Authentic Leadership

KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED By Ntate Bonang Mohale AT THE BMF ANNUAL CONFERENCE.

 

Bo-mme le bo-ntate, madume. Ha keqaleka ho kopatlhompho ho Ra-Basotho, MorenaMohato, Letsie waboraro – sethoholosaPeete le Makhabane – setloholwanasaMokhachaneLepoqo, sa ha RakaliLebeola – yenayabeotsengRamonahengditedu– a di re shwe, shwekalehare!.

 

My president, Tata Jimmy Manyi; Deputy president, Mama TembakaziMnyeka; In-coming Deputy President,  Mme Koko N. Khumalo; the BMF Board, BMF Elders; our Corporate Members & Sponsors; Members; Dignitaries; Members of the Media, here present; Ladies & Gentlemen, brothers & sisters, good evening. It is a privilege to be with you this evening, in this country, this season, when so many of us dare to hope that joy and peace will prevail.

It is important that we are gathered here tonight, at a time that the world is converging and disintegrating at the same time; at a time of great difficulty in finding returns in the face of uncertain times – what with ongoing sovereign-debt crisis; the stresses in the Eurozone & American Presidential elections.

A time that global trade, once a matter of ports, trucks and container ships, is increasingly a question of patents, trademarks and copyright – where countries earn almost as much in royalty and license fee payments from abroad as from their farm exports.

 

At a time that Africa finds itself at an important juncture in its development trajectory. The last decade has done much to reverse the Afro-pessimism that had long dominated perceptions of Africa’s economic, social and political potential – where growing business confidence is being driven by sustained growth, high demand for commodities and an emerging middle class.

Yet while Africa’s status as a viable investment destination is increasing, capital flows remain low compared to other emerging and frontier economies, while the continent accounts for just 2% of global trade and less than 5% of FDI.

 

Here at home, we are also not immune to our own challenges of the self perpetuating vicious cycle of abject poverty, unemployment and inequality. At a time that, as a people with great natural endowments; we are still struggling to create a sustainable platform for democratic politics.

At a time that we are still talking about economic redistribution and redress.  At a time that we can genuinely look back and proclaim that the task of transformation broadly and of Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment in particular, is still unfinished and yet we seem to be rapidly losing the moral high ground in our new scramble for access to resources,  precipitating a widely held, albeit an erroneous perception that equates black business success, B-BBEE, and indeed, our Government with ‘tender-preneurship’ and therefore corruption.

 

Where, as a country, we spend more on education, healthcare, etc. and yet our outcomes in terms of literacy and numeracy, mortality and morbidity, etc. are worse than some of our neighbours’. At a time that all of us have to continue to ponder the question, how do we continue to fund our future growth in an environment of pitifully low personal savings?

Where the paradox of ‘South Africans being involved in landing the Explorer in Mars and yet are unable to deliver books to some schools in Limpopo’ is not lost – and the right question to ask, is why in 2012 are we still delivering books and not iPads to every, single solitary learner, with the full year’s curriculum already pre-loaded?

 

At a time that we have lost our position as the world’s #1 – now ranked 4th – gold producing nation and yet, at the very same time we have this mining contagion that started in Impala Platinum, then Lonmin and now at our gold mines, etc. – this contagion that threatens to fundamentally re-define our labour relations in this country – driven not by the proletariat but by labour, outside the existing legislative framework and by definition, probably starting a chain of events that might lead to unprecedented political re-alignment – begging the question, what is the destiny of this country and how do I sit in it?. You see, this thing called strategy is simply how to compete. And we understand that we compete at a country, business and individual level. It must become routine for us, as a people with great natural endowments to deliver our big projects on time, in full and on budget.

 

It therefore, behooves us, to always endeavour to put our best foot forward in the development, attraction, retention and deployment of our talent. Because it is manifestly in our interest to describe, define and shape our own destiny.

 

It is abundantly clear that our challenges have less to do with money than it has to do with our ability to manage, especially scarce resources. South Africa will rise or fall on our ability to manage – plan, lead, coordinate and organise. This is the role that lends itself very well to the objective of the BMF, as a business organisation “standing for the development and empowerment of managerial leadership, primarily amongst black people within organizations, and the creation of managerial structures and processes, which reflect the demographics and values of the wider society” – apolitical and non-partisan but however not neutral on matters of transformation.

 

This is the role that we must not only be passionate about, but absolutely obsessed with, because whilst management is about getting things done through other people, leadership is about the obsession with the development of others. The programmes that defined our contribution are many and varied, among others, the BMF/Ernst & Young Benchmarking Affirmative Action; Director Development Programmes through Carl DuisbergGesellenschaft on behalf of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany; UNISA; Harvard; Stanford; Duke; etc.

 

It was during the time that Ntate Lot Ndlovu was the MD of the BMF that we embarked on the wholesale training of “Affirmative Action Brokers” to help corporate South Africa with broader transformation and had 18 fulltime employees like Mme. DelisiweDludlu heading up our Management & Executive Leadership Development (MELD); Ntate Mpho Makwana headed up Organisational Development (OD); Ntate Abe Thebjane headed up our Student Chapters, Mme Linda Primos headed up our Professional Placement Division.

