What the world needs today more than ever is leaders who are not only intellectually smart but emotionally intelligent, insightful, compassionate, values based and vision beckoned guided by an ethic of service.

Leaders who are attuned to their followers can use this as a springboard to provide leadership into an uncertain future. The leader cannot stand alone, he or she must stand with their followers, interpret for them, strive to fulfill their hopes and be their champion in the struggles of life. Leadership is achieved, not given.

The recession of 2008/2009, from which we are trying to emerge, was caused by the self-serving, selfish kind of thinking that focuses on the me, myself and I. True leaders think beyond themselves. Particularly in the 21st century, we need leaders who are astute, knowledgeable and insightful; we need leaders who are able to deal with complexity.

One should lead by example. We can aplly the idea of inclusivity and Afrocentricity as well as the principles of Ubuntu in practice: "I am because you are, you are because we are," which is diametrically opposed to a more Western-style thinking centred on Descartes's "I think therefore I am". A person's life has meaning not in terms of his thoughts but because of his social ties, common values and empathy with others.

People will produce optimally if they are in an environment that is conducive to them producing optimally. My job is not about managing risk but ensuring that the work environment is conducive for them to flourish.

Leaders who lead us successfully are co-ordinators rather than controllers, their moral stature arises from dedication to our cause, we admire them not because they are powerful, they are powerful because we made them so and they are admirable when they provide clear vision and positive direction.

Leaders are not just born to the role but are born and then made, sometimes by their own actions, sometimes they are shaped by events. Former President Thabo Mbeki was exceptionally brilliant but not willing to take advice and as a result, lost touch with his followers. On the other hand, former President Nelson Mandela focused on the common good throughout his political career, putting his leadership skills at the service of his followers, the key to his success as a leader.

I am not against competition and innovation, or pursuing ambition, but that it could not be at the cost of followers. Leadership can only succeed over the long term by sharing the values and aspirations of followers and this means being able to distinguish between what is expedient and populist versus what is serviceable and honest. It takes insight, empathy and discipline to achieve resonance with followers. This is what Ubuntu promotes.

Dr Reuel Khoza is the chairman of the Nedbank group.


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