‘Slow coasters’ eager to learn how to be business leaders

2011-11-09 00:00

BY the end of The Witness/Sanlam “Be the best you can” motivational morning at Margate Hotel yesterday, guests were as nourished by the speeches made as by the meal served.

Compère Ingrid Roberts, who recalled how she visited the South Coast’s beaches as a child, helped to get the pensioner and holiday jokes out of the way for the speakers to start their inspirational anecdotes and tips about being better leaders in a world of crass bosses fixated on results instead of people.

Former McCarthy Group chief executive Brand Pretorius told the audience, “We need to move away from the ‘Me Inc.’ type of leaders to servant leaders who want to make a real difference in the workplace,”

The message went down well with a business community that relies heavily on community ­participation and social responsibility.

The Margate Hotel conference venue, packed with about 100 guests, showed just how the South Coast has moved from being the “slow coast” to a business hub of entrepreneurs eager to advance the business mindset of the area.

This was the opinion of Fever sales manager Liz Dobbins, who networks with local business leaders on a daily basis.

“I was so amazed to see so many new faces today,” she told The Witness.

“It just shows how many new businesses on the coast are growing with ambition and a sense of worth.”

Halfway Toyota Shelly Beach dealer principal Brian Jones said he was inspired by the good examples of leadership that were showcased by the speakers.

“I’ve heard Brand speak many times before and each time he amazes me with the way he speaks so naturally, with his words of wisdom flowing so easily,” he said.

“He’s a man I have always admired. It was an extremely positive event.”

Other speakers were 15 Squadron South African Air Force Captain Laura Ilunga and McCarthy Group internal communications and corporate social investment manager Iris Francis.

Francis spoke about the difficulties women faced and how they overcame them to find success.

She was raped as a teenager in Umlazi and lived in an abusive relationship for many years. She said she woke up one day and asked herself why she should carry on being treated like a dog.

“That moment changed my life forever,” the former Apprentice contestant told the audience.

Francis, “the river woman” and daughter of South African struggle veteran Morris Fynn, recently addressed the UN Commission on the Status of Women in Africa Forum 2011.

She has been mentored by Tokyo Sexwale and by Brand Pretorius and believes a positive attitude and compassion help leaders achieve more.

“My goals aren’t big cars and huge houses,” she said, her proud sisters listening attentively in the audience.

“What I strive for is simply a loving family and for people who respect me and love me as much as I love them.”

Ilunga became a pilot after her father died and left the family thousands of air miles.

“My mum sent us to America and I flew in about 10 planes while on holiday,” she said. “I knew immediately I wanted to be in the sky, at first as an air hostess, but then I realised I could be the one flying!”

Ilunga flies an Oryx helicopter on mountain and off-shore rescue missions, fire-fighting and a lot more.

The moment she knew her achievement wasn’t any small accolade was when a man randomly stopped her in Matatiele and said, “I have five words for you: ‘I am proud of you’.”

As she stepped down to a thunderous applause, Roberts echoed the man’s statement. “We are all so proud of you … six words!”

Pretorius had the room in silence with his gentle voice, as he passed on wisdom, anecdotes and tips about being a better leader. “Forget the introduction,” he told guests. “It seems my failures in life don’t appear on that fancy CV. I actually learned a lot more in life from the darkest days in my life.”

Pretorius was referring to his role in resurrecting the McCarthy Group in 1992, after its business diversification programme resulted in the group becoming technically insolvent.

In three years he ensured R1,5 billion worth of debts were paid off and the corporate business had regained its focus.

“Leadership is an art as much as it is a science,” he explained.

“I had to come into work every day and turn the light on, to get everyone motivated to give the team a vision to work towards.”

“Influence has to be earned and autocratic leaders can’t do that,” he said.

“You must think with your head, feel with your heart and combine the two with your hands. It takes a lot of courage and emotional intelligence to be a servant leader, but the rewards are so much greater and more sustainable.”

• kzneditor@feveronline.co.za

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