 

It is in this role that we developed the ‘Blueprint to Affirmative Action’ and its ‘Basotho Hat’ formula, which informed, in no small measure, the current Employment Equity Act. It was no accident, therefore that the then Minister of Labour’s Tito Mboweni’s, DoL’s first 2 Directors, Bo-Ntate Mpho Makwana and Loyiso Mbabane came from the BMF. It was former President Rolihlahla N. Mandela who asked the BMF to be the secretariat of Black Business charged with the responsibility of business unity. Some of you, here present, will remember the “Mopani Memorandum of Understanding’’ as the logical outcome of that meeting with then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki.

 

It was no wonder then that the first 2 CEOs of BUSA were both ex-BMF Managing Directors, with Ntate Patrice Motsepe elected the President of both BUSA and CHAMSA. The current B-BBEE Act, as amended, owes its roots to that 2007 Annual Conference at Spier Wine Estate, Cape Town that resolved to create the Black Economic Empowerment Commission with Bo-Ntate Cyril Ramaphosa and Gavin Pietersen. Not long thereafter, BMF Investments was created to address the long term sustainability of the organization.

I know that I am speaking on behalf of multitudes when I publicly declare that we are eternally grateful to the BMF for our very first Board appointment as Non Executive Directors before we had individually attained this singular honour back at our ‘8 – 5 jobs’ – where our employers could see and feel the contribution we were making towards our respective company performances.

 

It was in the BMF that we profoundly understood that as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, one is there to lead the Board whilst the CEO’s role is to lead the enterprise; that our fiduciary responsibility is to act in the best interest of the entity AND not in the interest of the shareholder nor the employees; that we cannot intelligently talk about being deployed to the Bombela Consortium for instance, to go and ‘look after’ BMFI’s investment but that it is in the execution of our duties in ‘looking after’ the totality of Bombela Consortium that, by definition, we are best looking after the BMFI’s interest; for the role definition and crystal clarity of the Shareholder, Board and Executives; for the newer notion of holding Directors personally responsible in the latest amendments of King III, Competition Commission Act & Companies Act, bringing into sharper focus the criticality of liquidity and solvency; Capital Adequacy Requirements, IFRS, Sorbanes Oxley, etc.

In Financial Services; the criticality of audit opinion & Emphasis of Matter in the Audit Committee as a sub-committee of the Board; the attendant business rescue process, etc.As part of broader stewardship and probity of the Board; the significance of the Sustainability Reports with their 3Ps of People, Planet & Profits; and so on and so forth, long before we were finally accountable for the continuance and success of the enterprise! That in the final analysis, effective companies are about the 3Ds of ‘Discuss, Decide & Do’ vs endless debates in our preparations for leadership.

 

So in our relentless search for authentic leadership, let us accept that we need precise knowledge of ourselves and therefore, it will liberate us to go out of our way to recruit people that look different from us, don’t think like us, with the attendant cacophony of this complementarity rather than the euphony of similarity.

Although different, emphasizing those things that are more similar, whilst searching for the most unique and essential in them – surrendering nothing of these differences and thereby conserving their dignity – because we are the vectors of energy that must be transmitted.

 

We are the decipher of signs – signs of the periphery not just the centre – that it is only unsettled people that never recruit unsettling people – that authenticity begins where regulations stop, never surrenders to fear or paranoia  and that legitimacy is conferred and never usurped – that there are lots of our members, still continuing to do necessary work for the cause. However, because ‘we have left undone those things that we ought to have done and done those  things  that we ought not to have done’ – like the mere arithmetic additions of presences and forgot about the creation of something beyond, the pursuit of greater good, yearning for higher purpose – they have now lost their taste of the BMF – which meant something at the moment of creation in April 1976 and will mean something different with the passage of time – so we need to go and find these lost members and look beyond the anecdotes of their identity to the essence of their role – where email is information and not communication because information takes no time at all but communication takes time – because “when you give money, you give a lot; when you give time, you give much and when you give of yourself, you give everything”!

 

Authentic leadership is about talking straight, extending trust, starting first with the ‘Who’ then the ‘What’. It is about growth, collaboration and performance. It’s about the acceptance that we are all motivated by among others, affiliation, achievement and power – for self but most importantly, for greater good. Leadership does not just happen, it is about a heightened level of curiosity, being very conscious, purposeful, thoughtful, insightful and reflective with an astonishing sense of inquiry. Because “the best among us, are those who lead with the heart of a servant”. Because the “essence of leadership” is that an authentic ‘leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. S/he does not set out to be a leader but becomes one by the quality of her/his actions and the integrity of her/his intent. In the end, authentic leaders are much like eagles.

 

They don’t flock, you find them one at a time’. We have learned that “the foundation of excellence” is that our achievements are shaped by the terrain of our lives and the strength of the foundations we set. In building the life we’ve imagined, we must be true to our beliefs, dare to be ethical and strive to be honourable. For integrity is the highest ground to which we can aspire. Immortality lies not in the things you leave behind but in the people your life has touched.

So a personal apology to the BMF Elders – Eric Mafuna; Martin Sebesho; Don Ncube; George Negota; Don Mkhwanazi; Prof. Wiseman Nkuhlu; Lot Ndlovu; Bheki Sibiya and those lost members for almost losing our way somewhat.

A word of gratitude to all the 9 Provinces for your faith in me, Mme Koko N. Khumalo and the new Board.  Ntate Jimmy Manyi, MmeTembakaziMnyaka and the entire BMF Board for your amazing hard work to bring us to where we are and the firm foundation from which we can now bring a step change. Your bold and visionary leadership will go down in the annals of our history.

By His grace, love and mercy, I thank you.



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