Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

South Africa Leadership

Gardens, Cape Town, South Africa

February 18, 2015

This essay, South Africa Leadership, is the first in a group of four written in Cape Town, February 2015:
  1. South Africa Leadership
  2. Wuudhu
  3. Rite De Passage
  4. The Girl Who Became A Tree
in that order.

It also is the sequel to Troublemaker: Nelson Mandela And Transformation II.

The group of four written in Cape Town, February 2015 is the sequel to In The Space Of Possibility, and is also the prequel to Completing Cape Town, February 2015.

History shows us time and time again, that what we ordinarily consider to be the greatest leaders our world has ever seen (indeed, our whole notion of what leadership actually is) are those who lead the packs and head the charges and some of them even make pretty good galvanizing speeches to boot ... and yet  ... in so doing, they leave their followers totally dependent on them for guidance and for inspiration and even for permissions. That's the old model: it's the leaders creating  the followers.

Here's one thing (in retrospect, it's one very obvious  thing) I've discovered about great leadership: beyond a certain point, being completely dependent on anyone for guidance and inspiration and permission (even being completely dependent on a great leader for guidance and inspiration and permission) is a sure fire way of making certain that any possibility of actually becoming a great leader yourself, is killed off. At some point you have to pick up the passed ball and run with it. Acknowledging the great leader for being the best ball passer the world has ever seen, even if true, isn't enough. It doesn't cut it. Acknowledgement is merely the precursor to action.

I was never skeptical of Nelson Mandela's leadership style nor of his mythical status. The man's aura is a human lighthouse. I was, however, skeptical (at least, at first) of how far the ball he passed would be carried, given how many in South Africa (and countless others around the world as well) acknowledged him for being the best ball passer the world has ever seen, while never taking over (even though they understood) his essential point which was to pick up his passed ball and run with it for themselves if his legacy was ever going to be realized. In and of itself, his leadership was never going to dish out a house and a cow and resources to everyone he led in South Africa. The thing is: no one's can. Yet without picking up and running with the ball he passed, there was this god‑damned  pernicious expectation his would.

Listen: everyone knows there is a lot to love about Nelson Mandela. And the thing I personally love about him the most was expressed in one almost dismissed remark I heard him make when some overly enthusiastic TV news interviewer went on and on and on about how Nelson had transformed South Africa. I mean, he was literally slathering Nelson with acknowledgment like you would put gobs of chocolate syrup on an icecream sundae, until finally Nelson said "You don't get it, do you? Nothing of what happened in South Africa was the work of any one individual: the transformation of South Africa came out of a partnership between many, many people ...".

That for me is who Nelson Mandela really is. But even more pertinent for me is that's who South Africa today is becoming. I don't live in South Africa. And neither do I visit frequently - say, once every seven years on average. So any opinions I have about the place should be taken with a bucketful of salt. That said: in my opinion, in the early days of Nelson's astonishing ascent to global icon for the ages, many in South Africa, too many in fact, were being an overly enthusiastic TV news interviewer (and understandably so). Those times have changed. My experience of South Africa today is they've gotten it and they're running with it. They're not being an overly enthusiastic TV news interviewer any more as much as they're now being the partnership between many, many people. Not surprisingly, the quantum shift is palpable.

At a certain point, the leader sitting in the interviewees chair must morph  himself into the very men and women ie into the many, many people he leads, and they into him - which is to say they must morph themselves into the being and speaking  of a leader. And if this process doesn't complete ie if this mutual interchange  doesn't occur, it doesn't preclude or impede a leader's actions from being deemed to be great  leadership ... but it's unlikely they will be cast as or deemed to be extraordinary  leadership. In the new extraordinary leadership paradigm, it's no longer the old model of the leaders creating the followers. It's now the leaders creating more leaders.

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