In response to a previous article, someone asked me “What's lacking is the how. Saying we need to change ourselves is not enough. How do we do that precisely? How do we make sure we have good education, roads, etc”. He makes a very valid point. How do we change? What practical steps to we take to ensure a better future for us and our children?
The 4 suggested steps below tries to focus our attention lasting, sustainable solutions. Changing our government will bring only a short term solution – admittedly a desperately needed solution. We cannot continue on the path we are on now and need drastic changes soon. We deserve a better government. However, should we fail to change our shared values, the next government will soon become corrupt as the previous one. We need a solution that guarantees that whoever leads us will lead with integrity.
Step 1: Acknowledging the problem lies with a warped value system. My previous article made the point our political and business leaders are merely by-products of the values we promote within our communities. We create our own leaders. The behaviour of our leaders simply reflects our own day-to-day behaviour.
For that reason, the real causes of our problems do not lie in human-created concepts such as politics or economics, but rather human-existential experiences such as greed, hatred, arrogance, envy, selfishness, manipulation and apathy. As long as we forgive these immoral values, we will get immoral leaders – irrespective which political party they represent. Not returning the wrong amount of change given to you by mistake at the shop is bourn from the same greed as the corruption of the politician. Justifying the multi-million rand salaries of some CEO’s is the same as government justifying their multi-million rand vehicles. We cannot blame government for exhibiting the same behaviour than the communities that raised them. We cannot raise a person within a certain value system and then expect them to show a different set of values once they are voted into leadership.
Step 2: Acknowledging that we have to change our behaviour as individuals. We like to look at others and point fingers because placing the attention on them takes away the spotlight from our own immoral behaviour. It is easier to focus on the faults of others than to examine our own flaws. We have to acknowledge that the root of the problem lays not so much ‘out there’ but more ‘in here’, inside all of us. We have to be honest enough to admit that the behaviour that we would like to see in our leaders is rarely visible in our own lives. More often than not, our daily lives are consumed with the same greed, arrogance and selfishness that we see in our leaders.
Step 3: Decide what values you would like to see in our leaders and start living those values. Would you like to see our leaders put others first and act less selfishly? Then start by behaving selflessly yourself. Give others a turn in traffic. Let someone else go before you in the long queue at the bank. Would you like our leaders not to be corrupt and steal our tax money? Then start by living beyond approach yourself. Return the wrong change given to you. Would you like our leaders to use our tax money prudently and without any wastage? Then start by doing the same at the company you work for. Do not take advantage of your company’s property. Do not take home stationary for own use.
Step 4: Start working from the inside and work outward. Once you have decided which values you would like to see in our leaders and you are living these values yourself, start expecting the same behaviour from those in your immediate social network – your friends and family. Set an example for them and demand that they follow that example. Stop being apathetic to their bad behaviour and refuse to condone any acts of greed, laziness, selfishness and other vices. Inspire your friends and family to start living the same value system.
Once you feel that your friends and family are living leadership values, start influencing your community to follow the same footpath. Speak out when you see bad behaviour around you. Dare to forego popularity for the sake of inspiring a change within your community.
The moment we get leaders that were raised in values-based communities, many of our current problems would solve themselves. Leaders in education would not put artificially inflated pass-rates above quality education since they will know it is more important to secure the future of our children than to look good in the press. Municipal leaders will not inflate their salaries at the cost of service delivery (e.g. fixing our roads). Civil servants would live out their calling as servants of the people and not steal the people’s money to enrich themselves.
And more importantly: Should we become values-based communities we will remove leaders who are not living out the shared values of our country and replace them with leaders of integrity.