Thursday, 28 July 2016

Think long-term - really long-term

We're often told that we should plan ahead. This takes on new meaning when we put it into a really long-term perspective, like thinking about the kind of society we want to create for the next generation.

It's one thing to plan for one's own future, and even for our children's future, in terms of things like education, but it's a lot more difficult to plan how their lives will turn out. There are so many different social and environmental factors over which we ultimately have no control.

So how can we think ahead and prepare a future for the generations that will follow us, without being able to really plan for what will happen? The best we can do is to try and influence our immediate communities so that through them we can create the kind of society we want future generations to inherit. The most effective way to do this is through our own individual behaviour, so here are a few ideas.

Get involved in community organisations

It doesn't matter where your personal priorities lie, you should be able to find a community organisation that fits your needs or suits your interests. These organisations are in many ways the backbone of our communities because they play central roles in people's lives. By participating in them you will be able to make a very direct and meaningful contribution towards building a future society.

Two of the most obvious organisations that you might want to get involved with are a church or a sports club. We South Africans love our sport, so finding a sports club near to where you live shouldn't be a problem. If you're young and fit enough you'll obviously get the most benefit from actually playing the sport. If your playing days are over you could coach the kids. Otherwise, you can help in another capacity – most sports clubs have administrative committees to run them.

Similarly, religion plays a central role in the lives of many people in our country, so finding a church to join will be easy. There are plenty of service roles that you can fulfil in a church, from singing in the choir to youth counselling.

Become politically active

There are many ways to become involved at a political level in our society, and only a few of them involve being a politician. You can get involved in fundraising for your preferred party, or join its local branch. If your focus lies on a specific issue, like LGBT rights, for instance, you can join an organisation that represents this focus. Being politically active simply means doing something concrete for something that you believe in.

Help to educate others

Not everyone is called to be a teacher, but each one of us can pass on our knowledge, skills or experience to others in our own way. So whether at work or in our community organisations or interest groups, we should try to identify younger or newer members who we can help along by passing on what we have learned and what we can do. Sometimes it might simply be a case of sharing some life wisdom with another person. The aim of it all is to help those who come after us to develop more quickly and more thoroughly.

What ideas do you have for thinking really long-term? Share it with us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Real leaders focus on personal development

Most of our studies and career development course focus on the specific knowledge and skills we need to do our work. There has always been a very strong emphasis on these so-called "hard skills", and with good reason - these skills are paramount if we're to do our jobs properly.

In recent years, however, there has been more of a recognition that we need all manner of other skills to work effectively, perform optimally and get satisfaction from our jobs. These are the "soft skills", like interpersonal relationships, for example - how well we work with our colleagues.

As a result of this recognition, it has now become virtually par for the course that the development of soft skills is an important part of grooming future leaders. They need to have the skills to deal effectively deal with the people who they manage. Not only this, but they need to pass on these skills to others so that everyone in the organisation can benefit.

The importance of balance

Whereas previous incarnations of our societies didn't pay much attention to the so-called "touchy-feely" side of work, we have now realised that we also need to consider these aspects when striving for a healthy work-life balance.

If we don't create a proper balance in our work lives we run the risk of becoming less and less productive. That's why organisations place such an emphasis on the softer skills.

It's the responsibility of leaders to teach those they work with about personal development and how to deal with life issues and the work-life balance.

Career growth requires personal growth

Have you ever noticed that most of the people who seem to cope with work without breaking a sweat, who never seem stressed and who always seem to have enough time to get everything done are the most experienced people in the organisation?

That's because they have learned - often through trial and error - how to work efficiently. They have developed personal characteristics that allow them to perform well under pressure, without suffering in their personal capacity.

This means that in order to do our work as effectively as possible - both for the company that employs us and in order to be healthy and happy - we need to develop specific skills. Among them are perseverance, calmness, patience and empathy.

In short, to grow in our careers we need to grow as people too.

What organisations and leaders can do

Good leaders are able to teach these life skills to the people, both by mentoring them and by being observable examples. Companies that are seeking sustainability and growth need to put in place formal structures that allow leaders to accomplish this.

The next generation of leaders needs to be identified early so that they can be put onto a company programme of personal development and growth, facilitated by the company leaders. Leaders themselves should be trained to be constantly cognisant of the importance of this personal development mentorship so that they are able to take advantage of opportunities to pass personal skills on at any point in their interactions with the people they manage.

We have seen time and again that the most worthwhile investment an organisation can make is in the development of its people - to the extent that it becomes a no-brainer. It is the leadership that needs to drive this.

What do you think leaders should teach? Share it with us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Real leaders create other leaders

An old Japanese proverb holds that the mark of a master is how many other masters he creates.

There are lots of cliches about leadership. We hear that the best leaders lead from the front. That they lead by example. However, perhaps the most important role that leaders can play when it comes to creating sustainability, consistency, and growth in society is captured in Tom Peters' now famous quote: "Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders".

The importance of continuity

Society needs continuity. Its policies, projects, initiatives, businesses - even its norms and values - need to be carried through from one generation to the next. If this doesn't happen, there is too much volatility for society to bear. We won't be able to sustain anything. We won't be able to think and act in a long-term fashion. We won't be able apply planning. We'll effectively be winging it from one generation to the next.

This is why it's so important for each generation of leaders to identify and nurture the next wave of leadership. The next group of people who will lead their companies, teams, schools, universities, communities and the country, building on what has been created before. The baton needs to be passed if we are to avoid stagnation, and grow to our full potential as communities, economies, and countries.

How do we create leaders?

There are many ways in which we can inculcate leadership - advanced education, training programmes, skills development initiatives and the like. However, there remains an age-old method that is still highly effective. In fact, it could be argued that this is the most important factor in creating true leaders. This is mentorship.

Mentorship is how we have traditionally created leaders in our societies, although we used to call it an apprenticeship. From ancient tribal customs to the most modern leadership development approaches; this has been the common thread.
Leaders will take selected people under their wings, so to speak, mentoring and grooming them to take over leadership positions one day. Knowledge and wisdom are passed on, and skills and expertise are taught. The apprentice is shown how to think like a leader. How to develop a leadership psychology. This can really only happen through interpersonal contact - working closely together in a mentor-mentee scenario.

Future leaders also need to gain as much hands-on experience as they can. It's a big step to take from only having to be responsible for your own work to being responsible for the output of others. This means giving your future leaders as many opportunities as possible to practise and develop their leadership skills.

Most important is the leadership mindset. Leadership requires a very different mental attitude. Future leaders need to learn that it is necessary to accept accountability - even if they are not directly responsible for something. They need to develop an attitude of "the buck stops here".

This is quite possibly the most important aspect of leadership that we need in this country at the moment. It's the attitude we need in our leaders if we are to face our challenges successfully - nothing ever gets done properly if everyone passes the buck. A strong leader doesn't do this.

Do you think we do enough to develop leadership? Share it with us here, or tweet us on