The good, the bad and the ugly: Leaders have a choice

I spent some time over the holidays delving into the traits of both highly conscious and the most diabolic of leaders through the centuries. The qualities of an exemplary leader is the litmus test for the performance of a country or company. 

Outstanding epochs in the history of an organisation or nation were made legendary by conscious leaders who had understood the powerful propensities of their actions and worked with purpose and resolve as well as prioritising humanity. 

My research took me to the heights and depths of the spectacle of leadership behaviour. From the stoic Marcus Aurelius to Genghis Khan, one of the most brutal military conquerors of all time, from strong-willed, fearless and often cruel but also just Akbar the Great to Alexander the Great, whose narcissistic leadership style served his own passions despite being one of the most successful commanders in history. From Hitler to Jacob Zuma, Mandela to Booker T Washington, and business leaders such as Bernie Madoff, Elon Musk, Tim Cook and John Mackay, there are traits that differentiate the conscious leader from the self-interested rogues. 

No one human being is perfect, but the glaring differences — where the humanity of one is at the polar opposite to the glib villain — is why we have a global leadership crisis. This is an era of malevolence in which the good has little chance to triumph. Millions would rather follow an expressive psychopathic leader, whose contentious clamour ultimately leads to destruction, than an inspired, gentle and humane one. 

In 1934, Time magazine named Hitler “Man of the Year”. In 2016, Americans elected Donald Trump as their president. Hitler held the world stage and slashed at his countryman. So did Idi Amin and Muammar Gaddafi. 

The deeper lessons of history are echoed here in modern day business, when leaders driven by a façade of grandiosity, consider personal profit and material gain as all-important considerations.

Morally mature, conscious, ethical leaders, whose actions manifest greater good for all are not born remarkable or extraordinary, neither are they perfect. They have learnt the skills to manage their own existence, fully cognisant of who they are. It is evident that when men and women capable of great leadership appear on the scene, they come to possess an influence commensurate with their greatness. 

To recognise a great leader, we need look no further than Nelson Mandela. Though not perfect, history is peppered with great leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King and George Washington. A leader who was unparalleled in the 16th century as a man for all seasons was Sir Thomas More, who refused to compromise his morals, ethics and principals for anything, even death. He chose to die rather than compromise who he was.

We live in extraordinary times plagued with uncertainty and pressure. But there is an opportunity to change the course of a nation or business by changing the shape, character and consciousness of its leadership. This leads us to the Conscious leadership and Ethics Summit on 11 May, where the spotlight on business leaders, both ethical and not so ethical, is the context of this crossroad in our corporate evolution.

The cyclical character of business demands that we do things differently, hence the quest for conscious leadership amid the complex maze of corporate activity, compliance, pressure, performance, productivity and the economic necessities of flowcharts, the bottom line and delivery. It is easy in the chaos of this corporate machinery for an organisation to lose sight of its meaning and purpose beyond profiteering.

Consider the social context facing most leaders and employees in the world of work where power struggles, self-interest and fear are the motivating forces behind some of the unconscious actions that scream at us from media headlines. In a society where need, not achievement, is a source of rights and entitlement, it provides fertile ground for moochers, looters and cheaters.

Conscious leaders shine by example whereas insecure and incompetent leaders hide behind sycophantic followers. In business, Apple chief executive Tim Cook is a far cry from Tom Hayward, the former head of BP. I knew a chief executive who, in less than a year, destroyed the shareholder value of the company she was entrusted to lead by an estimated 75%. This did not deter her. Her egocentric leadership style was a toxic challenge for her executives. She continues to sit on several boards.

The culture of excessive materialism, dishonest dealings and blind disregard for corporate governance aside, we still look to leaders to display courage and vision. When corporate culture takes its cue from its leadership, it plays out in its reputation, performance, profit and the perception of its corporate brand. The tone, manner, attitude and character of an ethical leader cannot be separated from the company they represent. Found in the hidden strata of their beings, is a morally untainted view of “doing the right thing” and building the firmest possible foundation upon which the organisation rests.

