Khoza steps up to the plate

2012-04-07 14:18

Just a few days before his now controversial comment on the quality of political leadership in South Africa, Reuel Khoza chatted to City Press on this, his favourite topic.

It is clearly a topic he is more than qualified to speak on.

Khoza, author of two books on leadership, holds a master’s degree in management and marketing from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom and is an alumni of Harvard’s management advancement programme.

His stinging comments, to which the ANC’s Gwede Mantashe responded by launching a personal attack on Khoza, were therefore in keeping with Khoza’s character and vocation.

Khoza is single-minded about his view that “the challenges in South Africa call for a lot more leadership capability”.

By this he means “leadership that is reflective, resonant, value based and vision led. And a leader who forms deep, durable reciprocal relationships within the community and organisation can step boldly into an uncertain future with certainty that the followers will lend their support.”

He is optimistic that not all is lost, yet.

“If we look at all the leadership institutions, a good number of them are working in tandem with many universities and business schools. One would like to see a proliferation of that because the challenge at hand, where leadership is concerned, is a huge one.
“The challenge for me would be integration, as opposed to fragmentation and heeding the matters attendant, and also pulling together in an aligned fashion,” Khoza says.

The political leadership is not alone on the receiving end of his misgivings. He reckons that the fallout between the Black Business Council and Business Unity South Africa reflects the gap in leadership in that sector.

Khoza believes that commerce is the engine of prosperity on the continent.

He lauds attempts to roll out infrastructure for development in Africa, and heralds a new era of increased trade and currency movements.

Though Mantashe’s comments might attempt to frame Khoza as a Johnny-come-lately to the leadership discourse, the fact is that Khoza has a history of activism in the business and leadership sector.

As a founder member of the Black Management Forum (BMF), Khoza was instrumental in developing the BMF’s early affirmative action policy proposals – dubbed the Maseru Hat.

The BMF approach to affirmative action was later adopted by the first post-apartheid government administration as the basis for current affirmative action legislation.

Khoza has served on numerous JSE-listed blue-chip companies, including Vodacom, JCI, Standard Bank and Liberty Group. He also served on the board of the JSE.

It is, however, for his chairmanship of both electricity utility Eskom and banking giant Nedbank that he is most renowned.

He constantly warns against self-centred and insipid leadership, and prefers valour and compassion.

He also values humility, integrity, reason and knowledge, which he believes should be intrinsic to the leadership mix.

Without these, he says, “toxic” leaders emerge to lead poisoned organisations that make our many social ills more chronic.

As a promoter of ubuntu, he has distinguished himself and elevated the leadership debate on the continent.

At Eskom, where he was chairperson between 1997 and 2005, he oversaw its spread into 36 African countries to become the largest electricity utility on the continent.

While he was there, he oversaw the African Leadership Development Programme that witnessed the formation of generations of skilled black engineers and managers who rose to the helm of the parastatal.

Now at Nedbank, his context has changed, but his concerns remain the same.

“I would confidently say that Nedbank has undergone a remarkable transformation of its own under the leadership of a closely knit management team with what I believe to be an attuned leadership style.”

South Africa cannot fulfil its potential until it resolves the colour-based wealth distribution patterns.

“There is a shortage of black business in South Africa if we are looking from a JSE analysis perspective, or even a black vantage point such as mine and many in South Africa.

Clearly, the economy is very skewed”.

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