To thine own self…

One of the key criteria for the Conscious Companies awards is “authenticity”. It is a very convoluted word. Following Donald Trump’s election as the President of the United States, social media giant Facebook was faced with an onslaught of criticism for allowing “fake news” to influence the elections. Since then, Facebook updated their usage policy, and recently they removed a group in the Philippines for “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour.” Even the IEC created an online platform to deal with “fake news” for our own national elections. Authenticity is a word that gets thrown around a lot, in the “leadership” and “consciousness” spaces. Is the “authentic leader” just a rare sighting, or is it a myth? Is there such a thing as being truly authentic, or are the moments of authenticity just padded with our pattern of fulfilling the expectations of our colleagues, communities and society?

It also seems as though artificial authenticity is on the rise again. Every company wants to appear green-friendly, caring, or responsible, but very few actually want to be green- friendly, caring, or responsible. As long as there are sufficient likes for our hashtags and CSI contributes to our BBBEE, then we will contribute as much as we have to. So why not fluff up a politician? After all, our perception is our reality.

If true authenticity is when your values and beliefs align with your behaviour, then the leaders and individuals with malevolent intent who act on their internal desires, are in fact more authentic than those that wear a mask of consciousness. Does it matter if an expression of kindness and belongingness to the community that an organisation exists in is genuinely philanthropic, or can we still add it to the win column?

I don’t have a lot of answers, just a lot of questions. Perhaps kindness can take on many forms. Whether it’s kindness that is plastered on Facebook or done without any expectation of recognition, it doesn’t matter. That “sponsored post” could spark the flame of the next visionary of our time. For many, the anonymity has helped to avoid any self-righteous traps, but maybe if we discovered what true authenticity means, then we will be able to celebrate companies and leaders who are conscious. We can wear many hats. We can know when to be silent, know when to bang on our drum, and know when to be somewhere in-between.

Becoming authentic can be a lifetime process. It can be a continuous commitment to learning about ourselves and how we see the world, so that it can be used to influence and inspire others by revealing little bits of truth and understanding. That is the type of commitment that shapes our businesses, colleagues, family, community, country and ultimately, our planet. The impact of our choice to strive for authenticity reaches further than just those that we see, like the butterfly effect. Since we are in the process of choosing the new leadership of the country, hopefully the potential leaders of our nation can muster up a semblance of authentic conscious leadership. If not, there are always the nominees, finalists and winners of the Conscious Companies Awards who can stand as a lighthouse. Either way, we’ll add it to the win column.

 

Photo credit: (Ayanda Maphosa, M&G)

Tipping point: Dear Mr President

It’s been two weeks since the country went to the polls and South Africa, in its meld of colours and cultures, resplendent in its diversity as it is in its disparity, gave you a vote of confidence in taking us to the promised new dawn. I watched with great interest your address where you said all the right things to a capacity crowd and you articulated what the citizenry wanted to hear. However, we the people had heard it all before from other leaders. The words are always a contest between sincere intention, unmoving decisions and paralytic promises.

Against the backdrop of a fragmented society that has lurched from crisis to crisis, the ethical destitution of a nation has taken its toll. The leadership excesses of extravagant, wasteful and self-indulgent lifestyles has further plunged us into a moral and ethical cauldron. This can only means that something has to be done urgently while there are starving children and the desperate jobless among us. There is something that you once said that was significant and created an iota of optimism. You called on people to “build a capable and ethical state” and added “we must intensify the fight against corruption within government and society.”

I pray that your words penetrate the indolent stupor of some of our greedy leaders who have been allowed to repeatedly erode our national psyche.

I understand the challenging road ahead for you and enormous responsibility you have to bear but it is critical, now more than ever before, that you deepen the conversations and dialogue that would revolve around conscious, ethical leadership before you choose the new leadership of the country. If we are to survive and grow, it is imperative for our leadership to address equitable and sustainable development, poverty, historical imbalances, values, ethics, inequality and decency. You are deeply aware of this; the question is how.

We have a great opportunity from the current morass we find ourselves in to breed a different quality of leadership. When leaders are found wanting, they have an opportunity to turn this hurdle into a life lesson of conscious leadership. As human beings, no one is perfect. We are all flawed in one way or another, which allows me to conclude that even the great leaders and masters who existed in all cultures were also flawed, despite their best intentions. Even though flawed, the most conscious among them discovered in the depths of their innermost being that transformation was an internal process. They dedicated their lives to service, displayed great human values such as unprecedented wisdom, clarity of thought, humility, truth, altruistic love, empathy and patience. What they learnt and how they behaved despite the challenges, circumstances and crises that confronted them can and may be emulated by all of us.

That Four Letter Word – Adam Craker

Adam Craker, the CEO of IQbusiness, talks about “that four-letter word LOVE” that is creeping into the corporate environment.

Conscious Companies Awards 2019 Applauds Finalists

The Conscious Companies Awards 2019 finalists announcement featured on cfo.co.za

Because Morpheus Said So

A new “school of leadership” was launched this week by none other than the ANC. The school aims to renew the leadership of the ANC by producing “ethically and intellectually grounded” members of the political party. At the same time, the ANC ethics committee has over 20 members with questions raised about them, the ANC secretary general was accused of vote buying, and former president Jacob Zuma is attempting to reposition his ‘nine wasted years.’ None of these ANC “leaders” have enrolled for the leadership school, yet. In fact, at the time of this article being published, no political party leaders from the DA or EFF have announced their enrolment into any leadership training to renew their ethical and intellectual groundedness either. 

In principle, equipping future leaders of our country with a political education is not a bad idea. On the other hand, ‘political education’ could be an oxymoron. The concept also begs the question, who exactly will be involved in the teaching. Could we see Jacob Zuma and Nathi Nhleko as a guest lecturers, perhaps giving a discourse on how to extinguish a fire using your pool water?

Not only do educators recite the approved syllabus and dispense knowledge, but they also share their own experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and ways of looking at the world with their students. This passive transmission of knowledge intertwined with their personal views shapes our culture. There can also be beauty in this process. From village elders sitting around a fire, to a grandfather on his rocking chair sharing stories, the process of imparting knowledge is just as important as the knowledge itself. I didn’t have a grandfather that shared stories with me, but I did have a television to learn from. I consider the knowledge I received from the media as important as what I learnt from my teachers at school. Our exposure to stories shapes our culture and influences individuals. One of the most important things that I learnt (and still learning) is not from my schooling career, but a line from a movie, that “there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” We can be told that there is moral chasm that needs to be crossed, but actually crossing it is a completely different matter. We can understand value and principles, but still not live from those values and principles. We can know our own worth, but making choices in line with that knowledge may not be available to us. There really is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.

I don’t necessarily believe that we have to be told to behave ethically in order to behave ethically. We do not need to be educated on morality in order to be moral. If you did not know that murder was illegal, would you be able to commit murder? There are people who have been educated that theft and fraud is illegal, and yet they still choose to pillage. There are also those who have free reign to deceive a fellow human being without imposed consequences, and yet choose a path of honour. From my perspective, that choice is dictated by the consciousness of the individual. Maybe “educating” leaders is only the first step, but raising the consciousness of the individual will authentically create leaders of nobility. Or maybe if we learn the tricks of the ‘ethics and values trade,’ then we can navigate the grey area unscathed. Perhaps there is no right or wrong, but just the choices we make.