In expanding one’s consciousness and ethical behaviour, the conscious leader guides the company to prosper while placing a premium on people, community, culture and the environment beyond the bottom line. It is the essential understanding of values and ethics, reason and justice, meaning and purpose and a reason for being that sets the organisation apart.

It is a conscious leader who, refusing to compromise on morals and principles, instils an enduring culture of help and service to others in harmony and cooperation. This gives a breadth and depth to the company’s idea of itself more than anything the bottom line can achieve. It is deeply fulfilling for people to be part of a conscious company with an ethical, value-based leadership. Customers and stakeholders feel valued and served and employees feel safe and have a sense of belonging beyond the pay cheque.

In the absence of this consciousness, the leadership of a company or a country that is socially irresponsible and environmentally destructive, breeds an unpleasant chaos, where insecurity permeates the very soul of a nation or the culture of a company. We have a choice. Operating in consciousness is a choice for leaders and given the ethical and moral agitations of our age and the country, it is a critical time to choose.

South Africa craves conscious, ethical leadership

In your hands: The writer wonders if President Cyril Ramaphosa can change to facilitate a less brutal, less corrupt and gentler South Africa.

South African government shows no political will to develop conscious ethical leadership

Was the recent ANC policy conference a nice-to-be-seen-at talkshop or are there quantifiable measures of the effect of such an august gathering? Over the years little had changed so I was astounded to hear a member and former president Thabo Mbeki mention the word consciousness.  But the cognitive understanding of consciousness and their voices would surely be lost in the cacophony of policy, strategy, grandstanding and merry-making.  

After years of asking President Cyril Ramaphosa to engage with conscious, ethical leadership, especially after the insights from global and other figures at the annual Conscious Leadership and Ethics Summit in May and assurances from his office to revert to us, we had realised that there is no political will to read the President’s Report, let alone work with its national framework to embed conscious, ethical leadership in the public sector. The report was put together by the delegates, speakers, panellists and international figures at the summit. 

Courage is taking action no matter what and no matter how alone or incapable one might feel. To quote American writer Richelle E Goodrich, “Courage is doing something daring, no matter how afraid, insecure, intimidated, alone, unworthy, incapable, ridiculed or whatever other paralysing emotion you might feel. Courage is taking action … no matter what.”

To shift this country from the feeding-trough frenzy of our politicians and their well-connected associates, we need courageous, responsible leaders to save our state-owned enterprises, denuded of money and talent, to save the rapid deterioration of our hospitals and schools and to raise awareness and concern for the plight of the poor and older people. 

We need those leaders with the passion, purpose and an innate calling to do the right thing. We need those people who stand at the shore without instruction, as courageous leaders do, who are willing to use their resilience and resources for the greater good of their people. 

Who are they and where can we find them? Where do we find them in the once proud ruling party of Madiba. The much-touted ANC renewal depends on finding them. 

But all is not lost. Instead of perversely defending himself, if Ramaphosa and his executives penetrate the very depths of their consciousness, they would realise that this could be a period of awakening for this country and a call for courageous, conscious action could mitigate the terrible consequences of its devastation. 

In times of crisis, and especially in times of transition, it is time to forge decisions of resilience, disruption and courage to herald change and entrench conscious ethical leadership. The time has come for the political leaders to realise that only when the politician and the economist, the statesman and the soldier, the minister and the citizen has the humility to take responsibility and only when they accepts that political, social and economic reform cannot happen without corrective and conscious behaviour, only then can we turn our backs from the terrifying consequences that lie ahead.  

Four streams emerged in the President’s Report after the summit. 

This was an opportunity for Ramaphosa to evaluate and deepen the understanding of his power, purpose, service and legacy but he is least bothered about such things. 

The four streams were: 

1. The state of leadership in the public sector is mired in corruption, greed, scandal and mud-slinging. Having said that, there are attempts to turn things around with Ramaphosa’s presidency. The political will to do the right thing and put the people of the country first, sustainable job creation, education and skills development underpinned by good governance, integrity, values and ethical behaviour is the core theme of most of the contributions. 

2.The despair of the rampant corruption, looting, fraud, levels of poverty and disregard by the public sector of the people as well as the state of moral bankruptcy, self-interest, lack of decisive action and failing infrastructure that has frustrated and affected the nation. The urgent appeal for the president to display courage and take decisive action has never been more urgent. 

