Addressing a fatal flaw in leadership

2012-04-25 00:00

SOUTH Africa is suffering from a lack of real leadership and this means the country and its people are not performing at their maximum potential, says Dr Mark Manley, one of the speakers taking part in this year’s Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa (PSASA) convention in Durban this weekend.

“Leadership is about bringing about changes outside our comfort zone. When we are too comfortable our growth will be diminished,” the Hilton-based international leadership and strategy specialist says. “We have got to get leaders to lead properly. I believe some of the stuff that has happened is treasonous to the struggle. It’s tragic. And it all comes back to leadership.”

He believes that all good leaders need to subscribe to six essential principles. They need to have vision, passion, the ability to communicate, the power to bring about change, a message and way of acting that is consistent, and a belief in their own potential.

“Unfortunately, vision is often missing. Too often in South Africa the vision is short term, it’s about filling our wallets or looking ahead to the next tender, the next election,” Manley said, adding that too few people have the necessary passion for leadership.

“If people are passionate about something they will make the sacrifice — just think about the guitar player who plays until his fingers bleed, or the principal who works long hours to ensure that the children at his school will get a good matric [result].”

Before becoming a leadership coach, Manley was a politician whose desire to make South Africa a more fair and just place emerged when he was a pupil at Pretoria Boys’ High School.

“At school I got exposed to the fact that things weren’t right in this crazy, wonderful country we live in. [But] I had good teachers who were prepared to go outside the comfort zone of the school curriculum to teach us about exploring the country we lived in,” he said, “and then my faith made me believe in the need for justice.”

At the University of KwaZulu-Natal Pieter-maritzburg campus his interest in politics increased, but he admits he didn’t always fit the mould of a lefty. “I was never a typical politician ... I was part musician, part jock because I played rugby, part of the Christian scene and part of the political scene,” he said.

Later when the National Party leadership started to see the writing on the wall, he became involved in the cloak-and-dagger talks between the NP and the ANC in Dakar, Dar es Salaam and Lusaka. And through his involvement in the country’s transitional political system in the early nineties he became the mayor of Randburg.

That work in South Africa’s political trenches set him up to work as a mediator to the world, which he readily admits helped prepare him to face the challenges of working in Liberia during the war and in Rwanda just after the genocide.

Now, however, he concentrates on working one on one with the country’s political, business and even sports leaders. “Very often these people can’t speak to their staff, the board, their peers, or even a spouse about the issues they are dealing with. That’s where I fulfil a role,” Manley said.

“I have a great desire for people to be a success. If they are a success, then they are able to maximise the potential of their staff, whether it is in a business, a government department or even in a sports team.”

At the conference, which is taking place at the Elangeni Hotel in Durban from Friday to Sunday, Manley will be drawing on his experience as a passenger in the SA Airlink plane whose wheels failed, forcing the pilot to circle above Johannesburg for two hours before landing the plane on its belly in a dramatic emergency landing last November.

“The sustaining features of life and humanity become crystal clear in moments of crisis — things like knowledge and wisdom, courage, humanity, justice and fairness, discipline and transcendence,” he said. “I’ll be doing my keynote address on that — the great virtues that have come down through the ages.”

THE Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa (PSASA) represents and supports people involved in the speaking business. Its members make their living, or part of their living, speaking to and/or working with groups as trainers, facilitators, coaches, consultants, adult teachers and keynoters.

There are two standalone events within this year’s convention.

• A morning workshop looking at stagecraft techniques for professional speakers and performers on Friday, facilitated by Durban actor and teacher, Peter Court.

• A special business event on Friday where clients and colleagues can be introduced to cutting-edge thinking from Europe and Canada.

For more information and to book your seats e-mail Simone at or phone 079 680 2573.

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