Lead­er­ship be­gins with each one of us

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

THE re­cent cel­e­bra­tion of Africa Day on May 25 high­lighted some of the many chal­lenges we face as South Africans when it comes to the state of our na­tion and what it means to be African.

When we cel­e­brate Africa, we cel­e­brate the rich and di­verse his­tory of our con­ti­nent and its peo­ple, and we cel­e­brate African unity. At the same time, we must re­main mind­ful of the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and so­cial chal­lenges that the con­ti­nent faces. Africa Day al­lows us an op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on this, and on the in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive roles we can play in the up­lift­ment of this re­gion.

In work­ing to­gether to pur­sue com­mon ob­jec­tives and build a bet­ter Africa we, as South Africans, need to take a long hard look at our­selves. Peo­ple’s Poet Mzwakhe Mbuli said it bet­ter than any­one: that Africa gets un­der your skin, into your blood, and ul­ti­mately into your heart.

As South Africans, we claim to love our coun­try – we cel­e­brate our sense of com­mu­nity, we cher­ish our di­ver­sity, we ac­knowl­edge how open, friendly and shar­ing South Africans are known to be. And of course, we love our weather. Yet, when we step out of our com­fort zone, we be­come deeply ter­ri­to­rial and we seem to eas­ily for­get our so­cial con­science.

All of us have a re­spon­si­bil­ity and a role to play, within our coun­try, to turn the tide of neg­a­tiv­ity that is sweep­ing across this land and af­fect­ing ev­ery com­mu­nity.

Noth­ing has high­lighted how frac­tured we are as a na­tion more pro­foundly than the alarm­ing num­ber of grisly, vi­o­lent crimes that have been com­mit­ted against women and chil­dren in the past few weeks.

Ex­treme pes­simism re­sults in lit­tle that is con­struc­tive. We need to re­gain a sense of bal­ance about the good and bad in our coun­try. While we face many se­ri­ous chal­lenges, we must also re­mem­ber that the world gen­er­ally is un­cer­tain and of­ten a dan­ger­ous place right now.

Moody’s down­graded China for the first time in 28 years; Amer­ica’s global po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions are tak­ing ma­jor strain un­der Don­ald Trump; both the UK and Europe are brac­ing them­selves for the im­pact of Brexit; civil war con­tin­ues in Syria, and in sev­eral African coun­tries too; the Is­lamic State has called for war against the West. These global events sig­nal that the world is in a state of al­most un­prece­dented dis­rup­tion.

Against this back­drop, we should con­sider the words of Ma­hatma Gandhi: “Your be­liefs be­come your thoughts, your thoughts be­come your words, your words be­come your ac­tions, your ac­tions be­come your habits, your habits be­come your val­ues, your val­ues be­come your des­tiny.”

To change our cur­rent des­tiny, we need a re­turn to val­ues, morals and ethics. As a na­tion, we have to start cul­ti­vat­ing good habits. We need to stop tak­ing short­cuts. South Africans are undis­ci­plined, we break the rules, we skip stop streets, we jay walk, we pay bribes, we steal from oth­ers, we com­mit crime, we mur­der.

It’s time to re­set our moral com­pass. As par­ents, as aunts and un­cles, as broth­ers and sis­ters, we need to in­stil a sense of re­spect for one another, and for the rules of so­ci­ety at large. Whether at home, at school, at univer­sity or in the work­place, ev­ery sin­gle in­di­vid­ual has a role to play as a moral leader. Don’t put lead­er­ship “out there” or make it some­body else’s job.

Lead­er­ship gives you the power to in­flu­ence and to change some­one or some­thing. By start­ing sim­ply and tak­ing ac­tion in our own lives, we can make the changes that we want to see in our homes, our com­mu­ni­ties, our cities, our coun­try, our con­ti­nent.

Our na­tion must re­set its moral com­pass

Ja­nine Hills is chief ex­ec­u­tive of Vuma Rep­u­ta­tion Man­age­ment and a mem­ber of the board of trustees of Brand South Africa

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