Leadership begins with each one of us
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