Elder Wisdom and Mr Zuma’s Leadership

2015-12-15 10:45

Interesting times! Last week we watched dumbstruck as President Zuma demonstrated how not to lead, and in the process wrote R171 billion off our country’s bank balance.

It is within the constitutional right of our President to appoint and remove Ministers as he deems necessary. Last week we saw him make ill-conceived appointments in the Cabinet – only to pour salt on the wound by changing his mind 4 days later.

In a previous article, I suggested that there is a need for Elders to sit at the right hand of today’s movers and shakers and to hold the question “…. but should you, is that the best way?” If only he had had a trusted Elder or group of Elders, to hold that question for him before he shot himself in the foot.

Leaders have a vested interest in the decisions they make and outcomes they achieve and it is all too easy for that vested interest to become self-serving and greedy – so it is essential that those leaders have a voice of reason sitting at their side. Who better than an Elder?

But what is an Elder? He or she is someone who takes on the role of a Mentor or Advisor, someone who is a senior, influential member of society based on his/her personal authority. They are able to build trust and respect and are able to invoke the higher nature of others.

So how could such an Elder have guided Mr Zuma?

To be mindful of what the likely consequences would be. How would his actions be perceived by the international community and markets? How would he be perceived; as a President who knows what he is doing and where he is going, or as a bully who punishes those who don’t toe his line?

To be humble and profoundly acknowledging of others – as a President doing what he has to do for the good of the country, ensuring that the people, his party and the business community understand fully why his actions were necessary.

To create empowering and trusting relationships with others – as a President who taps into the skills and knowledge of his Ministers, who supports those Ministers in the hard decisions they have to make and then holds them accountable for their actions. To be our ethical compass, ensuring that corruption is rooted out and that the needs of the country and its people are his foremost concern.

To listen generously – as a President who “really hears” the voices of all sections of the people, who hears the need for quality education, quality housing, quality health care. Who hears the need of business to create a vibrant modern economy providing meaningful employment. Who hears dissent as concern and not as an attack on his Party. Who hears protest as a call for change and not as a 3rd Force.

To enrol others in the future – as a President who is able to articulate his vision of the future he is creating for the country. Who places the needs of the country and its people ahead of the needs and desires of his Party, his friends and himself. To unite the different peoples of this beautiful country rather than dividing to conquer.

It is a role that Elders have always played, but as the world became more complex they became marginalised and eventually cast out into the wilderness (or old-age homes) where their voice would not be heard.

It is time to bring them back, into our government, our businesses, our schools and our communities. This is not to say that every old person is an Elder nor is every Elder an old person. What we need is wisdom – insights and awareness that come from having lived a varied life, from falling and getting up again, from taking responsibility and living with the consequences. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that such people are playing a part in creating a better life for us all?

Alan Maguire is a Retirement Coach and is working to recreate a culture of Elders in modern society. He has developed The Elders Journey as a roadmap to Elderhood. You can follow his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/theeldersjourney/

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