Mandela and Leadership

I was listening to an HBR webcast yesterday – an interview with Christiane Amanpour, who has always interested me, on Leadership. One of the things she said really struck a cord. She said “leadership is not a zero sum game” – an expression that has long confused me and which I now understand more clearly. She said: “As a leader, you have to look for the win – win for yourself and for the other. She used Mandela’s desire and ability to build relationship with De Klerk as an example and she talked about understanding the other’s perspective so that you can find the win-win and enable others to act. This is something I have always believed in and tried to practice and teach/coach. With her gift of communication, she expressed it so well and so easily.

King Shaka International Airport in Durban

We woke early and had a delicious continental breakfast on the porch at Makakatana, said our goodbyes and took to the N2 to Durban International for a flight at 130 to Port Elizabeth on the south shore.

The small staff at the lodge provided an excellent example of effective teamwork. Everyone did her or his designated job as well as supporting others and jumping in to do what needed doing. There didn’t seem to be any tension between whites who were rangers and office staff and several Zulu women who were kitchen, meal service and housekeeping. The camaraderie and respectful joking among them was good to watch even though we knew as guests we might not be allowed to see tensions that were under the surface.

The trip south by car is beautiful – everything very green and lush, acres and acres of planted eucalyptus trees and sugar cane, lots of pretty little Zulu villages with their round thatch-roofed huts reserved for the ancestors, and many cows – some grazing too close to the highway! The roads are very good and lots of people are employed repairing the roads and building new lanes, cleaning the roadsides, picking up any garbage. Everything is very clean. Speed limit is 120 km/hr and everyone moves fast, lots of trucks and “taxis” that the blacks cram into – 16 (or more) seater vans that stop on the side of the road to take people to work or shopping or whatever. They look stifling hot but seem to work in this evolving economy with 25pc and more unemployment rates depending on the area. Tourism is down considerably with recession in Europe and USA and people are feeling it.

Bad luck with weather in Port Elizabeth and we’re still here at 630pm waiting in the airport for a flight out which does not look promising but they don’t want to cancel yet. Apparently all flights from Joberg to PE have been canceled so it’s just a matter of time for us to be cancelled as well….

We’ve just changed our flight to an early one tomorrow to Cape Town. SAA was very accommodating. There is a Fairmont Hotel nearby so we will head there overnight.

Interesting story when gasing up the rental car at a Shell station on the highway (BTW the rest stops are the same as ours in Canada with gas, food and drink, cash machines and the like). There was a power outage at the station on our side of the highway so several red shirted employees with the Shell logo directed us to drive into the culvert under the highway to the other side where the power was working in that Shell station.

Getting gas here is a pleasure. Many uniformed employees, both men and women, are at the ready to pump your gas, wash your windows and check under the hood if you wish. They are very grateful for a 20 rand tip (about 2.50) which goes to help feed the extended family.

We are sorry to be leaving Zululand behind. From what we have seen they are a kind and gentle people who are struggling to make it in a rapidly changing world. HIV Aids and unemployment are huge challenges. The men seem to have trouble staying with the family. Many women are supporting their extended families on their own. Two days ago we took a very early morning game drive to Hluhluwe. On the way we saw dozens and dozens of kids of all ages walking along the highways to school, very neatly dressed in clean uniforms despite the fact that living conditions are very rough. It was 630am! We are told that kids walk very long distances (even 10 kms in some cases) and sadly teachers are in very short supply and poorly paid so the kids might get to school and no teacher is there.

An Organizing Framework for a Complex World

Looking at my desk some days makes me despair. I never seem to get ahead of all the things that need doing. I’m beginning to think I need a new system to deal more effectively with it all.

Some days there’s no doubt in my mind that the complexity of our brave new world and all its “time saving” technology has just made it all more complicated. Other days I am so delighted with the tools that enable me to communicate with many people located all over the world, do my banking at all hours, and organize my thoughts into a neat and tidy proposal that can easily be whisked to the client across the ethernet.

Because I’ve been travelling more lately the keeping on top part of my life has taken a hit. Adding to it is the fact that I have a new Mac and I have to learn all its hidden secrets. To my delight yesterday’s Globe and Mail provided a new and interesting framework for managing my desk. The ideas come from David Allen in his Productive Living newsletter via Harvey Schachter’s Monday Morning Manager series.

The filing system looks intriguing. Instead of saying make 3 piles – do something with it, save it, trash it – as many simplistic organizing systems do, this one plumbs the depths of possibility more deeply with options like:

• I don’t need it or want it – Trash
• I still need to decide what this means to me – In Basket
• I might need to know this information – Reference Material
• I use it – Equipment and Supplies
• I like to see it – Decoration
• I’ve committed to this and need to be reminded – Project List (review weekly)
• I need to have this when I focus on a project – Support Material
• I might want to commit to this at some time in the future – Someday Maybe List
• I might want to commit to this after a specific future date – Calendar
• Its something someone else is doing that I care about – Waiting For List (review weekly)
• I need it when I do certain recurring activities – Checklist

I’m going to try this system for a few weeks and see if it helps. I’m thinking that a system like this might work on my e-files as well as my paper files. Staying on top of it all is a challenge I want to master. Maybe some of it is letting go of the idea that everything is well organized – and trusting that I will find something when I need it if it really matters. Back again to my favourite complexity truism – Trust the Process.

Big Olympics-Style Party!

After an interesting day of work yesterday – more about that later – and a 5:30 am start we were weary volunteers who would have liked to get home and put our feet up in front of the TV.

But we had been invited by a dear friend who is in charge of the BC Place Medical Team, and a young man we had watched grow up from his early years, to the Medals Ceremony at the stadium where it was Manitoba night. Continue reading “Big Olympics-Style Party!”

Leadership at the Movies: Invictus and 5 Leadership Practices

Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood have created another very special movie now playing across North America. Invictus is the story of Nelson Mandela’s early days as President of South Africa, and particularly how he viewed the country’s Rugby team, the Springboks, and an upcoming World Cup event to be held in South Africa, as an opportunity to bring the country together.

The year is 1995. Mandela (Freeman) is in his first term as President. He recognizes the tremendous challenges facing his government in a land torn apart by apartheid. Racial tensions are at an all time high, people are struggling with the effects of crippling unemployment, and a new black government has shifted the balance of political power. Continue reading “Leadership at the Movies: Invictus and 5 Leadership Practices”