3. Nelson Mandela’s vision to see South Africans stand together, heal the wounds and live their best lives can only be possible with great leadership that acknowledges its flaws and a willingness to strive towards a harmonious inclusive society where trust and credibility is once again restored in the calibre of leadership in the country. 

4. When a political system requires that the president and the people around him spend more time fighting for positional power in their political party rather than putting people first, we need to understand that the political system is going to be dysfunctional. 

The key solutions for a new framework for conscious, ethical leadership to turn around and develop leaders in the public sector who would show up differently in the world as architects of change has fallen on deaf ears. Such is the state of our country. 

Trailblazers, ferrymen and shepherds: the leaders SA needs

It is ironic that the president of a country that has to deal with devastating floods and loss of lives is more focused on the corruption, looting and stealing of disaster funding allocated to the province of KwaZulu-Natal than the homeless, waterless and hungry victims of the flood. It is an indictment of the country of Madiba to see how far into the depths of greed and moral degradation some of our leaders and public servants have sunk.

Among the enormous challenges we have to endure are a vengeful virus, load-shedding, nondelivery, nonperformance, unethical leaders shod in Gucci shoes and the indolent stupor of some greedy leaders who have been allowed to erode our national psyche. It is more than any nation can withstand. We have to do something to change the behaviour of thieves, thugs and goons who populate our political system. 

We must heed the call to conscious, ethical leadership from the soul-searing conversations of the Conscious Leadership and Ethics Summit on 18 May in Johannesburg. The world’s most brilliant minds and conscious thinkers will there provide a brave intolerance for the nightmares that visit us, such as the trickery and thievery of some of our leaders and their underlings. 

It is also an opportunity for leadership to evaluate and deepen their understanding of power, purpose and service and create a more conscious and humane socioeconomic and political environment. The time has come for leaders who hold the future of a nation or company in their hands to get to grips with conscious, ethical leadership. Failing this, all attempts to unify and rebuild a country that was once a rainbowed global beacon will fail. 

A message from the Dalai Lama to the participants at the summit references the “basic human need for kindness, compassion and care”. He says: “It is natural to be driven by self-interest, which is necessary to survive. But we need a wise self-interest that is generous and cooperative, taking others’ interests into account. When leaders have a genuine sense of concern for others, there’s no room for bullying or exploitation. Instead they can be honest, truthful and transparent. 

“There are three styles of compassionate leadership,” His Holiness continues. “The trailblazer, who leads from the front, takes the risks and sets an example; the ferryman, who accompanies those in his care and shares the ups and downs of the crossing; and the shepherd, who sees every one of his flock in before him. Crucially, these three styles of leadership have in common an all-encompassing concern of those they lead.” 

The multibillion-dollar question is, do you recognise any one of these leadership styles in the government of the day? What kind of leader is President Cyril Ramaphosa? Does he display the leadership traits the Dalai Lama mentions?

The benevolent paternalism of some of our dirt-covered politicians who stand on platforms telling themselves that everything they do, they do in the name of greater good, is farcical and mindless. Their paralytic inaction and the inexplicable lack of accountability, an example of which is the Digital Vibes debacle and the former minister of health getting off unscathed in parliament, should enrage us, but most of us are immune and helpless against blatant mismanagement and crippling corruption. We have sunken into a pool of indifference, despair and inaction. 

I am hoping that those conscious leaders at the summit will be galvanised to act and awaken the hero within themselves. This is not the domain of the feeble-minded, hippies or new-age flakes, as is the perception in most boardrooms, but rather of those who are energised with passion, purpose, productivity and vision for a new way of being and doing business. 

Those within the conscious leadership ecosystem soon realise that the more they awaken to consciousness, the more powerful, courageous and responsible they become. Conscious leaders have a penetrating insight into suffering. They take on the responsibility to do the right thing despite the odds. 

The philosopher Seneca said, “A hungry people listens not to reason, nor cares for justice, nor is bent by any prayer.” 

This holds as true today as it did centuries ago. We are a hungry people despite our natural resources. Rolling protests by the disgruntled and destitute becoming commonplace is just the beginning. 

However, it is not too late for the leader of this country to display courage and change the insidious malaise of corruption and greed that is so rampant in his government. All he needs to do is ask: What kind of leader am I and what is the legacy that I would like to leave? 

Ramaphosa needs to wake up and see where we are headed if he does not act. The summit will compile report to the president to give him and his executives the tools to embed conscious, ethical behaviour and place the welfare of the people of this country first. Does he have the courage and insight to embrace it, let alone read the report?

How we became slaves to our own technology

It is possible that every generation throughout history feels as though the difficulties of their time are greater and more intense than those of any previous era. 

From the struggles of empires to world wars to our current predicament, the individual and shared sentiment of “humanity is sitting on the precipice of survival and impending doom” appears to recur. 

Throughout the ages, little has changed, as unjust corporate and businesses squeeze citizens of life, unconscious governments and tyrannical global leaders play out war games with malevolent intent, and then there’s Mother Nature with her frequent reminders of how insignificant we are, despite our ill-earned arrogance. 

Once again, we find ourselves on a precipice, battling our own advances as a society and a species, but for the first time in our history we have some shared definitions of reality, enabled through aggrandised technological developments.

The sentience of humans is manifesting differently from the other creatures on Earth, although the origins of human sentience, awareness and perception have yet to be agreed upon. These vary from the “stoned ape theory” of Homo sapiens’ predecessors eating psychedelic mushrooms to awaken a consciousness within to a mysterious God or gods who bestowed human beings with their unique abilities. 

For centuries scientists, philosophers and sages have asked questions about what consciousness itself is; our history abounds with stories of people who have breached the finite perception of the physical senses and tasted realities beyond them, along with tales of deities, demons and angels. 

As humans, it is our ability to communicate and use tools that allows us to leverage our unique visions into complex action. We have created skyscrapers and metal carriages that fly across oceans, yet the nature of our consciousness still remains unknown. The observer effect experiment showed that the process of observing a particle changes the way the particle behaves, suggesting that awareness itself is an independent aspect of nature. 

It is only recently that science has been able to begin understanding a fraction of the workings of human consciousness, so the evolution of our tools may exceed our ability to maintain agency over their consequences.

A new wave of brain-interference technology has begun to emerge, promising not only to interrupt brain functions, but also filter our perceptions of the reality we create. Recently, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute was able to implant a device in the brain of a 37-year-old paralysed man with the ability to translate his mental thoughts of handwriting into real-time text. Elon Musk’s Neuralink company also made headlines by claiming that a monkey was able to play the video game Pong through an implanted  brain-chip device. 

This approach is often driven by callous business interests: 15 of 23 monkeys died  during the experiments, yet Musk’s business denied any cruelty to animals. 

The day when you can open your car door with your Bluetooth brain-chip may not be far off, but there are still valid concerns about allowing physically invasive technology to mediate our worldview, when profit motives are prioritised far above animals — and humans. 

The pharmaceutical industry also has aspirations to profit from the consciousness industry. Fresh off its record-breaking profits from an opioid-marketing drive that left millions afflicted by addiction, the industry posted even better financial results through its Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, and now has its sights set on altering and inducing states of consciousness and perception with psychedelic drug treatment.

As trust in institutions declines globally, the re-engineering of the human psyche and accessing its unconscious aspects may be spearheaded by an industry with a proven track record of self-interest. 

Our complex, organic shared understanding of reality is already being heavily influenced by digitisation and the metaverse, from Cambridge Analytica and the social-engineering campaigns that skewed voter perception during the Brexit campaign, to the “burying” of Hunter Biden’s laptop

We now have the phenomenon known as “social displacement”; people would rather spend more time on social media sites than be face-to-face with humans. The metaverse promises to immerse us in a digital reality, curating information, product branding and offerings, education and other monetisable worldviews, substituting one’s experience of life for a fabricated existence online. 

Once again, the keys to perception of our “reality” are being handed to an industry with a record of choosing self-serving financial interests over the health and wellbeing of  citizens. 

The fourth industrial revolution seems hellbent on hacking the perceived reality of humans and installing a monetised algorithm under the guise of a more pleasurable user experience. For some, perhaps the shift towards artificial intelligence making decisions for you could be the right choice. But how would you even know if it were your choice? 

Consciousness itself is not a product of the brain, but a fundamental element of nature and, as our generation moves towards integration with technology, the hacking of the human consciousness is being driven without sufficient understanding of what consciousness itself is. As we marvel at the technology that regulates our lives — a technology permeated with political, religious and individual ideologies — we once again stand on a precipice as humanity. We’re on the verge between becoming digital iterations of ourselves and existing as we are in nature, and at the edge of hacking the human from the external and the eternal.  

Morally bereft leadership raises questions of trust

In this vast, muddied pool of humanity that revolves around the socioeconomic and political space, a deeply rooted apathy permeates some of our leaders in the health industry. There are some industries and companies that thrive and profit on human vulnerability. Medical aid schemes are no different. They are supposed to display compassion, care, help and support in times of dire need and stress,  particularly when the health and life of a loved one is at stake. However, a lack of conscious leadership in the current system of procedure, process and profit often allows for ethical irregularity. 

In the past week, I have experienced the undoubtedly questionable behaviour of a company not acting in good faith. A medical aid scheme found every excuse in the book not to authorise and  acknowledge the in-hospital costs of a young man who was unexpectedly admitted in a critical condition to the intensive care unit of a private hospital with a previously undiagnosed condition. Even though the medical aid scheme had full access to his medical records that stated he had no pre-existing condition, it refused to honour the authorisation while searching for any procedural avenue to avoid paying the bill.

The realistic expectations of what should have happened — and what did — is sobering and throws the spotlight on greedy establishments and their myopic and morally bereft leadership whose focus on the bottom line trumps the basic tenets of humanity and care. 

This is not the first time a medical aid scheme acted in bad faith. As just one example, in November 2016, Profmed terminated the membership of a primary member and refused to honour the bills for “several medical procedures” and  argued that the member had failed to disclose medical procedures that would have allowed it to properly calculate her risk as a member. However, when the member took Profmed to court, the judge ruled in her favour, saying that, “There is no duty on a prospective applicant for medical insurance… to disclose a condition that is immaterial or non-existent”. 

This raises serious questions of trust and credibility issues regarding the financial behaviour, integrity, governance, ethics and conscious leadership of some medical aid schemes. We may never understand why the companies and individuals in whom we trust renege the way that they do, particularly in times of crisis. 

However, it is enough to know that one of the principles of conscious leadership is putting people and humanity at the core of everything one does. Those in positions of power and responsibility influence hundreds and thousands of lives by their actions. Everything they do and say, the way they feel and behave, act and react, inspires and guides or manipulates and controls the stakeholders they affect within their sphere. 

It is, therefore, imperative that people in leadership positions, regardless of who they lead, wear the mantle of responsibility with care, because this is intricately woven into who they are as human beings. This is a foreign concept to some leaders, who are clueless about responsible, conscious leadership and the consequences of their unconscionable actions that shape the moral muscle and perception of their organisations. 

Their focus on the bottom line somehow impedes their ability to create a culture of trust, care and compassion, or to display a sense of humanity towards the weak and vulnerable people they are supposed to serve. It is quite inevitable that any company worth its salt has to make the transition from mere profit-taking and higher margins to a culture of service, particularly in the health industry. 

Some leaders, rather than embrace conscious, ethical leadership, lack a sense of self and the capacity of courage to disrupt and change the status quo of an industry that has, over the years, gained a reputation for the questionable behaviour of not placing the wellbeing of the people it serves at the core of what it do. 

Conscious leadership demands the surrender of greed, self-interest and ego for integrity, service and selfless action. Perhaps we are not as far along as we would like to be, consciously. Perhaps managing shareholder expectations still takes priority over authentic accountability and collective purpose. Perhaps our attempt to shift the way of being for leaders to awaken into the power of consciousness towards a moral code of kindness and societal wellbeing is near impossible. 

However, all is not lost. Our immediate hope for a better world — despite the silent, shrieking hell of a global economic crisis, devastating war, continuous drudgery and untold suffering — is that the human spirit is resilient beyond belief. There is also overwhelming evidence that the promise of hope rests  with those conscious leaders who serve selflessly because they have a profound sense of responsibility and find it impossible to remain indifferent to a deep call from the core of their beings to serve with vision, purpose and compassion.


Photo credit: (John McCann, M&G)

The truth is now on sale

The truth industry seems to be booming. From fact-checkers and fake news, to custodians and gatekeepers of truth, there are numerous sources that wave the flag, yet truth as objective reality is hard to come by. 

Narratives shift like sand and there are verifiable sources for pro or anti any ideological perspective one could hold. Special military operations could be war, and pro-science and anti-vaxxers could convince each other if they each just “did the research”. Even Donald Trump is in on the racket with his Truth social media platform that’s already hit number one on the Apple app store.

There are positions of branding military action as a false flag for both the “Donbas genocide” as well as weapons of mass destruction, with attempts at managing and controlling narratives and the information public can be exposed to. Irrespective of which position one holds, there are Afghan refugees that fled to the Ukraine now trying to flee a war-torn country. As we sit on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), the theatre of war is still very much a part of our species, and the truth remains both illusive and subjective.

As the Covid-19 pandemic narrative played out, a barrage of ideological precepts emerged with misinformation, re-information and “authorised” custodians of information. Identity politics has unfolded with the fervour of sports fanaticism. As the world readjusts to the two-year-plus pandemic, this year the Davos agenda returns in person following up on the narratives of climate change and 4IR. 

The World Economic Forum’s digital inclusion and digital identity agendas along with their Great Reset positioning has left conspiracy theorists salivating. Don’t judge, everybody needs friends. Positions of conforming and regulation stood against alternative owned perceptions and worldviews. Each ideology supported overtly, with terms like mainstream-media coined and reaffirming perspectives available on various platforms, including on Pay-Per-View with CNN stepping inside the octagon with Joe Rogan.

In an age of influencers, business influence still reigns supreme with apparent corporate influence on government policy, making Nancy Pilosi TikTok’s Stock Queen, to Shell’s Batho Batho Trust donating R15-million to the ANC after local courts halted oil exploration in whale breeding grounds along South Africa’s Wild Coast. Locally, I doubt that the narratives could be controlled with the flair of ANN7 and The New Age, but internationally there’s always that Pay-Per-View.

When objectivity of external reality seems distant, in the 4IR the once endless search for truth can be bought online. The technological approach to the experienced truth of the human in the field of consciousness has had its own consequences as Elon Musk’s personal attachment to a position of extreme urgency subjected “extreme suffering” to monkeys during animal testing of his Neuralink brain interference system. 

Altering individual truth in the 4IR and altering one’s worldview through artificial intelligence (AI) implants or immersing oneself into a metaverse pseudo-reality may be the next product for a digital artificial truth. In combination with the pharmaceutical industry’s involvement with mind-altering psychedelics, side-effects may appear depending on your YouTube algorithm.

Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have begun taking billionaires to space with the hope of inducing an Overview Effect moment of altered perception sparking a sensation of oneness with the planet after seeing the earth from a distance. Most billionaires report that after seeing the world from space, that they are very happy being billionaires.

As media influences perceived reality and science hacks reality itself, along with the advances of AI, robotics and digital identity data, external attachments to “us” automatically positioning a “them” to be against can be steered, further damaging public trust in government leadership, academic research and business intentions leaving the market flooded with a cheap version of truth.

So, the journey continues along the arduous path, searching for truth. In our pursuit of evolution and exploration of our humanness, as we create purpose and meaning in our actions and non-actions, hopefully the human-being is still able to recognise the one, single known truth of our own pending mortality. What reality of our nature could be revealed as we surrender to awareness of the finite nature that we are? What truth could we find between the stillness of our breath? 

These biased, and perceived experiences of truth have accounts of encouraging fundamental shifts to the worldview of an individual to themes of unity and experiences of togetherness with one’s fellow human-beings. If these attachments could be enhanced and multiplied in to business interests and political willingness to foster love and acceptance when the self-interest still tops the charts, and choose softness as strength for our kindred species above self-willed motivation of business and government leaders, the impact of further trauma inflicted on our fellow man could be avoided as we move away from an “us” versus “them” toward a shared identity of the human-being.

Weaponising a manufactured truth with curated narratives and counter-narratives, and hacking perceptions of reality to present a consumer digestible truth may be sold, and the presented illusion may seem less complicated and nuanced, but denying the truth itself to join with masses of agreeable peers still cannot hide forever, the sun, the moon, and the Truth.

South Africa needs to adopt Conscious Leadership

What is the relevance of conscious leadership in business and society and what does it really mean? What would your life be like if every human contact were genuine and meaningful? If every time you spoke, it were with respect and considered opinion? If every move were made thoughtfully and intentionally? What would it be like if you could be conscious, kind and deeply aware of your actions every minute of your work day, especially in the frantically busy moments? The relevance would be humanity in action

Two months into 2022 and we have seen the suffering and effect of the war in Ukraine and the consequences of dithering decisions and continued shenanigans at home. It leaves us with a gargantuan leadership crisis both locally and on the global stage. There is the elaborate façade of outwardly impressive leaders, who remain inwardly impoverished by greed, ambition and power. 

How do we fix that? How do we create a calibre of conscious, ethical leadership? How do we raise the bar to create courageous leaders with a different quality of thinking and being with the capacity to uplift and influence those whose people lives they touch? How do we create visionary leaders whose actions manifest a greater good for all? Intriguing questions and a dearth of answers. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his State of the Nation address last month: “We are engaged in a battle for the soul of the country. We will succeed… because the spirit of resilience is deeply embedded.” 

What did he mean by that? 

When the president uses the phrase “engaged in a battle for the soul of the country”, he is incorrect. What he should have said was “engaged in a battle for the soul of the leadership of the country” and not the “soul of the country”. For conscious leaders shape conscious companies and countries. 

An unguarded bellow is all it takes for us to witness the final convulsions of a failed leader like Brian Molefe, Lynne Brown or Malusi Gigaba and many more who had lost their way in the captured swamps or who are too busy feeding at the trough to heed the sludge they stand in. This cabal of like-minded individuals who operate for material gain and power at the expense of the greater collective are driven by a core collaborative value system of what’s in it for themselves, rather than what’s in it for the country and those they serve. 

How did we get here? 

These are anxious and difficult times for which we need an inner resilience and security to get ourselves out of this malaise of loss, betrayal and the paralysing pessimism of recent events that threaten our national psyche. Thus, we should battle for the souls of the leadership of those in the political and business spheres and the soul of the country will take care of itself. 

In navigating the cause of conscious leadership, I sometimes cross paths with leaders who are so unaware, they do not understand what conscious leadership means. We had seen more than our fair share of looters and cheaters, pervasive greed, raw ambition and dishonest dealings by our leaders. In a country that is the birthplace of the King IV corporate governance principles; one that should be held up as a global beacon of conscious leadership, ethics and governance, why are we so severely compromised? Where is the moral muscle of our leadership? 

In this age of excessive materialism, cut-throat and dishonest dealings, one looks to the chief executives, chairpersons, the president, ministers and leaders of the day to display courage and vision — not incompetence and cowardice — to take a country forward. Unfortunately, the self-interest, double-dealing, and blind disregard for ethics or governance displayed by some of our leaders, leaves one in no doubt that there is much to be done in terms of conscious leadership and values. 

There is hope

Conscious leadership is a skill and a state of mind that can be acquired. We can create a conscious, humane society, despite the need and greed. All it takes is a little discernment. All too often we have created icons and heroes of liars and thieves and those who have made enormous amounts of dodgy money. 

We revere the drugged athlete, the sushi guzzlers, and the sensation-seeking glamour queens. There are those that play a role just to win public acclaim or financial fortune, as if one is expected to be dishonest and inauthentic to prove yourself worthy of being a leader. This is the culture and value system that we have created since our democracy. 

If we do not venerate the crafty moochers of the world and can discern that a country can be saved only by honourable men and women who understand that a powerful leader is one who is authentic and responsible, worthy of trust, impeccable with their word and takes accountability — it is then that the soul of the country will have a fighting chance to be saved.

Photo credit: (David Harrison, M&G)

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